Thursday, December 28, 2023

When I Was a Kid

 I always got sick after Christmas. Guess what? Sorry for no links yesterday and probably no FFB tomorrow. Be well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: The Wife on Ambien, Ed Park


I love flash fiction stories. Occasionally one seems too short, underdeveloped. But on the whole I like to meet new authors this way. If I like their flash fiction, I will probably like their short stories and novels.

Ed Park has been all over the publishing field in the last twenty years (editor, publisher, teacher, writer). His most recent novel is called SAME BED, DIFFERENT DREAMS. A great title and concept, no?

This flash piece is all about the activity of a wife on Ambien. Ambien (which I take too) is known to induce nocturnal behavior in some that use it. I hope I am not one of them. Nothing seems amiss in the morning anyway.  And it's the only way I can sleep. 

Hope you all had a good holiday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Short Story Wednesday "The Possibility of Evil" Shirley Jackson


First published in 1965 in the Saturday Evening Post, a few months after Jackson's death, "The Possibility of Evil" won the Edgar for best short story in 1965. A self-satisfied spinster in a small town is especially proud of her roses, which she never allows people to cut. As she walks through town, her thoughts condemn everyone she passes. We learn that for the last year she has been sending poison pen letters, often ones filled with lies. When she is exposed at the end, her roses pay the price for her evil.

Now this story feels more familiar than it probably did in 1965. What makes it better than most of this type of story is the detail and the care put into laying out her life, her misdeeds and how she is caught out. It is only six pages long and there is not a wasted word. Although it is not on a par with "The Lottery" you recognize the mind it came from.

The Possibility of Evil 


Kevin Tipple 

George Kelley 

Jerry House 

Casual Debris 


Todd Mason

Monday, December 18, 2023

Monday, Monday

 No one told me the Lions were playing last night so I missed the game but instead enjoyed THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, which is probably one of the movies I have seen the most times.The chemistry between Steward and Sullivan lights up the screen. She had a rather tragic life, ending in suicide. So much better than YOU'VE GOT MAIL.

I also saw MAESTRO this week, which I liked except I wish they had used more music in it. And this thing of having characters talk overlapping each other is driving me crazy. But well acted and directed. 

On TV I am watching SLOW HORSES still. Such a great series. Also watching the last series of DOC MARTIN, which is long past its sell -by date but I have to finish it out. JULIA is charming and more meaty than it had to be. I started SCIENCE FAIR: THE SERIES on Hulu about various high school teams preparing to enter a Science Fair. These kids are scary smart.

Remarkable weather for December. 

Megan's book (BEWARE THE WOMAN) was recommended on PBS WORLD NEWS on Friday. All the texts I got about it were from people over 70. Does anyone under 70 watch the news anymore? 

I am reading but nothing you need a title for. A long time since I read a real knockout book. 

I will probably skip this next Monday since it is Christmas. Have a good one.

Friday, December 15, 2023

FFB: Jack Livinston books


Joe Binney was a deaf detective starring in four books (maybe more) in the eighties. I enjoyed the challenge of using his deafness in interesting ways in solving crimes. I think the most well known was DIE AGAIN MACREADY. He also wrote THE NIGHTMARE FILE, A PIECE OF THE SILENCE and HELL-BENT FOR ELECTION. I could not find out much about the author, Jack Livinston, but I didn't have the time to really pursue it. But I remember enjoying them at the time. My library bought them but they are long-gone now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Short Story Wednesday

(from the archives)

Sarah Weinman reviews mysteries for the New York Times. This review predates that as well as her many non-fiction books on true crime. 


Thom Jones: The Pugilist at Rest: Stories. This short story collection is 30 years old and it feels like it was written this past year. It blew me away with its searing depictions of army members in the midst of cracking up, women caught in self-destructive relationships, and other people locked into patterns that are destined to repeat themselves and produce worlds of hurt. Jones lived and hurt for years before he produced the stories that made up this 1993 collection, and even though a couple more volumes of stories followed, it really feels like he's been off the radar for years. Hopefully he'll be back soon with more tales of the dark side of reality.


