Stuart Dybek: Death of a Right Fielder (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 8)

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baseball short stories

Finally we saw him; from a distance he resembled the towel we sometimes threw down for second base.

For Week 8 of Deal Me In 2018, I drew the Queen of Spades and read Stuart Dybek’s 1990 story “Death of a Right Fielder”.  Week 8 is probably a little too far away from opening day to make this a great coincidence but baseball season IS right around the corner. It also blows my mind that out of the eight stories I’ve read so far this year, I think six of them could easily make my top ten at the end of the year. I include Dybek’s story in those six.

Starting with the title, I initially thought this story would be about the death of someone famous (even fictionally famous) – a major league player or at least a minor league one. It was the quotation above only a few sentences in that let me know this was taking a different turn. This was about kids. And this is only the first of several perfect twists and turns, some comical, some sad, some tragic.

Whether its lost innocence or lost dreams or if there really is even a difference between the two, this story packs it all in with just a few short pages.

This story is included in my copy of Baseball’s Best Short Stories edited by Paul D. Staudohar. My Deal Me In List can be seen here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Janice Holt Giles: The Gift (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 7)

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home beyond

Gently, tenderly, and even proudly he denied his deepest love and presented the denial as his finest gift to restore a small girl’s dignity, to heal a small girl’s sense of treachery.

In Janice Holt Giles’ short story “The Gift”, eight year-old Sallie loves Jeff, the adult foreman of her father’s ranch. She intends to marry him. Jeff is fond of Sallie and is always kind to her, but of course, Jeff’s feelings are much different than Sallie’s.

It would be easy for this story to come off as quaint and sentimental; however, Giles keeps the story honest by telling it in third person from Sallie’s point of view. The reader gets Sallie’s emotions as complete and real as opposed to something overly romanticized. In addition, Jeff’s inevitable let down validates Sallie’s feelings instead of simply crushing them.

By the end of the story, I was quite surprised at how much dimension Giles gives these characters and how much I cared about them. It’s not the kind of story I would usually consider a favorite but it could very well be one.

While Giles is considered to be from Kentucky, this story frequently references “the prairie”. Based on other geographical references, my guess is that this story is set in Kansas. Another guess would place it somewhere toward the end of the 19th century.

This is the first work by Giles that I’ve read but I’m familiar with her name because one of the novels she wrote is titled The Kentuckians. The novel tends to be on display at bookstores in and around my hometown under the “local interest” category. Now that I’ve read one of her stories, I might have to check out this novel.

This story is included in my copy of Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Three of Diamonds for Week 7 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Austin: Peter Rugg, the Missing Man (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 6)

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“Your estate, indeed, remains, but no home. You were cut off from the last age, and you can never be fitted to the present. Your home is gone, and you can never have another home in this world.”

It’s been a while since I’ve been to 19th Century America in my short story reading so it’s a nice surprise when I selected the Six of Spades for Week 6 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project which corresponds to William Austin’s “Peter Rugg, the Missing Man” published in 1827.

Travelers in New England during the 1820’s periodically run into Peter Rugg  driving a horse and carriage with a young girl and followed by a rain storm. The man always asks how to get to Boston. As the story proceeds, the reader begins to understand that the man has an “other-worldliness” about him. In most of the accounts, his horse is significantly larger and blacker than normal. As these accounts unfold, the reader also realizes that the Boston this man is looking for is not the current Boston.

So the title character appears to be a ghost or a time traveler. I enjoy the way the travelers don’t seem shocked that the man could be a ghost as though it were common for ghosts to roam around the countryside of the young United States.

Just as in Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”, Peter Rugg comes from a time prior to the American Revolution and doesn’t quite understand what’s going on in this new country. An attitude of “we’re never going back” from the travelers alluded to in the quotation I included contrasts nicely with Rugg’s incredulousness about all of the changes.

oxford short stories

“Peter Rugg, the Missing Man” is included in my copy of The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

 

Julie Hecht: Do the Windows Open? (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 5)

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I’d have to hear the word “moss” turned into a verb. Dr. Loquesto didn’t mind hearing the word “laser” conjugated as a verb. I minded, but in my new job I wouldn’t even have the authority to say ” ‘Moss’ is not a verb.” Still, if I could learn to moss up tables and strew calla lilies in wet Oasis, maybe I could earn enough to hire the flunked-out trainee with the big hat to drive me back and forth. That was my plan.

One can take any single paragraph from Julie Hecht’s story “Do the Windows Open?” and think perhaps this a sweet and funny story about a New York neurotic and her fear of traveling in and around the city. And one would be right. It’s when you string all seventeen pages of these paragraphs together that one can begin to get tired and think “Is anything ever going to happen?” And, of course, nothing ever does. Things don’t always have to “happen” in stories, but this one just goes on a little too long.

I do enjoy the way the author only gives the reader the narrator’s perspective of her fellow bus passengers. We only have to worry about her which is more than enough. After finishing the story, I think I needed a little Xanax and Mozart, myself.

Wonderful Town

This story is included in my collection Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the Four of Hearts for Week 5 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.