After the funeral for her son has not gone well, Anne finds herself surrounded by his friends; first over an expensive dinner that she pays for, and then in her home. As the evening progresses, Anne becomes more and more detached from the people she is surrounded by. These gaunt young people in black. Some of them are addicts, she thinks. Some have recovered. The story is chilling and hard from the first line to the last, but all the way through behind every word is a great wave of love that has nowhere left to go, and that previously was squandered on small things, and must now be swallowed by the reader whole. There are so many works of fiction in the world that play cheaply with grief and the loss of a child, but the need to feel the force of it, as a confrontation of one of our greatest fears is real. I am glad that Joy Williams wrote this story, as hard as it is. I am glad of Joy Williams writing absolutely everything.
First published in An Honored Guest, Vintage / Knopf 2004; collected in The Visiting Privilege, Vintage / Knopf 2017