Todd Mason 

George Kelley 

Jerry House 


Casual Debris 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Monday, Monday

After a brief cancer scare, I am feeling almost back to normal. (It was cancer two years ago and I have been taking hormone-blocking drugs since. So there will always be the possibility of a return). I have to visit an oncologist twice a year and the surgeon once.

Love, love, love this season of SLOW HORSES. I didn't know how they'd top Season 2 but so far they have. Mick Herron is a wonder at keeping the pace up, the humor up, the character development going. Also love DAGLIESH season two, which I get through my library. 

Saw THE BOY AND THE BLUE HERON yesterday, a choice of my movie group but it's not for me. I did enjoy SPIRITED AWAY a few years back but this was too much about warfare.

Heard a fabulous concert at the DSO on Friday morning. A crew of elementary kids sat behind us and applauded at every break in the music. Thankfully they left at the intermission before Pathetique. It has been playing in my head ever since.


Been watching Jane Austen movies to calm my nerves. I thought LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND (AMAZON) was credible if not as good as the book. Maybe too much showing. But the book was a real favorite of mine a few years ago. 

Anyway, what's up with you?

Friday, December 08, 2023

FFB WHITE CROSSES, Larry Watson, reviewed by Ron Scheer

WHITE CROSSES by Larry Watson(by Ron Scheer)

Not sure if this novel from 1998 counts as "forgotten." Not even sure if it was ever much known. Anyway, I found this story of mid-century small-town life and its fascinating character study hard to put down. 

The novel begins with a car accident and the deaths of two people - thus the "white crosses" of the title, those roadside markers where lives have abruptly ended.  Written with elements of crime fiction, it's an ironic account of how a well-meaning county sheriff's cover-up attempt leads to a series of worrisome complications and finally to fatal consequences.

Everyone has their secrets and is guilty of something, the sheriff has come to believe, and he is no exception. As author Watson probes deeper into his character, we find the weaknesses and moral ambiguities hidden within an otherwise likable man who happens to represent law and order. The author's frequent digressions help us to know him inside and out, which turns out to be important.

Watson is a fine writer with a gift for illuminating the inner worlds of what seem to be predictable and ordinary people. They seem to fill him with a sense of wonder. Like the pair of bachelors, identical twins, drinking at a bar, or a cantankerous rancher who believes, with scant evidence, that his cattle are being rustled, or the widow who reports that her S&H Green Stamps have been stolen. There is much to be known about them that will never be known - and will go with them to the grave.

Watson has a couple other books written with sheriffs as central characters in this same western town of Bentrock, Montana: Justice and Montana 1948. I've read all three and liked them. I believe they are all still in print. 



Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: HARD-BOILED

Graveyard Shift" by James Reasoner; "The Long Silence After" by Ed Gorman

Browsing in the Dawn Treader bookstore in Ann Arbor in January, 2009 I grabbed a book from the shelves entitled HARD-BOILED. It was an anthology published in 1995, edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian, and published by Oxford University Press. I took it home and was delighted to find stories by two friends, but that isn't why I'm choosing these two stories today.

Although the stories are quite different, they share a theme: men attempting to redress the loss of a wife through criminal action. Though the outcomes are different, both stories are rich in atmosphere, tension, and character and a quality I love: uxoriousness. They rise above many short stories that depend almost totally on plot. Within a few pages, we know these men---or think we do. I highly recommend both stories as primers on how to write a short story as well as stories to be enjoyed. 

Casual Debris

George Kelley 

Jerry House 

Todd Mason 

Steve Lewis 

Kevin Tipple 


Monday, December 04, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Did not care much for SALTBURN. It was just too cruel for me although the acting and look of it was good. I did enjoy rewatching MANSFIELD PARK on Paramount. Also started THERAPY by Sebastian Fitzrek on PRIME, continuing with JULIA, FOR ALL MANKIND, FARGO. And about to begin SLOW HORSES. 

So much rain. Should be grateful it's not snow but the fog is scary. 


Not a bad year for TV. Nor for movies. It's books I have been hard pressed to find. I am reading Dwight Garner's book on READ, EAT, EAT READ. 

How about you?

