Day 21: Americca by Aimee Bender
Aimee Bender is one of those non-ghetto genre writers who have escaped the taint by being literary. So rather than finding a story like Americca in F&SF, it appeared in Tin House. (The first sign it is literary is that there are no quotation marks in any of the dialogue. Not even a measly dash.)
So anyway, about the story-it’s about a family that’s getting backwards robbed.
The towel closet had towels in it. Usually it had small, thin piles—we each had a towel and were expected to use it over four days for all towel purposes, and there’d be a big towel wash twice a week, one on Thursday, one on Sunday. We never stuck to the system and so usually I just used my towel as long as I possibly could until the murky smell of mildew and toothpaste started to pass from it onto me, undoing all the cleaning work of the previous shower.
Now the towel closet was full, not of anything fluffy, but of more thin and ugly towels. Tons of them. At least ten more towels, making the piles high. Countless piles of worn towels.
Well, I said. I guess we can cut the Thurs/Sun wash cycle.
The things they get a mostly inconsequential, soup, candlesticks, towels. But then the narrator is offered gifts, a clown mug, the perfect octopus hat, some really nice curry.
And in the end it feels like the these are the things we don’t appreciate until it is too late, but the narrator gets another chance, and mostly biffs it as well.
What I really like about this story is how grounded it feels, how much it feels like she understands family.
It’s okay, I said. Who is he?
She blushed, crazily. Who is who?
The reason you are late, I said.
I had to study.
Mom stood in the doorframe, but she wasn’t listening. She wasn’t out to bust Hannah.
How was your math test? Mom said, brushing the side of her hair with a soupspoon.
Okay, said Hannah, glaring at me. I got an A.
What did you hear? she asked, dragging me aside and cutting into my arm with her budding nails.
Nothing, I said. Ow. I just guessed.
How? she said.
No reason, I said. Towels. Who is it?
She said no one, but then she barely ate at dinner, which is rare for her, and usually I have to fight my way to the main dish to even get any because she is so hungry and that let me know she really liked him.
So not only do I feel like Bender just gets family interaction, but I love that she’s worked the towels in.
Dear Aimee Bender,
Why do you hate quotation marks? I most urgently need to know as I have a
list database and your entry is empty. I still await a reply from Cormac McCarthy on his hatred of apostrophes but I envision you as a much more dedicated correspondent.