‘Tom-Rock Through the Eels’ by Amy Hempel

A story for August
‘Tom Rock through the Eels’ is about a woman in the aftermath of her mother’s death. It’s a story told through fragments, memories and moments. A double bed now slept in alone. A nursery selling garden plants and tools.  A forty-eight house train journey. (“When the car lights go out, a porter brings me a blanket. He tucks it around my shoulders like––what else?––like a mother.”) Each scene is distilled to its essence. Each sentence matters:

“My head against a small synthetic pillow, I think: Mothers. They teach their daughters to use pumice on their heels, and to roll a lemon inside its skin before slicing, to bring out the juice. My mother said men, unless they were sober, what they meant when they asked you to marry was that you looked nice in that dress, or they liked your hair that way.” 

I’ve selected this story for August, because it’s the kind of story that rewards slow, leisurely reading. Imagine yourself in a park, sun on your face, taking the time to marvel at Amy Hempel’s lucid, lyrical writing that sees into the depth of people’s lives. 

First published in At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Knopf 1990. Collected in The Dog of the Marriage: Collected Stories, Quercus, 2009

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