This is the story of two sisters, Fiona, the narrator, and Marie. The girls have limited prospects although Fiona, who works as a bank teller, is doing better than her sister. Marie, in fact, is involved with Stan McKechnie, a loser who is usually in trouble. Fiona longs to be not “invisible.” “It was already happening, in this relentless, quick snow; I was already disappearing, and not just disappearing into that whiteness but into everything around me. Like a ghost in a film, melting into the scenery, I was starting to vanish from my life, not by going away somewhere but just by staying where I was and doing what I had always done.” She can make a change, or she can be miserable, or she can decide that her life’s not so bad. This one is not going to go down as one of my favorite New Yorker stories, and if a story is supposed to lay the groundwork for a character’s decisions (building motivation, providing stimulus), then this one is a bit lacking.
April 23, 2007: “Something Like Happy” by John Burnside