George is thirteen. He comes home from school and whines to his mother that he has an essay due the next day on an event that changed his life. After realizing that this is a nearly impossible task for a kid, his mother – who seems to be a writer, although that isn’t clear (the title, then, has a triple meaning: she works at home, she’s chopping veggies for dinner, and George has homework for school) – helps him fabricate a story about his parents divorce. George is worried both about the divorce – his parents aren’t divorced – and also about turning in something that isn’t true. The mother, though, convinces him that it’s okay and together they weave a credible but false tale for his essay. As she helps with this task, she contemplates her own difficult upbringing (although under the circumstances you have to wonder if she isn’t an unreliable narrator), and cherishes this opportunity to help her son, just on the verge of being independent. (“The time for advice was almost gone.”) This was a fun story with excellent dialogue and a charming resolution.
June 25, 2007: “Homework” by Helen Simpson