Gotham Fiction Writing teacher David Ebenbach has published Between Camelots
, a collection of short stories recently awarded the 2005 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Noted author Frederick Barthelme says, “The stories, right from the lovely short gem 'Misdirections' that opens the collection, are immensely skillful, touching, stocked with curious and engaging characters who go about their lives as if we were not watching.”
Here is that short gem, “Misdirections”:
My wife is using the mice as an excuse to let our marriage fall apart. All night they crawl around in our walls and we can hear them gnawing. They’re gnawing at the foundation of our marriage, she says. She complains I won’t do anything about them, or about anything else, and that’s the problem. Neither of us mentions the man whose sweat she smells like these days.
But I put out humane traps, little plastic opaque boxes for them to get cornered in. Our son loads the peanut butter into the back ends. By that same evening, we’ve got our first mouse. The box rattles on the kitchen tiles.
My son and I are going to go release it by the lake, and he asks his mother to come. He knows and doesn’t know. She wipes her hands dry and reluctantly agrees.
I can feel the mouse moving in the box as we walk down Jenifer street. Because it’s a strange feeling, I let my son carry it a while. He squeals with the thrill of it, but my wife is silent.
I think of something. I ask my son, “What if it finds its way back?” His eyes grow wide.
“It’s three blocks,” my wife says. “The mouse isn’t that smart.”
“Well, maybe,” I say loudly, and wink at my son. “I just hope it doesn’t remember to head for Spaight street
, and turn left
, and go to the fifth house
.” That’s not how you get to our house. I’m giving the mouse misdirections. My son laughs, excited. Despite herself, so does my wife. She looks at me and then at our son. Surprising me, she says, “I hope the thing doesn’t tell all the other mice about our house on Spaight
Soon we’re all giving loud misdirections, just like a family.
By the lake, we all stoop down and I prepare to let the mouse go. Our son has his eyes wide and mouth open, surprised and awed in advance. I look up at my wife and she is looking at me, expectant, hopeful. This mouse, I think, is giving me my family back. Lowering the box to the ground, I put my finger on the little door, ready. I am almost asking her, with my eyes, whether we might keep the mouse. Can we?
When she sees that question, though, her face answers by sinking out of its smile. She sighs and looks away from me.
I open the door. Before I’ve even caught sight of the mouse, it’s completely gone.
To read more of David's stories, find Between Camelots
online at bn.com or in your favorite bookstore. Copyright © by David Ebenbach. Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.