Friday, December 01, 2023

FFB: From 2007


I made this photo extra large because it is hard to read. Soon I will work my way out of my room and into the living room, which has books in much better condition but perhaps not as interesting to you. Anyway HARDBOILED has fabulous stories by Ed Gorman and James Reasoner in it as well as many from other true greats in the crime fiction field. I have read some but not all of them.

LAURA, I read years ago and it is one of my favorite noir movies. I don't think it was this copy I read though because it is very fragile. 

I really love Grace Paley stories. I think I have another collection somewhere.

THE MALTESE FALCON-I saw the film recently on a big screen and wondered again if I had read the book. Not sure. (Maybe I am more of a movie person than a book person) Liked Wilkie Collins' THE WOMAN IN WHITE more, but THE MOONSTONE is the one I own. I read both when Masterpiece Theater did them way back when. They have done them again since.

Love THE THIN MAN and because I saw the movie first, of course, I picture them as William Powell and Myrna Loy. Asta is pretty much the same in either version. You can see what horrible shape this one is in. When they are this bad it is because I saw them in a used bookstore and couldn't resist. I am not that hard on books although I do eat lunch reading so there is often mustard on them.

THREE BY FLANNERY O'CONNOR include WISE BLOOD and THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY but also my two favorite shorts by her: "A Good Man is Hard To Find' and "The River." Have read everything in this collection at least once.

THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY, Charles Willeford. This is my least favorite Willeford and set in the world of art. I think there is a recent film made of it. Not sure why it didn't work for me. Maybe because it wasn't funny like the Hokes or scary like some of the rest.

DREAM STORY is apparently the novel from which Stanley Kubrick drew inspiration for EYES WIDE SHUT. I can't remember if I found that to be true. But since my interest in the work of both Cruise and Kubrick faded, I don't much care now.

I had a friend that loved the works of Orwell and he kept after me until I bought these two books. I am sure they are great but I never read them. But since my friend is gone and I miss  him I feel like I might need to try these some day.

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, James Cain. One on my favorites, for sure. Seen both movie versions too, but the book is far and away the best. There is a coldness the movies couldn't capture, I think.

What's on your shelf this week? Which of these have you read?

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Short Story Wednesday "Debarking" from BARK by Lorrie Moore


I listened to this story via Hoopla through my library and it was read by the author. I really like listening to an author read her story because you are more sure of getting the meaning, I think. Another reader can make something sincere seem too sentimental for instance. Or too sarcastic. 

"Debarking" is a very ordinary story but written with such verve and terrific word choices that it made me appreciate a time when stories were easier to understand. Ira is recently divorced and sharing custody of a daughter. He meets a pediatric oncologist with an annoying son or is it her relationship with him that's annoying? Ira is the third wheel on most of their dates and he lands somewhere between thinking he loves her and thinking she is nuts. The invasion of Iraq forms the background for this story, which has everyone on edge. Kinda like now.  

Moore reads it so well that it felt like just the right way to experience her stories was to hear her read them aloud.

There are eight stories in this collection from a decade or so ago. I have read about three of them. Am always amazed at how insightful Moore is and in a clever way. 

Halfway in I am going to amend this a bit. Moore tends to read every story in the same voice I think print might suit these stories better.

Steve Lewis

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

George Kelley 


Casual Debris 


Monday, November 27, 2023

Monday, Monday

 After enjoying THE HOLDOVERS so much, I went back and watched a few of Payne's earlier movies. I had seen them before but watching how he puts together a film was fun. 

I think I have seen SIDEWAYS quite a few times but it was probably only my second watching of THE DESCENDANTS, which was just terrific and both films had lots of similarities to the THE HOLDOVERS. I am not sure why Clooney put his film career aside but he brought a lot to this film. 

Watching THE NIGHT MANAGER from a few years back on PRIME. Also OBITUARY (Hulu) which is very amusing, still enjoying FOR ALL MANKIND (Apple), JULIA (MAX) and THE CROWN (NETFLIX), which is pretty heartbreaking and better than Season Five. Funny to see Elizabeth Debicki in THE NIGHT MANAGER and THE CROWN. At 6'3 that has to be the first thing anyone will ever think of about her.  FARGO (HULU) started well.

Reading short stories from BARK by Lorrie Moore and THE FIRE-KEEPERS"S DAUGHTER for my book group. 

