One great short story to read today: Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter.”
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:
“The Babysitter” by Robert Coover
Robert Coover breaks every rule known to storytelling (or at least to creative writing classes) in “The Babysitter”—except the most important one: make the reader feel something. What that something is depends on how you read this complex, metafictional masterpiece, but fear, disgust, amusement, relief, and wonder would all be appropriate, and many other things besides—many other things, of course, being arguably the story’s operative concept. I’ve written more about the brilliance of Coover’s destabilizing short story here, but if this is your first time, I suggest just reading it cold before diving into any extraneous materials.
The story begins:
She arrives at 7:40, ten minutes late, but the children, Jimmy and Bitsy, are still eating supper, and their parents are not ready to go yet. From other rooms come the sounds of a baby screaming, water running, a television musical (no words: probably a dance number—patterns of gliding figures come to mind). Mrs Tucker sweeps into the kitchen, fussing with her hair, and snatches a baby bottle full of milk out of a pan of warm water, rushes out again. ‘Harry!’ she calls. ‘The babysitter’s here already!’