“He had wedged his thigh between her legs, and she felt her feet leave the earth, felt the dampness of the building soak through the back of her dress. Gravity rearranged itself so that leaning back against the theater’s slippery verticality was enough to keep from floating off into the night.”
An edited version of “The November Story,” which originally appeared in Crazyhorse, was featured on This American Life in August, 2011. You can listen to the whole thing if you click the link. Yes, this is my voice. No, it isn’t a true story. No, I didn’t get to meet Ira. Yes, recording this is the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do.
“Ulf, the museum director, whose hand she’d shaken on the way in, who had offered her a sympathetic and conspiratorial nod, announced loudly from the information desk in Danish, then English, that the museum would close in ten minutes. A few people began to leave—the boys with the sneakers followed their parents toward the exit—but there were still twenty people now, maybe thirty, clustering together near the windows, feigning interest in the wall plaques and photos of carnivorous plants.”
Anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2009 and elsewhere.
“With his left hand, he adjusted the loop of steel that cuffed his right hand to the line of doomed men. His hand was starved, his wrist was thin, his body was cold: the cuff slipped off. In one beat of the heart he looked back to the man behind him and forward to the man limping ahead, and knew that neither saw his naked, red wrist; each saw only his own mother weeping in a kitchen, his own love lying on a bed in white sheets and sunlight.
“I’m seventeen years old, sitting with Randy Osterman on his picnic bench. He’s got his dad’s binoculars trained on the bride, but I’m watching the couple in the gazebo stare out across the lake and garden. You can tell they’re talking about the wedding, how expensive and lovely and delicious, what an unusual location. She hands him her champagne glass so she can reach her hand under the hem of her bright pink dress and fix her slip.
“Personally, I’d come to the think of Miranda Željko as the model of local success. Someone who lost it all, who lived in the same drafty apartment as us, who shook off her Virginia accent and conquered the town. I believed she was tiny, with dancer’s legs, and she cut her dark hair short the day after the divorce. When she was lonely, she drank tea and watched The Apartment again and again, just to see the part with the tennis racket and the spaghetti.”