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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Microfiction: 227 words
By Mary Grimm

Don’t Look


I’ve always been sitting at this kitchen table, even when I haven’t. My life: ash from a cigarette, swirl of torn paper. His name was.... He wore a cap pulled to his eyebrows. He said ... and blink, there’s music playing over the static, chips of song with only half the words.

(The trees are thickening, buds visible as a fog clinging to the branches.)

I hold on to his glasses, if he had glasses, his cream-slicked hair falling forward, his leather jacket, if he had one, his smooth uncertain lips. My own hand cautious on the concrete wall by the church, my hand thinking in its stolid way that the wall was warm, my bookbag heavy, my eyes taking in the sky (always blue in memories of childhood), my glasses, if I had glasses, sliding down my nose, my head starting to fill with a thought that would later turn to ash, to paper. His name began with an F.

I am already forgetting this table, its woodenness, its grain, the jam stain that has lasted so long it’s an heirloom. The table is a prop in the play I’m staging for my twilight years. The air is filled with dust that glows and rises with the memory birds, smudged as they are, and torn, parts of a puzzle I can’t solve or forget.

Mary Grimm
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

is the author of two books, both published by Random House: Left to Themselves, a novel, and Stealing Time, a story collection. She is now working on a dystopian novel about oldsters, and teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University.

Soon after she committed to writing as a career in the mid-1980s, Grimm began publishing stories in such venues as The New Yorker, Redbook, Antioch Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, The Citron Review, and Tiferet Journal. Her work also quickly garnered numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award for Fiction for “We” (first published in The New Yorker on 17 October 1988 and then reprinted in her book Stealing Time in 1994).

Her long list of awards and grants include a Baker-Nord Senior Fellowship (2005), a nomination for a Pushcart Prize (2001) for her story “On Not Cleaning the House” and several stories named among the 100 Distinguished Stories in different years. She won an Ohio Arts Council individual artist fellowship in 1989 and was named the John Atherton Scholar for the famed Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont. In 1993, she won the Cleveland Arts Prize for Literature.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Mary Grimm on the Rituals and Stories of Summer by Deborah Treisman in The New Yorker (17 June 2019)

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