My good pal David Swann wins or is placed in one or another category of the Bridport Prize pretty much every year. His stories are beautiful and funny and moving, but I can’t put him in this list because we’re both a bit Northern, and therefore object to nepotism. We both love the work of Mary Robison, especially her book of tiny fragments Why Did I Ever. I think Dave recommended this 500-word story to me, which might be the best story of this length I’ve ever read. It features an evening in the life of Alison and Clark, as they carve some Hallowe’en pumpkins on the porch.
When you first read it, you might wonder how Robison managed to do what she did. But then you read it again, and you see that she just used the right word, every time.
First published in The New Yorker, October 1982, and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in An Amateur’s Guide to the Night, FSG, 1983. Now available from Counterpoint, 2019