Posted in Short Stories

Nelson Algren: A Bottle of Milk for Mother

Deal Me In 2019 – Week 10

9♣ 9♣ 9♣ 9♣ 9♣ 9♣ 9♣ 9♣

Then they were all laughing openly at him. He heard their derision, and a red rain danced one moment before his eyes; when the red rain was past, Kozak was sitting back easily, regarding him with the expression of a man who has just been swung at and missed and plans to use the provocation without undue baste.

Lately, I’ve been binge-watching (or at least semi-binge watching) episodes of NYPD Blue.  I’ve been impressed with how well a story can be told with a well-written police interrogation. Much to my surprise, a police interrogation comprises most of Nelson Algren’s story “A Bottle of Milk for Mother”.

I admit the title of this story didn’t do much to get me excited about reading it. I’m not sure whether a title can be considered an understatement but in this case it’s simply the initial intention that Lefty Bicek gives the police as to why he was involved in an altercation.

The story also gives an excellent example of how effectively a story can be told using dialect – Chicago and Polish in the case of this story:

Don’t look at me like I ain’t nowheres,” he asked. And his voice was struck flat by fear.

I highly recommend this story – especially to anyone who might think the title doesn’t sound like much.

oxford short stories

I read “A Bottle of Milk for Mother” when I selected the Nine of Clubs for Week 10 of my Deal Me In 2019 short story project. It’s included in 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.


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