What I’m reading

“Now the man lifts the frying pan from the stove and serves the boy and girl dinner. The boy looks at his plate: a scrawny-looking thing with the fur skinned off, like a miniature greyhound fried to a crisp. A squirrel.

I caught them in the back yard, the man explains.

Disgusting! the girl says, making a face.

Would you rather go to your room, young lady? the man says.

She pushes her chair back.

No, please. I’m sorry. You don’t have to eat. He looks at his plate and frowns. My mother was the real cook. She could have turned this into a fricassee.

What are they like? the boy asks.

What?

Mothers.

They’re wonderful, the man says after a minute. Though sometimes you hate them. You hate them for years and years.

Why?

That’s a good question. The man cuts off a piece of squirrel but doesn’t eat it, instead stares at the window curtain, still bright with daylight at six o’clock. I remember when I was a kid, how hard it was to go to sleep in the summer. I used to tell my mom to turn off the day. That’s what I’d say, Turn off the day, and she’d reach up and pretend to turn it off.

The man lifts his hand and yanks at the air, as if switching off a light.”

Eric Puchner, “Beautiful Monsters,” Best American Short Stories 2012


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