‘Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out’ by Patricia Highsmith

The title is a promise whose unravelling, during a familial visit, is what drives the story forward, but isn’t what makes it linger. A young woman, living in a tiny New York apartment, rushes to prepare for a visit from her sister from Cleveland. Highsmith’s mastery of building tension out of absent-mindedness (did she leave the eggs on the stove or not?) is as enjoyable here as it is in any of her novels, but it’s the moment when Mildred, the city-dwelling sister, rails, mildly and politely, against her sister’s haughty assessment of New York’s unfriendliness that the story’s generosity breaks open. The description of her watching a police parade in the rain is a very beautiful moment: “Why, they even call them New York’s Finest!”

Included in Nothing that Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories, Bloomsbury, 2005 and Selected Novels and Short Stories, Norton, 2010

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