A couple learns about a cancer diagnosis:
"I watch your hand starting to shake as you write down information that will sit on a small square of paper for months, impossible to get rid of. I stand two feet away and watch your lips. I hear you say, Is that all you can tell me…. Right here, midsentence, your eyes move to mine, and in this instant I have the feeling that I have it all wrong, that I am misreading the shaking, the tone—that it is not the worst thing and that I just slipped for a moment into that parallel universe that floats next to ours, the one we all peek into when somebody is an hour late driving home in heavy rain, the one most of us back out of, returning to the familiar world where the unthinkable happens to other people. And then the frozen moment passes, and you finish your sentence. I hear you say, Is that all you can tell me, a tumor-like growth? The words have force enough to move matter; they push me two steps back.
"It is a simple moment. A tumor-like growth."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2008
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4306 words)
[Fiction] A wedding in an alternate universe:
"'That’s the good news,' Dad said. 'He’s gone ahead and asked for your hand. And we’ve agreed to it.'
"My mother put down the knife and finished off her champagne. I wanted no more of mine.
"'Well, don’t be so excited,' said Dad. 'Do you understand what I’m saying? You’re going to be a wife. You’re going to live with Mr. Middleton, and he’s going to take care of you, for the rest of your life. And, one day, when we’re very old, he’ll help out your mother and me, too.'"
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2007
LENGTH: 34 minutes (8596 words)
(Fiction) Years later, Ann saw one of the daughters. She ended up seated beside her on a flight from New York to Chicago, the odds who knows how many million to one. As strangers will in transit, they began talking. Ann learned that the woman taught high school English and was just now trying her hand at playwriting, that she had never married but had lived with someone off and on for years. After a while, exchanging names seemed beside the point. Ann wondered why this woman seemed familiar, but now that she was seventy-seven, almost everyone she met reminded her of someone she used to know. Still, still there was something about her: an expression that was both discerning and compassionate, those pale eyes of no discernible color, those graying curls poised to spring from their clip.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2007
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6596 words)
[Fiction] The story of a couple's life, in 11 places:
"They stand on a rock ledge beside the shore, boy and girl, leaning together, their bare shoulders touching, as the adults unfold and arrange cots. Her father watches them as he sips from his bottle, though, and he knows what the night means. He calls the boy’s name—hey, Will, c’mere!—and the invitation is a command. The girl squeezes Will’s fingers as he leaves her side. When he’s gone the mother comes and places an arm around her daughter, whispering, and the lake whispers back, expectant, and through the giant cottonwood trees on the far shore an orange and lunatic moon hides in the branches."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 1, 2002
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4207 words)