J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥
We are in the canning kitchen, an airy back porch which I use for the cats. It has a sink where I wash their bowls and cabinets where I keep their food. The canning kitchen was my mother’s pride. There, she processed her green beans twenty minutes in a pressure canner, and her tomato juice fifteen minutes in a water bath. Now my mother lives in a mobile home. In her letters she tells me all the prices of the foods she buys.
As the title implies, Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Residents and Transients” is another Kentucky story about what is home and what is not home. Week 42’s story “Barred Owl” by Chris Offutt deals with the same concepts.
Mary is living in her parent’s farmhouse somewhere in western Kentucky while her husband, Stephen, starts a job in Louisville and looks for a place for them to live. While he is gone, she “takes a lover”, as she puts it, in the form of the local dentist, Larry.
Mary is from Kentucky but had lived away from the state for a while before returning. In a side note, it’s interesting that Bobbie Ann Mason and fellow Kentucky author Barbara Kingsolver both moved away and returned to their home state. Mary’s parents, due to health reasons, have already moved to Florida. They left behind eight cats of whom Mary becomes fond.
It’s not difficult to see the two men in her life as representing the two terms in the story’s title. Stephen, the transient and Larry, the resident. Mary isn’t just torn between the two men, she’s torn between what she considers her home and what she doesn’t consider home:
[Stephen] works for one of those companies that require frequent transfers, and I agreed to that arrangement in the beginning, but now I do not want to go to Louisville. I do not want to go anywhere.
This story is also included in my copy of Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I selected it when I drew the Jack of Hearts for Week 43 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.