The cold came late that fall, and the songbirds were caught off guard. By the time the snow and wind began in earnest, too many had been suckered into staying, and instead of flying south, instead of already having flown south, they were huddled in people’s yards, their feathers puffed for some modicum of warmth. I was looking for a babysitting job. I was a student and needed money, so I would walk from interview to interview in these attractive but wintry neighborhoods, past the eerie multitudes of robins pecking at the frozen ground, dun gray and stricken—though what bird in the best of circumstances does not look a little stricken—until at last, late in my search, at the end of a week, startlingly, the birds had disappeared. I did not want to think about what had happened to them. Or, rather, that is an expression—of politeness, a false promise of delicacy—for in fact I wondered about them all the time: imagining them dead, in stunning heaps in some killing cornfield outside of town, or dropped from the sky in twos and threes for miles down along the Illinois state line.Its called Childcare. Go read it in its entirety here. (If really interested, you can also read 3 other recent short stories by Moore at the New Yorker site.)
Lorrie Moore is, of course, a great exponent of the short story art. I remember reading and liking many of the stories from her debut collection Self-Help (NYT Review) last year. Here is a lovely excerpt from a story from that collection called "How to Become a Writer":
"First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age--say, fourteen. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at fifteen you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire. It is a pond, a cherry blossom, a wind brushing against sparrow wing leaving for mountain. Count the syllables. Show it to your mom. She is tough and practical. She has a son in Vietnam and a husband who may be having an affair. She believes in wearing brown because it hides spots. She'll look briefly at your writing, then back up at you with a face blank as a doughnut. She'll say: 'How about emptying the dishwasher?' Look away. Shove the forks in the fork drawer. Acccidentally break one of the freebie gas station glasses. This is the required pain and suffering. This is only for starters.""This is the required pain and suffering. This is only for starters." Lovely, no? Short crisp sentence that pierce right to the heart!
I was introduced to Lorrie Moore's short stories at the writing workshop I took last summer (which, incidentally, instead of inspiring me to write, duly crushed any last vestiges of delusions I had that I could write!) where one of her stories was introduced as an example of how to write a story in the 2nd person -- something that is rarely done (but done more often than you and I might think!). When done right, as Moore shows how, it can be quite delectable to read. The particular story discussed is called "How to be the other woman". Exquisite (and much celebrated) work by Moore it is!
Maybe one of these days I will get the Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore and read some more of her work.