STORIES: A Baker's Dozen
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THE VIGIL

A community gives an upstanding citizen the right to kill when he sees moral values being violated. This story chronicles one man's week as Vigilante.

 

Mayor Skinner telephoned me Sunday evening, and after I put the phone down I called the family together. The next morning, on the way to work, I stopped at the sheriff's office. He handed over the badge, the gray nylon mask, the shoulder holster — I had to take off my suit jacket to strap it on — but he paused before giving me the revolver.


Political conservatism, family values, vigilantism

 


 

I Ask You

A young girl has the role of Emily in the school production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." But does the town she lives in consider the Rosenblatt family to belong?

 

To tell you this story I have to go back more than forty years, to when I was a wife and mother. The marriage was never a bed of roses, but who gets that? My husband was a good enough man, he provided. He made a mistake that hurt the three of us, and maybe that's where a lot of the blame belongs, and not all on me. You can decide.


Jewish, German-American Bund, Mormonism, assimilation

 


 

The Man Who Looked Like Perry Smith

Ray has the same physical deformity as one of the men who murdered the Clutter family, so when he reads In Cold Blood he recognizes himself in Perry Smith. He believes that he deserves to play that character in the film adaptation of Capote's book.

 

"I took it home and got to the page where Perry is first described, and after that my whole world concentrated on one person, on Perry Smith. He was me, I was him. I could understand him in a way others couldn't. Like where he says how it is with us, how one hurt gets piled on top of another til somebody else has to take on some of the load. Which is what happened when he found himself in the Clutter house. It was those four people who took on a good part of his hurt."


Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

 


 

McGinty

A derelict conducts a mad search for knowledge among the stacks of a city library.

 

McGinty was much on my mind, particularly during my evening walks. On doctor's orders, every night at nine (the same hour the library turns out its occupants to the cold and dark and concrete), I leave my house — a tidy little brick ranch style — to make my way through the quiet streets of my subdivision. And on those particular March nights, feeling the brisk winds, I wondered where McGinty was. I could not imagine him in one of the city's shelters, among the rows of muttering and snoring men. No, I saw him alone, in some hidden lair he had found, perhaps gazing up at the same sky as I.


Homelessness, Leo Tolstoy, Kierkegaard

 


 

A Change of Season

An itinerant window dresser changes the display at Howard's Mens and Boys Wear and in doing so directs the fate of a town.

 

Two months later Howie sat in the cool confines of Howard and Son Clothier, slumped in a soft leather armchair. He gazed out the window, past the figures gathered on the playing field, and contemplated writing a book. In it he would describe the internal workings of a renaissance. Surely his position, at the epicenter of the upheaval that had transformed this town, gave him a unique perspective. All change, he knew, had radiated out from the window display fifteen feet from where his suede loafers rested on a carpet patterned in sedate blocks of blue and gray.


F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fyodor Dostoevski

 


 

The Legacy

When and how will the debt engendered by slavery finally be stamped "Paid in Full"?

 

In less than forty-eight hours after Edmund Glass's death, a box containing his ashes was shipped up north to his sister. Thus his mortal remains came to rest far from this enclave of the Deep South where he had resided for two years. With his departure, a chapter in our town's history was closed.


Slavery, miscegenation, racial tensions

 


 

The Perfect Daiquiri

Boy Stanton is served a less than sterling daiquiri in the bar of the St Regis Hotel, and that night he declares to his friend — the narrator of the story — that he will dedicate his life to finding the perfect daiquiri.

 

Boy in his forties now . . . I thought about him in that dive on 54th Street, and I pictured those leathery-skinned, middle-aged men who walk the streets around cheap hotels when they're off the boat. Faces darkened by a couple day's growth of beard, clothes shabby; in and out of cheap bars; mournful country western songs saying that, yes, life is this sorrow and loneliness here tonight. Was it possible that Boy was one of them?


Zapotec

 


 

The Fall

An observer of events in a marriage arrives at some sinister conclusions. Could he possibly be right?

 

When I'd drop by Katherine's house in the late afternoon I'd often find her friend Vera with her. The maid would direct me to the bedroom where the two women would be lounging in deep chairs, talking, each with a cigarette alight and a gin and tonic at her side. They'd look up from their conspiracies — for something in their manner suggested a topic of an intimate nature — and greet me with smiles. Their discussion to be continued later.


Molestation

 


 

Among Thieves

A politician finds pleasure in reliving two crimes he committed in his youth.

 

I'll die in prison. I'm sixty-seven, with a bad ticker. They let me out to say goodbye to Sandra. She had been moved home from the hospital. She recognized me, even though she was on a heavy dose of morphine. Sometimes she drifted off. I sat by the bed and held her hand. What was there to say?


New Orleans, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Blue Room

 


 

What Seemed to be Eden

Strange happenings at 113 Eden Court.

 

"I never told anyone anything, for all this time. I cut myself off from friends — our friends, really, all married couples. Since I considered myself a joke, I expected them to see me the same way. I wasn't going to let any of them get an inside look at what was happening in my life. I imagined the phone lines above the subdivision smoking. Martin and Erin — the juiciest story they'd ever had."


Homosexuality, Noel Coward's "Private Lives"

 


 

Snowbound

On a snowbound night, the roles life has assigned to people no longer apply.

 

Eric remembered something he had read once. Some place, in some culture, if a man saved another's life he was then responsible for that life. Eric glanced at the doorman, whose head was turned in profile at that moment. So this is what fate has given me as a benefactor, he thought: a doorman. Just then the doorman turned to Eric and looked directly into his eyes. Startled, and ashamed of what he had been thinking, Eric looked down at his wet shoes — ruined shoes, the toes beginning to curl upward.


Musical prodigy, New York, Oscar Peterson, Cole Porter, "Isn't It Romantic?"

 


 

Dumb Bunny

In this battle of wills, who will have the last laugh?

 

After our marriage he never called me by my name, which is Dolores. It was "Hey, you" or "Fat Ass." But his favorite was "Dumb Bunny." Sometimes he'd put on a whole act. He'd stick his front teeth over his bottom lip and hang his two hands, limp at the wrists like paws. "Dumb Bunny," he'd say, and pant a little. I'd just smile.


Spousal abuse, mercy killing

 


 

Judgment Day

A inquisitive girl unwittingly looks into the heart of darkness.

 

My mother was the first female judicial district judge in the state of Louisiana. She was elected to fill the position vacated by my father's death. She was a big woman and wore the same black robe he did. She dedicated herself to her work, which meant to me — just twelve — that her undivided attention was rare, and when it came it seemed to be an afterthought.


Murder, capital punishment