A Short Story For Saturday

A passage from “Find the Bad Guy” by Jeffrey Eugenides:

I remember going into people’s houses as a kid and thinking, Can’t they smell how they smell? Some houses were worse than others. The Pruitts next door had a greasy, chuck-wagon odor, tolerable enough. The Willots, who ran that fencing academy in their rec room, smelled like skunk cabbage. You could never mention the smells to your friends, because they were part of it, too. Was it hygiene? Or was it, you know, glandular, and the way each family smelled had to do with bodily functions deep inside their bodies? The whole thing sort of turned your stomach, the more you thought about it.

Now I live in an old house that probably smells funny to outsiders.

Or used to live. At the present time, I’m in my front yard, hiding out between the stucco wall and the traveller palms.

Read the rest here. Check out a Q&A with Eugenides about the story here. Peruse his latest novel, The Marriage Plot, here. Last week’s short story is here.

A Short Story For Saturday

A reader writes:

In addition to long-form journalism, I have to admit that I fantasize that one day the Dish will also support long-form fiction – not novels, which still get published in print books, and not short stories, which can get published in lit mags, but long short stories and novellas, which have a really hard time finding a home. Ploughshares recently started publishing long short-stories and novellas as “Solos“, and I would love to see other well-respected online venues publishing them as well – like the Dish! As a fiction writer myself, I’ve been thrilled to see such attention lately to poetry, fiction, craft, and the writing life. I’d love to see you take that support a step further someday.

It’s definitely on our radar. For the time being, we want to draw more attention to short fiction, especially stories of a manageable length accessible online. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than reading a short story? Our first selection is an especially short one, Adam Haslett’s “The Act,” recently published in The Baffler. How it begins:

The boy grows up in Toledo in the fifties, where his father works at the tire plant and for the union as a shop steward. He does well in school, studies hard, and on the advice of a teacher applies to a bunch of small, East Coast schools. His father thinks he should go to Ohio University or maybe Michigan. They fight about it, but not much, because when it comes down to it, his father is proud of how well his son has done, and he trusts his wife, who says these other places will give the boy more opportunities.

For the first time, his father skips the Labor Day parade and spends that weekend driving his son eleven hours to the campus and helping him move into his dorm room. They don’t have much to say to each other on the drive or across the table of the various diners they eat in, nor as they arrive at the college. Most of the other kids have come with both parents and more belongings. They are polite to the boy and his father in a way neither of them is used to, more like salespeople at a fancy department store than neighbors. Inevitably, the boy is eager for his father to leave, to get the awkwardness over with, and his father feels much the same. They shake hands in the parking lot, and the boy promises to phone his mother on Sundays.

As he’s unpacking in his room, the boy hears a knock at the door and looks up to see his dad.

Read the rest here. And check out You Are Not a Stranger HereHaslett’s collection of short stories.