Joe Ashby Porter: Yours (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 15)

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Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories

I’m off newspapers for the moment and to fill the breakfast time this morning I plotted a graph of my life on a napkin.

From the beginning, we sense that the unnamed narrator in Joe Asby Porter’s short story “Yours” is talking to someone or perhaps writing a letter to someone. This could be a result of the title being a common closing for a letter. We also understand that the narrator is traveling or a more accurate description could be wandering. I’m reminded of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings poem that says “Not all who wander are lost”. I think this describes the narrator. He’s wandered to Bardstown, Kentucky, the birthplace of his father.

This story also reminds me of Donald Barthelme’s “The Balloon”. Outside of the wandering, the reader doesn’t get much background or actual plot until the end of the story in which the idea that this is a letter is confirmed. The story reveals that some sort of break-up has occurred prior to the letter. It’s difficult to say whether the wandering is the result of the break-up or the break-up is the result of the wandering. Personally, I would go with the former.

A certain wacky bitterness exists in the narrator but we never wonder whether he has lost his sanity. He knows what he’s doing – even when he knocks on the door of a farmhouse for no apparent reason and is invited in for no apparent reason:

I just kept walking away from town, climbing fences and giving wide berth to the grazing cattle, happy not to see anyone for a couple of hours until I came to the navel of the universe, the Platonic idea of the farmhouse with dust and a yellow dog…

Then he tells the woman of the house the essence of the whole story but we only get this one little sentence:

I told Katie what I’d left, where I’d been, how when I’d begun wandering or fleeing I’d seemed to be reborn.

Fleeing? Hmmm… wonder what that means?

In a word, “Yours” is delightful. I read it when I picked the Five of Clubs for Week 15 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. It’s included in my copy of Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. My Deal Me In List can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.