Short Stories from America and Beyond by Robert Shepard and James Thomas
I am Jim McKeown, Welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly fiction, non-fiction and poetry review.
New Sudden Fiction is a collection of short stories from America and beyond, some of which are little more than three pages. The editor’s note writes, Robert Schaefer teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Hawaii and James Thomas in Yellow Springs, Ohio: they work too Flash fiction forward.
Elizabeth Berg is a longtime friend of mine. I have several of her books and I thought hers was a different kind of story. She is the author of numerous novels, including several award-winning stories.
Berg’s story The party begins. The story begins: “A group of us had gathered in a corner of the dining room. It was a big party and neither of us had met before. But a tiny core of women of a certain age had attracted more women by the time we were enough that we had to speak democratically — each of us had to be careful not to take up too much airtime. // We talked about kissing, and we talked fast and excitedly and laughed out loud. That was a t-shirt and jean laugh, not a cocktail dress laugh — it was gut, not chest. It was a size fourteen, not a size two. If one of us moved toward a wilting hors d’oeuvre, the rest would stand still, so no one would miss out on anything good’ (238).
“We seemed to love telling stories about our first times. There was a glamorous blonde with huge diamond studs who said she first kissed at the age of 11 while playing spin the bottle on a hot Texas night. The rule was that after the spin, the chosen couple went to the kitchen, stood at the washing machine station in the corner and kissed. No tongues. The blonde modified the rule to include no lips. cheeks. That’s all. But a certain Paul Drummond was too quick for her that night and kissed her on the mouth. She said she intended to get angry but instead, with pleasant shock, slammed into the washing machine so hard it made a noise that startled the supposedly supervising parents. The kissing stopped; The party collapsed and the blonde went home, where she stayed up most of the night, reenacting the scene in her head, telling herself that sin is venial, venial, venial’ (239).
“A woman named Vicky said she trained with her best friend, Mary Jo, for years. “We put a pillow between our faces, knelt on my bed, rubbed each other’s backs and kissed the pillow Death.’ We all laughed even more because we had apparently kissed all the pillows. // A woman wearing a seductively tailored black dress that now seemed irrelevant bravely dared that she and her best friend Sherry had forgone the pillow and done it lip to lip. You can tell from the ripple effect of her downcast eyes that she wasn’t the only one. I thought of fourth grade and my friend Mary, whom I asked to be the wife so we could be the husband. I liked being the husband – you have a say about everything and when. While she was dusting, I went to work” (240).
Elizabeth Berg is a funny author and I have admired almost all of her novels. I hope she finds out that I bring back memories from many years ago. I found The party to be one of the best stories in this collection. 5 Stars!
Likely Stories is a production of KWBU. I am Jim McKeown. Join me again next time for Likely Stories and Happy Reading!