Short Story of the day, Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders

Afterward, our protestations of love poured forth simultaneously, linguistically complex and metaphorically rich: I daresay we had become poets. We were allowed to lie there, limbs intermingled, for nearly an hour. It was bliss. It was perfection. It was that impossible thing: happiness that does not wilt to reveal the thin shoots of some new desire rising from within it.

—-George Saunders, Escape from Spiderhead

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, New Orleans

Trying to get through the isolation by reading more. Another short story today – a very good, if more than a little harrowing.

Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders

from The New Yorker

This story is touted as a famous example of dystopian fiction. It’s a peculiar type of dystopia… a personal hell… maybe a penance, maybe deserved. Still, even under those circumstances the important thing is that some humanity and some sympathy for your fellow man remains. Still remains. Even if it doesn’t do anyone any good.

Excellent read. One plus – it’s definitely not safe for work.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 24 – Sweethearts by Richard Ford

The cover of Richard Ford’s novel – The Sportswriter.

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:

Sweethearts by Richard Ford

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.

Richard Ford:

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.
—-from Granta

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For Family & Friends

An advertising sign I saw outside a transit station in a rough part of town.

Prison Shuttle

I didn’t feel like it (I was exhausted and my head was pounding) but I went for a little bike ride after work. My bike was in the back of the car so I drove down to the nearby Forest Lane train station – one that the Cottonwood Trail runs by. I changed clothes in the car, which is difficult for me, and pulled the bike out of the hatchback, which is easy. While I was getting my shit together I noticed this advertising sign stuck in the grass border around the parking lot.

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For Family & Friends

This saddens me. Not so much that somebody has started a shuttle service to the local prisons (For Family and Friends) – if there is a need, there should be someone to fill it. It saddens me that there is such a need.

And look at that bus! I can see chartering a van to take my friends and family for an afternoon visit at the slammer… but who could fill up that bus? That thing has a dual rear axle – that’s a serious hunk of bus there. Are they are thinking about more than mere visits? That bus would be useful for a prison break. You could take a whole unit over the fence and drive them to a nice afternoon at a baseball game all for one low price. I wish that was true… over the obvious fact that there are enough folks up the river that you can fill a bus up on visiting day.

Across the parking lot is a cheap gas station that has a constant flow of shady characters moving in and out with bags full of bottles. I guess the people that run the shuttle service figured out (maybe with extensive research and a focus group or two) that friends and relatives of incarcerated jailbirds tend to walk through this lot – maybe carrying their cheap booze to the train. People riding the train with alcohol won’t have a car they can drive to the pen. They would need a shuttle.

I haven’t seen that ad anywhere else.

So I climbed on my bike and went for a short ride. My head never stopped pounding, so I only went a half-dozen miles or so, stopping at a shady bench to read a short story on my Kindle. While I was loading my bike back in the car for the trip home I watched a few folks walk through the lot… but nobody asked for a pen so they could write the phone number down.