Good news. You can read this story online, and, more good news, it’s worth the read. It’s fresh both in its plot and its language. And while the particular conflict that’s explored in the story is resolved, the main character’s problems certainly aren’t—leaving the reader with plenty to ponder.
Roy’s a mess. He’s 42 and back living with his parents, although the author leaves it completely to the reader to imagine what’s gone wrong with his life. A wrecked marriage? A sour career? Drugs? (Compare Jim Shepard’s “Boys Town” which also features a disturbed son who is back at home, but in that story Shepard gives us a fair amount of the backstory.) While his parents are away, he moves the excess furniture out of his room and paints the walls bright yellow. (The color brings to mind “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the color on the walls may be as far as the parallel goes, except that both Roy and the protagonist from that story are a little nuts.) When his parents return Roy flees the house. Meanwhile, Suzanne has her own problems and is in danger of exploding under the pressure of her husband and kids who have mercifully left her alone.
But Roy runs over a dog in front of Suzanne’s house and brings the body to the door. She confirms that the victim is her children’s dog Curtains and as they both mourn the dog they . . . have sex on the floor. Um, sure, okay, why not? Except that Roy is awakened by the dog licking his shoulder! He’s not dead after all! (Hmm. Earlier Roy concludes “the dog was dead for certain,” “the neck was soft and floppy”; and he observes “there was blood on Roy’s jacket. Blood on her arm, in her hair. Curtains’s insides made pornographically public.” So if the dog’s not dead, and in fact seems to be fine, what’s all that about?)
And because they’ve had this bit of mournful sex, Suzanne decides the dog needs to be killed! Except Roy doesn’t want to, and just at that moment her family returns, sending both Roy and the dog into the back yard.
So what happened? Is Roy dreaming? He’s gone without sleep for a couple of days, apparently. The only thing he’s eaten is an onion and Cheddar sandwich. And the walls in his room are bright yellow. Has he passed out and dreamed all this? Or is he dreaming the resurrection of the dog, sleeping on the floor of Suzanne’s living room? Or did he only imagine all the details of the dog’s death, and now it’s actually alive?
Weird story. I like it.
November 29, 2010: “The Yellow” by Samantha Hunt