J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣
Sean cannot see, but he senses that the men have stopped. He can hear Mary crying, hear the wind, and hear the sound of his father’s heart racing under the rough tweed of his jacket. He stares down at the street, at the cracks in the sidewalk. With the very limited motion available to his arms, he finds his father’s belt and hangs on with both fists.
As a young boy, Sean experiences the fright of a potential fall from the window ledge of a New York apartment building as the result of his unstable father. This experience and others give the title to Frank Conroy’s short story “Midair”.
I found the story sweetly unusual in that Sean doesn’t necessarily grow up with the issues one might expect after almost falling to his death at age six. Sean (and Conroy) seem to focus more on the fact that Sean didn’t fall and everything that implies. Sean doesn’t have a perfect life, but he seems to look at things from a positive standpoint – maybe not with a smiley, happy, rose-colored glasses manner, but with a quiet strength, knowing even if he is in midair, it’s possible he won’t fall.
Conroy also pulls off a feat that not many short story writers attempt. He manages to fit a significant part of Sean’s life into the limited space that a short story provides. Nothing seems glossed over. In fact, for a life story, it’s practically perfect.
“Midair” is included in Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the Jack of Clubs for Week 37 of my short story project Deal Me In 2018. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.