One great short story to read today: Kelly Link’s “Stone Animals.”
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:
“Stone Animals” by Kelly Link
When I taught creative writing to undergrads, I liked to torture them with this story, because of how cheekily it sidesteps the sort of rigid interpretation of which they are so fond. When I taught creative writing to undergrads, I liked to reward them with this story, because of how much fun it is to read, how it haunts and delights in equal measure. Every time I read it myself, I find something different in it; this year, having moved out of the city and into a house with a lawn and a baby (though only one rabbit), I found it particularly unsettling.
Lincoln Michel described this story as “an American dream turned dark and strange: Kafka in Cheever’s clothing,” which is just right (you can read the rest of his introduction at the link below). It is possibly my favorite of Link’s work but that might not be true; at any rate, you could do no wrong reading “Magic for Beginners” or “The Faery Handbag” or “The Specialist’s Hat,” all of which are also available online, or by buying her books, of course.
The story begins:
Henry asked a question. He was joking.
“As a matter of fact,” the real estate agent snapped, “it is.”
It was not a question she had expected to be asked. She gave Henry a goofy, appeasing smile and yanked at the hem of the skirt of her pink linen suit, which seemed as if it might, at any moment, go rolling up her knees like a window shade. She was younger than Henry, and sold houses that she couldn’t afford to buy.
“It’s reflected in the asking price, of course,” she said. “Like you said.”
Henry stared at her. She blushed.
“I’ve never seen anything,” she said. “But there are stories. Not stories that I know. I just know there are stories. If you believe that sort of thing.”