According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:
“Standard Loneliness Package” by Charles Yu
This is the story that first turned me on to Charles Yu, a whole decade before he would win the National Book Award for Interior Chinatown—it’s a science fiction story, but like all the best science fiction stories, it’s actually about that complex magic that has existed for all time, and will keep existing as long as we do: the impossible pain and endless vagaries of being a person. I mean, emotions, amirite? What do you do with them? Here’s one idea:
The story begins:
Root canal is one fifty, give or take, depending on who’s doing it to you. A migraine is two hundred.
Not that I get the money. The company gets it. What I get is twelve dollars an hour, plus reimbursement for painkillers. Not that they work.
I feel pain for money. Other people’s pain. Physical, emotional, you name it.
Pain is an illusion, I know, and so is time, I know, I know. I know. The shift manager never stops reminding us. Doesn’t help, actually. Doesn’t help when you are on your third broken leg of the day.