‘On the Floor’ by Joan Jukes

This story is a marvel and a mystery. Joan Jukes was either a pseudonym or she never published anything other than this one story, which first appeared in Edward J. O’Brien’s short-lived magazine New Stories. It’s also, as far as I know, the first example of a short story narrated by a disabled character. In it, a young woman who’s unable to walk unaided, due to some unspecified degenerative disease, falls on the floor in her family’s dining room and is stuck there waiting for someone to come along and help her up. 
 
“On an occasion like this,” she tells the reader, “I have sometimes tried to sing out for help in an unmistakably jaunty tone of voice to let everyone know at once that I am happy and carefree, I haven’t lost an eye or broken a leg, but this attempt has never been successful, because through closed doors my gay halloo seems to pierce like a shriek of agony.” Despite her situation, the narrator’s voice is struck through with a mix of ironic acceptance and jaundiced scepticism of the capacity of the able people in her world to see past her limitations. You wish that Joan Jukes had had the chance to build a whole novel around this wonderful voice. It’s really a landmark work that ought to be in high school readers around the world.

First published in New Stories volume 1, number 6 (December-January 1934-5, included in The Best Short Stories 1935, edited by Edward J. O’Brien, which is available online on the Internet Archive here

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