"An exquisite and terrible insight in the hands of one who fakes nothing - the best short story writer since Eudora Welty."
- Nadine Gordimer
"These stories of America's disenfranchised are unlike any in our literature. She's an original, and this book of hers is a crooked beauty."
- Raymond Carver
I met Jayne Anne Phillips at the Rutgers-Newark (she is the director of their MFA program) reception last year at AWP. She is amazing. I really wish I was at Rutgers but I'm much too big of a slacker. But for anyone looking for an MFA program on the east coast, there are big, amazing things going on there. Put in your apps early.
UNDER THE BOARDWALK
Her name is Joyce Casto and she rides our school bus. The Castos all look alike. Skinny, freckled, straw haired. Joyce's is the color of broom sage, dried out by some heat in her head. She walks the halls of the junior high with a clipboard of ruffled papers, transistor radio beating in her hand.
Daddy is a fire-and-brimstone preacher at a church out the dirt road. Music is the work of the devil that licks at her legs. She stands, radio pressed to her face, lips working. Undah the boardwalk, down by the see ee ee ye eh eh, Ona blanket with my baybeh's where I'll be.
She walks into class fumbling to turn it off. Stays close to the wall and watches the cement floor. She never talks to the country kids. The town kids never talk to her. The gym teacher finds out she is pregnant. Yes, she confesses, It was my brother. He's went off to the mills.
She disappears from school but comes back a month later, having had it in a bloody way. She rolled up a horse blanket and walked to the field. Daddy thundering I won't lay eyes on your sin and big brother in Youngstown, holding a thing that burns orange fire. She rolls, yelping, dogs come close and sniff. They circle. The sky circles. Points of light up there that sting. Finally she sees they are stars. Washing herself in the creek she remembers the scythe against the grass, its whispering rip.
Next morning she sits in the house alone while the others shout and sweat at the the revival in Clinger's Field. The dogs come in with pieces in their mouths. She stands in the kitchen shaking while the Drifters do some easy moanin.