I’ve got a new short story out. It’s called “Mercury Rising,” and you can find it in Amazing Graces (Paycock Press, 2012), a collection edited by Richard Peabody. (Read a Washington Post profile of him.) Here’s the excerpt I read at Politics and Prose on Sunday, when we launched the book:
“Call the fire department!” Everything Timmy said these days had an
exclamation point at the end of it. Six was the age of enthusiasms.
“He’s not on fire, stupid,” said William.
“Don’t call your brother stupid,” Roberta said. “We’ll call 911.”
She left the engine running while she plowed through the pool bag in
search of her phone. As usual, it had worked its way to the bottom of the tote, which was now damp. Nothing stayed dry, no matter how hard she tried. She switched off the engine with her right hand and fumbled for the phone’s power switch with her left, delaying the moment when she’d have to get out of the car.
Why hadn’t someone else stopped to help? There was no one else. The sidewalk was empty. It was four o’clock, too early for the evening rush hour, and the street was bereft of moving cars and people. Who knew how long he’d been lying there?
Nine one one. She dialed the numbers clumsily. Bodies weren’t supposed to turn up around the corner from your house. In the farm town where she had grown up, fifteen hundred miles from D.C., people were injured in car wrecks or in accidents involving industrial equipment. These events were often horrible and bloody, but they had logic to them. Cars, teens, and alcohol didn’t mix; combines and harvesters were mechanical monsters that, in a contest against human flesh, usually won. Reasonable people understood that. She pressed the phone harder against her ear as if that would make the operator pick up faster.
The kids were already unbuckled, scrambling out of their seats and open- ing the doors, oblivious as usual to whatever dangers might be headed their way. “Watch for cars!” Roberta called, even though there weren’t any. Half of parenthood involved repeating things you’d said before and would say again, whether or not anyone was listening to you.
Eventually there’s going to be a podcast of the reading and the discussion afterward, which got pretty lively. For instance: I did my mini-rant about why I’m not crazy about the term “woman writer.” (“Man writer,” anybody?) And we made the case that D.C.’s a much better place to write fiction that it gets credit for being. I’ll post a link to the podcast when it’s up.