Had a nice Thanksgiving. Hope yours was too. Looks like we're going to get a bit of snow today.

GO University of Michigan. Getting worried about the Lions.

What about you?

Friday, November 24, 2023


Stoner, John Williams

John Williams' remarkable 1965 novel has recently been reprinted by The New York Review of Books and is now available to us again.

William Stoner, a farm boy in Missouri, is sent to university by his father, who tells his son it will be helpful to the family for him to learn more modern farming methods. But instead Stoner discovers the great passion of his life—literature and the teaching of it—and he goes on to earn a doctorate in the subject. He meets and marries a local girl, has a child, and teaches at the university for the rest of his life. He is under-appreciated in this and in most things.

This description makes it sound like nothing much happens in this book—and in a sense, it does not. This book is about choices we make, and Stoner’s choice to put his love of literature and teaching on such a high pedestal both makes and destroys him. He is passive when he should be active in nearly every instance in this book. He is so deeply afraid of being deprived of teaching that he loses everything else instead.

This was a marvelous book. Written beautifully and making its points with the utmost subtlety. Williams (1922-94) won the National Book Award for AUGUSTUS in 1973.

If you want to read a book that makes you think about the choices you make, this is a great choice.


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "The Beauty Contest" Yoka Ogawa


Yoka Ogawa is the author of two novels I greatly enjoyed in the last few years, THE MEMORY POLICE and THE PROFESSOR AND THE HOUSEKEEPER. This short story was in THE NEW YORKER this month.

At eight months of age, our narrator won a beauty contest and since then her mother has retold the story of her victory many times. She signs her up for another contest and she agrees to it with the promise that her mother will buy her an expensive ice cream treat when the contest is over. She meets another girl during the competition and become interested in her story of her dog dying that morning. Neither girl wins. Other story elements include an opal ring of her mother's that she likes to try on and a news article about a family poisoned by mushrooms.

Now both of the novels I read by Ogawa were especially engaging and unusual. But I have to confess I did not get much out of this story. All of her work is in translation so it is possible there was more to the story than I got. Or perhaps she is a better novelist than short story writer. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 


Jerry House 

Casual Debris 


Monday, November 20, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Loved both May-December and Killers of the Flower Moon at the theater. Strange because both films made me very uneasy, queasy. But the acting, directing, score, set design and everything about them just sang. I especially admire Charlie Melton in May-December who managed to steal the show from two terrific actresses (Moore and Portman).

Also The Killer (Netflix) a David Fincher film was pretty good although it may take a second look to get all the references. Michael Fassbender was away too long.

Liked the series Better on Hulu. Great ending for me, but I see other people didn't agree.  Lessons in Chemistry (Apple) changed so many things from the book, I am not sure why they bothered making it. Watching For All Mankind on Apple. And rewatching Six Feet Under (Netflix). I had forgotten how strange it was. 

Still working on the Tana French book, The Searcher but boy, it is a slow one. Beautiful writer though. 

Went to a Brunch with Bach today which was terrific. They played Beethoven's late quartets.

The Detroit Lions are 8 and 2. The first time they have had that record since 1962. What a game. 

How about you?

Friday, November 17, 2023

FFB: SOMEONE IS BLEEDING, Richard Matheson, reviewed by Ed Gorman

from the archives


While Richard Matheson would go on to become a major figure in the fields of fantasy and science fiction with such distinguished works as I Am Legend and his The Shrinking Man, his first novel was solidly criminous — a book whose influences ran heavily to James M. Cain and Hemingway.

Someone Is Bleeding is the devious tale of writer David Newton who meets a lovely but deeply disturbed young woman named Peggy Lister and falls into tormented love with her.

Peggy is surrounded by men whose overwhelming desire in life is to possess her. As we learn, Peggy's psychological problems are enough to scare off all but the most dedicated lovers. She has an understandable but pathological distrust of men because she'd been raped by her father.

For its era, Bleeding was a surprisingly complex psychosexual tale. Peggy, a dark goddess who literally rules the lives of her men, is all the more chilling for the sympathetic way in which David sees her for most of the book. She is the helpless, beautiful woman-child that many men fantasize about and long to protect as proof of their own masculinity.

