I’ll think about why I like this story later. Right now I just want to recommend it (and the magazine it was published in: American Short Fiction). The story is “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph,” by Marie-Helene Bertino (American Short Fiction, Vol. 13, Issue 47, Spring 2010). American Short Fiction is an outstanding publication–one of the few magazines I read cover-to-cover, every issue, some stories more than once.
Good stories transport you to another place. Most of the time, when you find your way back, you discover everything is more or less as you left it. Sometimes, though, even though everything looks right–the dirty dishes are still in the sink right where you left them–you sense that something has changed. And even though you can’t put your finger on it, you realize things will never be quite the same. The list of stories that have done that to me is pretty short. “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph” is one of those stories. Here’s another one (full text is available online):
So what is the connection between short fiction and public policy? A good short story can take all the certainty you have about an issue and give you an embarrassing wedgie with it, in front of the entire school, and then leave you duct-taped in your underwear to the flag pole out front. I’ve never met a logical argument, no matter how well-crafted, or a policy statement, no matter how thorough, that could do that. There’s a reason politicians trot out stories (and the people that populate them) in election years.