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    One great short story to read today:
    Rebecca Curtis’s “Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit”

    Emily Temple

    May 9, 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:

    “Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit” by Rebecca Curtis

    I like to teach this story as an example of how to create tension in fiction. It is an example of many other things, of course, like how to use fairy tale machinery and how to deploy body horror in literary fiction and how you don’t have to write like Carver to get published in The New Yorker, but the spine of it all is a simple ticking clock, one that is so straightforward it seems almost out of place in this wild forest of a story, but very much isn’t, when you think about it: a girl’s appendix has (maybe, probably) burst. Will anyone help her in time?

    The story begins:

    Gretyl wakes at 6 a.m., as usual, but her stomach feels crampy. These are not what her mother calls the “normal” cramps, which gnash her abdomen for four days each month. These fissures poke her midsection with acidic fingers as she dresses. She hunches while she brushes her teeth, unloads the dishwasher, and mops the kitchen. She walks down to the cellar, carries up stacks of logs, and feeds the woodstove. She toasts bread, but finds she’s not hungry, so puts it in her heavy schoolbag.

    She doesn’t ask to stay home. Her mother’s warned her that she knows the girl feigns illness because she’s unpopular—a loser!—because she’s lazy and unlikable. The girl knows better than to whine about a stomach ache.

    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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