As the novel rushes to its truly terrifying climax (it is an ending that must rank, for pure horror, with the best of Fredric Brown and Cornell Woolrich), we see how much Peggy comes to represent the pawn in a quest. Her men are willing to scheme, lie, and die to have her.

Matheson also gives us an exceptionally good look at the Fifties and its snake-pit moral code, its demeaning view of women, its defeated view of men. He packs an icy poetry, a bittersweet love song, and moments of real terror into this debut.
Someone Is Bleeding is a satisfyingly complex, evocative study of loneliness, romance, sexuality and pathology.

(Oh, I miss Ed)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023



(from the archives)

This has been one of my favorite collections of stories since I came across it in the nineties. Marly Swick, now a retired English professor in Missouri (I think), seems to have written all of her stories and two novels in the nineties and early 2000s. Since that was the time I was writing mainstream short stories too, I bought a lot of collections. Swick's are very straightforward, easy to read stories. 

The title story is about the breakup of a marriage and much of it takes places during a trip to see the Beatles that the mother takes her daughters on. When she leaves the hotel room in the night and her slip is returned in a paperbag the next day, it drives the older daughter out of the house. It also changes the daughter's taste in music overnight from the Beatles to the edgier groups. 

The second story "Ghost Mother" is a favorite of mine. Two screenwriters are adopting a baby from a mid-western teen, who moves into their house for the end of the pregnancy. It is a very poignant yet not sad story and some of it is framed in how the writer might write it in a screenplay.The reader expects the surrogate mother to be exposed in some way and this never happens to our relief. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple 

George Kelley 

Jerry House

Monday, November 13, 2023

Monday, Monday,

 When I began doing this Monday thing, I should have included a date on the title each week.
Anyway, enjoying BETTER on Hulu, NADA on Hulu, LUCKY HANK on AMC and DARK WINDS(AMC) (not so much). Lucky Hank paints a realistic picture of academic life although the professors in his department hang around a  lot more than any I saw at Wayne. It is sort of more like a high school department where teachers have to be in all day than a college one where they are supposed to be off doing scholarship. Great cast though and Odenkirk is perfect in the lead.

NADA is lots of fun if you get HULU. He is a octogenarian who suddenly has to take care of himself. I can really relate to that. 

Reading THE SEARCHERS by Tana French. The last five books I have announced on here I didn't finish so I hope this one breaks a bad habit. She is a terrific writer though. 

Reading a lot of poetry. I have to take something into my writing group and this is a lot less effort than a short story. Probably I am not a poet though. They all seem like outlines for a poem.

I rewatched for the fourth time at least THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I am fascinated by Streep's performance in this. It is so specific. Sometimes Streep feels too ordinary ONLY MURDERERS IN THE BLDG) but not in this one. Hathaway and Blunt are also terrific. 

Lots and lots of podcasts. That seems to be my way of experiencing the world. 

Love my chair yoga class. Hate the limbering up one. 

U of Michigan won despite no Harbaugh. Hope the Lions do the same today. 

What are you up to?

Friday, November 10, 2023

FFB: HUSH, HUSH Laura Lippman

A welcome return of Tess Monaghan in a fine addition to the series. Tess is now a mother and that role makes her both suited and ill-suited to looking into security issues for a woman, Melisandre Dawes, who murdered her infant daughter on a hot day one August.

Dawes got off, suffering from Post Partum Depression, but her return to Baltimore more than a decade later stirs up trouble for her two surviving daughters (now teens), her former husband, now remarried, and his new wife and son. Throw into the mix an attempt of Melisandre to tell her story via a documentary film maker and someone who seems to have it in for Tess. This is a well-populated tale, but Lippman is skillful in keeping it sorted out for the reader.

I enjoyed seeing Tess cope with motherhood in a palpably loving yet very human way.  I love Lippman's standalones, but this novel functioned as both. We had a nice mix of Tess and her gang along with the gaggle of girls who occupied this case.  A very fine novel indeed.


Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "The Finger" Stewart O'Nan from his collection IN THE WALLED CITY

This is on Amazon right now for $1.99 and worth it. Of course, he is one of my very favorite writers. I especially liked LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING, SPEED QUEEN and SNOW ANGEL. He had a misfire when he tried to write a story about Fitzgerald, who is just not his sort of character.  But on the whole, he's terrific.

