We know many fans eagerly awaiting the March release of Sherrie Flick’s new book of short (short) stories, Whiskey, Etc. At NEXTpittsburgh, we’ve been enjoying the smart collection since it arrived in the mail recently. (Don’t tell Sherrie but we got our copy a day before she got hers.)
But hey, we’ll happily share. Starting with this very short, memorable story called Canoe that shows the deft hand of this talented Pittsburgh author who, with tight focus and vivid description, evokes a whole world in just a few hundred words. Try that sometime. Better yet, read this story.
Diane’s father had thick fingers and rough hands. He’d once had dark black hair like hers, but it had grayed and receded as he got older. He was thick and tubby, and then he was slender. Almost too thin. Then he was gone from this earth and she was left to open the cottage and find the fishing tackle herself. She was left to remember how to fish and how to sleep in.
With the inheritance, a surprising gift, she left her job at the bookstore. A stupid job with a power-mongering manager. She left. Poof. And came to the cottage to exist. It has been easy leaving her life in the city, packing up the car and the dog and heading north.
Once she arrived at the cottage, she sent out invitations. Everyone wanted to leave the city in the summer, after all, so it was easy to be surrounded by groups large and small. She curated her summer, much like she had curated the children’s section of the bookstore. And both were a glaring success. Ex co-workers and neighbors became both jealous of her and pleased with her generosity as they sat around the firepit, stuck smoldering sticks into the last embers.
Diane knew she should keep her head down or word would spread to her family—something about too much partying or too much canoeing or too much smiling in this summer of sadness. Not enough casseroles.
Diane resolved to buy a cardigan sweater later in the day, Tuesday. She’d drive into town and buy a sweater. This would show her preparation for the fall, and it would show her frumpiness, which the neighbors would appreciate. She’d buy a sweater in a bad bown color that wouldn’t offset her eyes. A baggy sweater with puckering buttons.
In this way, Diane could be left alone to read the books she’d brought with her from the store. She’d turn the pages and in that tiny moment—fingers gripping the page, taking it from one side to the next—she’d remember snippets of her life too. Walking on the pier at sunset; screaming at her father at the bottom of her driveway; the subway car rocking her to sleep; her father eating fried eggs for breakfast in his dark blue robe, nodding yes; the canoe unlocked from its shed. The world she’d known. This new world she lived in. She simmered herself, tried to make herself into something denser, something better.
And this is why, also, she surmised, she continued to row in the rain even as the chill settled into her bones and puddles formed in the boat’s bottom, even as new drops plunked in.
Sherrie Flick is the author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness, a semi-finalist for the VCU first novelist award, and the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting. She lives in the South Side Slopes with her husband, Rick (to whom the book is dedicated) and dog and garden; she teaches in Chatham University’s MFA and Food Studies programs.
Sherrie will be reading from the collection and signing books on Saturday, April 23 at East End Book Exchange at 7:30 pm. And in a fun collaboration, Wigle Whiskey is pairing up with Queen’s Ferry Press to offer an exclusive bottle with a short story label to be sold at their stores.