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Discomfort

image: DJOXFUTURA via Flickr

Imagine the scene in that Florida hotel room in the hour after Seymour Glass rid himself of half of his skull.

Or picture how Hulga managed to get out of the barn and make it home once Manly Pointer took off with her prosthetic leg. And what did he do with the leg, sling it over his shoulder like a fishing rod and stroll into the next town, pushing his Bibles door to door?

Good short stories make me uneasy. On the one hand, I’m satisfied by being able to enter their fully-formed, near-perfectly constructed worlds in a single serving of reading. On the other, having left the inhabitants of these worlds, I often wonder what happened in the aftermath. The experience of reading a short story, the incongruity of feeling satisfaction while wanting to know more, makes me anxious, but the discomfort is not altogether unpleasant, as it is a product of my concern, which only arises when I believe the place I just visited is real. This is the trick of all fiction, but I believe the short story can inspire it most powerfully.