In "Finger" a recently separated man with a young child works at the city dump. He spends his off hours with two elderly men who sit on lawn chairs and debate things like whether a frozen mastodon is edible. And drink.  One days he finds a decent bureau at the dump and decides to refinish it for his ex-wife. At first this seems to win him some leverage with her, but then it does not. There is hope at the story's end, he might be able to move on. Great writing. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 

Jerry House 


Casual Debris

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

From a Safety Seminar

Put your car keys beside your bed at night.
If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get in your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies.
This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Next time you come home for the night and start to put your keys away, think of this: It's a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation. Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage.
If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break into your house, odds are the burglar/rapist won't stick around. After a few seconds, all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won't want that. And remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there. This is something that should really be shared with everyone. Maybe it could save a life or a sexual abuse crime.
P.S. Would also be useful for any emergency, such as a heart attack, where you can't reach a phone. My Mom has suggested to my Dad that he carry his car keys with him in case he falls outside and she doesn't hear him. He can activate the car alarm and then she'll know there's a problem.
This may save a life!


Monday, November 06, 2023



I guess a movie (NYAD) with two older actresses (Benning and Foster) just won't get picked up by theaters anymore and maybe it is just too narrow a focus. But I enjoyed both performances, especially Foster's who played the more lovable character, I guess. Can't wait to see her in TRUE DETECTIVE in January. Sad to be finished with ANNIKA, great cliffhanger though. Finally figured out how to get rid of Peacock and Paramount and immediately subscribed to AMC and got LUCKY HANK and the last season of HAPPY VALLEY if I can manage to take Tommy Noyce for another season. I thought I would rewatch SIX FEET UNDER but then remember Nate died of an AVM and since I may have one, thought it best to forgo it.

Saw THE HOLDOVERs with a huge crowd at a large theater. It was pretty terrific. 

Did not care for the Meg Ryan movie (WHAT HAPPENED LATER), which seemed to have a budget of a few hundred bucks. A two-hander set in a deserted airport. 

Going to hear Stravinski's PETRUSKA today. (NOT FIREBIRD. Sorry)

Reading TRANSCRIPTION by Kate Atkinson. I chose it on the basis of the size of the font and the weight of the book. Listening to Minnie Driver's memoir. She is an excellent writer. 

What have you been up to? 

Why when we gain an hour am I more tired?

Friday, November 03, 2023

FFB: UNCLE PAUL, Celia Fremlin


Uncle Paul was put into prison fifteen years ago and his sentence is about up. Three sisters take a beach holiday together and all of them are dreading his return. The early part of this book is amusing and clever in how well Fremlin captures a holiday in a slightly seedy British resort. But as the book moves on tension rises as all three of the sisters grow wary of the men in their lives. Could they be Uncle Paul, who none have seen in years? Or are they just like him in some ways? The book took a long time in introducing the tension and a long time in explaining it at the end. I had read another book (THE HOURS BFORE DAWN) and liked it quite a bit, but this one, despite the eerie atmosphere in the second half, just didn't hold my interest. Why do these women all involve themselves with men they hardly know. I guess this is the impact of Uncle Paul on them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "Winter Father" from SELECTED STORIES, Andre Dubus II


Someone mentioned this story somewhere recently and luckily I have the collection. Dubus, along with Alice Munro, and a few others is a favorite. Although I have to admit since reading his son's memoir, TOWNIE, he does not come off as well as he does in this story. Or perhaps he is writing the father he wished he had been.

A couple divorce and the father has the children on Wednesdays and on the weekend. As you might expect it is very hard for him to entertain the kids every weekend. He doesn't exactly explain why these weekends have to be so elaborate with sledding, movies, restaurants, music. But he doesn't like having them at his apartment. Nothing they do ever feels quite right to him until summer comes and they can go to the beach where finally all three find peace much more simply. 

This is a leisurely story, where you really get inside his head as he tried to create this new family and how it will operate. There is a new woman in his life, but she isn't all that interested in his kids or any permanent relationship. 

Andre Dubus III is a very fine writer but his father was a master short story writer. 

