Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.
Today’s story, for day 24 – Sweethearts by Richard Ford
Read it online here:
This was not going to be a good day in Bobby’s life, that was clear, because he was headed to jail. He had written several bad checks, and before he could be sentenced for that he had robbed a convenience store with a pistol—completely gone off his mind. And everything had gone to hell, as you might expect. Arlene had put up the money for his bail, and there was some expensive talk about an appeal. But there wasn’t any use to that. He was guilty. It would cost money and then he would go to jail anyway.
—-Richard Ford, Sweethearts
I am more than a little ashamed of the fact that I came to read Richard Ford’s work because of a perverse fascination with the cover of his novel, The Sportswriter. The odd thing is that I never found The Sportswriter to be my cup of tea. I simply couldn’t make a connection with the novel’s protagonist, Frank Bascombe. The second novel in the Bascombe series, Independence Day, won the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Though those well-written and highly acclaimed novels never were my favorites, I absolutely loved Richard Ford’s short fiction. It was rougher and tougher and had people in them that I cared about.
Today’s story, Sweethearts, is about a man tasked with helping his girlfriend take her ex-husband down to the penitentiary to start his one-year term of imprisonment. The criminal is a real piece of work – though everyone else in the story has made enough mistakes that they can’t be too unforgiving. It’s the kind of impossible situation we all find ourselves in now and again… and if you don’t, you’re not trying hard enough.
Do you think stories are created or discovered?
That’s easy. Stories are created. It isn’t as if they’re ‘out there’ waiting in some Platonic hyper-space like unread emails. They aren’t. Writers make stories up. It might be that when stories turn out to be good they then achieve a quality of inevitability, of there seeming to have been a previously existing and important space that they perfectly fill. But that isn’t what’s true. I’m sure of it. A story makes its own space and then fills it. Writers don’t ‘find’ stories—although some writers might say so. This to me just means they have a vocabulary that’s inadequate at depicting what they actually do. They’re like Hemingway—always fleeing complexity as if it were a barn fire.