Day 44: The Summer People by Shirley Jackson
This is a mundane story about a couple who decide to stay at their summer home after labor day and undergo a series of inconveniences: the kerosene man didn’t order enough kerosene to supply them with any for the next month, the grocery store stops delivering after labor day, their milk and eggs guy has gone out of town, their car breaks down…. And throughout, the locals all express shock that the couple would want to stay.
You might be thinking that this is barely worth being a story at all from my summary. What makes it stand out is that Jackson has made this rather pedestrian narrative into something that is very, very creepy. There is an underlying dread that is so skilfully done that it’s hard to even say if it’s actually there until she makes it explicit that the couple feels it too. But even then she never picks a side; you never know if there’s any real cause, if the unlucky couple will go home after a cold and hungry night or if something more sinister is waiting for them because they dared to stay beyond their welcome.