The last story in this collection, "A Father's Story" is thought to be one of the finest short stories every written by an American.

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Casual Debris 

Jerry House

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Something of a ghost story "The Bride"


"This Just What You've Been Looking For"

by Patricia Abbott



The #459 bus skidded on a patch of black ice that day, and although she was preoccupied with a book, Lena glanced up in time to see a small cake sitting in the middle of the road. Its improbable location made her giggle loud enough to disturb the drowsing passengers. She tilted her head toward the road, but by now the cake was no more than a pale glimmer in the rearview mirror.


“Oh, you missed it,” she said, looking around. “Pity.”


The heads around her bobbed in unison as the bus moved bumpily toward town.


Later, at her work station: fifth row, fourth desk, she thought about it—who’d put a cake in the middle of a country road? And why not a box to protect it? It’d be ruined in no time.


On the way home, the road was empty of anything other than imploded tires, Big-Gulp cups, and discarded shoes. She remembered the spot perfectly though—a stretch of birch trees stood across from it, a well-tended farm lay just ahead.


Two days later, the cake was there again and growing larger. It was now a two-layer cake with silky white frosting. A trail of pink roses circled it. It rested on a pale blue plate. A birthday cake perhaps? A surprise for a child on the way to school? Again, no one else seemed to see it. Was the cake there for her alone?


The cake had three-layers the next time she rode by. A pale green vine etched the frosting. A layer of thick cream topped it. She didn’t really want to share it, but her finger darted out to point at the cake before she could stop it. A schoolboy looked up, followed her finger, and made a face. His index finger circled his head. Daft. Perhaps she was daft.


Pillars held up the layers a few days later. The cake was very tall now, and she wondered how the bus driver managed to miss it. The blue plate had been replaced by a large silver tray. It was raining, but the cake seemed impervious to the damp, merely glistening a bit more than usual. The woman next to her gave a start, and for a minute, Lena thought someone else had the eyesight or attention or imagination necessary to see it. But the woman sneezed instead.


“Bless you,” Lena said.


A groom stood atop the cake on the next trip. Lena strained to see him. He was very handsome and wore the traditional attire but seemed lonely. He held out a hand as if waiting for a bride to join him. She rubbed her eyes, but he remained at attention. Alert.


On Saturday, Lena did her errands. A bridal shop was only a few doors from the shoe repair store, so on impulse, she stopped in. She tried hard to imagine what the bride might wear, but there was nothing suitable. It was all too modern.


"Contemporary," the clerk corrected her.


With a bundle of her mother’s clothes to donate, her final stop was the Thrift Store. Inside, she saw the perfect wedding dress—in a section at the very back. The sign over the rack said, “This is just what you’ve been looking for.”


And it was. The dress was in wonderful condition because, of course, it had only been worn once. She tried in on and it fit perfectly. The price tag was missing, and the clerk let it go for a song.


“I hope your day is as special as your dress,” the woman told her, her voice a trill.


Lena didn’t correct the clerk because she wasn’t sure herself. What was the dress for?


It seemed odd to wear her dress on the bus, and she covered it with a coat despite the warm temperature. She rang the bell as they approached the birches and the well-kept farm.


“Here?” the bus driver yelled. “You want me to let you off here?”


The passengers’ eyes swung left and right. Shrugs.


“Yes, if you don’t mind,” Lena said, walking down the aisle. Nobody noticed either her dress, nor the heels that went with it. Not the gloves, nor the flowers she’d tucked into her bag. Not her either. But no one ever had.


“Sure you got the right spot,” the driver asked again. “It's not your usual stop. There’s nothing here but an old farm.”


“It’s the right place,” she told him, feeling more certain all the time.


As the bus drove off, she worried for a moment that the cake wouldn’t be there. But when the fumes cleared, she saw it. It had a canopy now, and small birds perched on it. As she neared the cake, she saw the groom looked more handsome than yesterday. Wearing proudly his black tux with a red rose in his lapel. He looked expectant.


“I’ve been waiting,” he said, holding out his hand to her. She took it and climbed up.  “The dress is perfect,” he said. “You are perfect.”


No one had ever said such a thing to her before. But maybe it hadn't been true till now.