Collective nouns are famously beautiful, almost poetic, but Kathy Fish’s extraordinary list of collective nouns takes it to another level. She begins almost playfully – “A group of toddlers, a jubilance (see also: a bewailing)” – before pitching us straight into our worse nightmares. It’s current, shattering and urgent. And all in less than a page.
First published in the Jellyfish Review
A sales assistant at a discount store is confronted by an armed robber who is holding a baby. In the tense standoff that occurs before the sales assistant manages to kick the gun away, we learn that they lost a younger brother to drowning after leaving him unattended in the bath, and that their parents are inattentive and distant, possibly because of this one painful moment. The situation explodes into action – and sound – as the gunman retrieves his weapon, fires, and sets off the store’s previously broken music system. There’s time for a suicide and post-incident recovery as the sale assistant’s parents arrive, and run towards them. Kathy Fish knows how to make a story that stays firmly planted in the American vernacular and everyday, yet is just as strong and sturdy as longer works, each emotion and image so satisfactorily depicted, to the point where now, when reading longer realist fiction, I ask myself whether it really needed to be so long, given what Fish can do in a thousand words or less.
(Published online at Published online at Elm Leaves Journal)