Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On "Dependents" by Sean Ennis (3036 words) *****

This isn't a story that zings plot. It's a story that rather sneaks up on a reader, a collection of observations. The situation is rather unextraordinary. New parents go to a party across the street. There, we meet some interesting people, including a man who is AWOL.

I have a story also about AWOL soldiers and patriotic holiday weekends, something based on a real life incident in my early twenties. It's one of my favorites, but now that I've read Ennis's version of such a tale, my own slow-burn of a story seems ridiculously long and unexceptional (its forty-plus-page length is likely one thing that will keep it from ever finding a home in a journal). His piece is one-third the size and full of zingers and observations that punch a person between the eyes (i.e., in the head, in the brain); his piece makes you sit up and pay attention. The narrator realizes that women who have given birth have a swagger men cannot match without surviving some kind of aerial crash. The writing is beautiful. And by the end, you realize that this is a story parents struggling to understand their new child, struggling to stay the course and not go AWOL, struggling to believe they're up for all that is to come, and somehow you realize that this is every parents' story. Read it here at Fifty-Two Stories.

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