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“We joined hands, children, and if there were times when we wondered what it was all for, or if there was ary such a thing as love at all, it was only because we had heard the wind and the waters on long winter nights, and we were afraid.
“No, I’ve never felt I needed to leave the island. My life was here. The Reach was wider in those days.”
One, like me, does not have to have read a lot of Stephen King’s work to understand his preoccupation with the phenomenon of death. It’s not any different in his short story “The Reach”. One also doesn’t have to read a lot of Stephen King’s work to know that he very often goes deeper than just horror for the sake of horror. And that’s not any different in his short story “The Reach”.
Stella Flanders, approaching 100 years of age if my calculations are correct, has never left Goat Island off the coast of Maine much to her great-grandchildren’s surprise and wonder. She remembers many people from over the years who travelled across The Reach to bigger and better things. And she remembers those friends and loved ones over the years who died in various manners both natural and unnatural including her husband and best friend.
Occasionally, the winters are cold enough that walking across The Reach to the mainland is possible and referred to numerous times as a “Jesus-out-of-the-boat” moment. She has never done that, either. But the current winter is just such a winter.
It’s not surprising that she decides to make this trip, now, beckoned by those who have gone before her.
Yes, the way this story melds reality and metaphor is sheer genius.
“The Reach” is included in my copy of The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. I read it when I selected the Nine of Spades for Week 18 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.