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    One great short story to read today:
    Ling Ma’s “Office Hours”

    Emily Temple

    May 1, 2024, 10:30am

    According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, for the second year in a row, 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:

    “Office Hours” by Ling Ma

    I don’t want to say too much about this story, because its first hinge is one of surprise, an expectation not just subverted but reinvented. This is not uncommon for Ma, who loves to skirt the edges of reality, and invite the dream into the everyday. It’s the second hinge, though, the one that happens on the other side of the rabbit hole (so to speak), that makes this story stick in the mind long after reading.

    The story begins:

    How she used to smoke in his office, back when the University allowed that in campus buildings. He didn’t smoke, but allowed her to as she sat on the sofa across from his desk. Or rather, he didn’t object, and even set out a little dessert plate as an ashtray. Maybe because it gave them both a pretense for talking longer, for the extra duration of a cigarette, then two, then three. So that by the time she graduated, she was a chain-smoker.

    Read it here.

    *If you hit a paywall, we recommend trying with a different/private/incognito browser (but listen, you didn’t hear it from us).

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