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How High? - That High

How High? - That High

by Diane Williams
How High? - That High

How High? - That High

by Diane Williams


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Diane Williams, an American master of the short story who will “rewire your brain” (NPR), is back with a collection in which she once again expands the possibilities of fiction.

These stories depict ordinary moments—a visit to the doctor’s office or a married couple’s hundredth dance together—but within the quotidian, Williams delivers a lifetime of insecurities, lusts, rejections, and revelations, making her work equally discomfiting and amusing. With unmatched wit in every sentence, Williams captures whole universes in a story, delivering visionary insights into what it means to be human.

Williams’ devotees will be newly enthralled by her elegantly strange, bewitching stories in How High? — That High. Those who have yet to meet “the godmother of flash fiction” (The Paris Review) will find an extraordinary introduction in these pages.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641294102
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/20/2022
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.33(d)

About the Author

Diane Williams is the founder and editor of the distinguished literary annual, NOON, the archive of which, as well as Williams' personal literary archive, was acquired in 2014 by the Lilly Library. She is the author of nine previous volumes of short fiction. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

I am trying to think if there’s any reason for having fun anymore on any level? I know that that’s not the kind of thing people usually talk about. God forbid—so I scale the roof all the way to the ridge and I have never had to climb down.
I took a step further to meet Horace for health, for love, for a leg up.
     And at Horace’s everything was gray there with some white accents—and the walls were gray, not paint. They were hung with fabric and he had a gray carpet on the floor.
     Once, before I knew him well, I asked Horace to dinner and after that he was always saying that he’d be right over for a chicken dinner, but usually I visited him in his apartment across the street.
     His place was very tidy and a bit surprising. He showed me his sword cane and his living room features an owl that’s made of poultry feathers.
     This is a snowy owl that contains no real owl parts, but when I saw it for the first time—I had to ask whether it had been shot or euthanized.
     We got married and I should explain that I am tiny—a kind of skinny woman.
     You see, Horace says he likes to think of me as a young sailor boy or he may refer to me as a china doll and, for short, call me China.
     I moved in with him, and not long after, we waited in line to see the Czech film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.
     And when we both saw Lila Melinek in the line up ahead, Horace stuck a finger between the cheeks of my backside.
     Even with my coat on, I was very much aware of the point of pressure.
     One day Lila forced her way into our apartment while I sat alone in another room. It was a bold and moody time.
     I heard Lila tell Horace, “The trouble with you!”
     “I’ll try to be a better friend,” Horace told her, “but I need to be with someone who knows French.”
     I am that one. Oh, otherwise I heard murmurs and I did walk in to join them where they sat.
     Lila’s hair hung down her back and I’d like to offer more about her, but I don’t know what that would be. She is better than me?
     I put myself into a chair and watched them, except some of the time I kept an eye on the owl who also pressed on my nerves.
     “When can you go?” I asked her.
     “I’ll return,” she said, and she stood.
     And she’s not meek, but still she’s waifish, with babyish hands and oversize antlike eyes.
     I had the impression that Lila wanted to belong to our family and in several ways Lila and I are likely alike, although I’m not one to come up with plausible ideas of myself.
     Horace said, after she’d left us, “She’s my Georgia peach. What do you want for me?” That’s what I thought he said. But what he said was, “What do you want from me?”
     Well, she did take him away when she came again.
I am in a room with . . . I am in a room where decisions are unlikely to be thought out, where I lack strong enough character and vital drive to take my dark thoughts and plant them at the right time like spring bulbs.
A necessary and great object of interest—he had first found Valentina standing among other members of her family.
     Her clothes were a shocking pink color and as her wet hair dried, it began beguilingly to curl.
     And she was fragrant and Tom thought she was showy. She is not common in the wild.
     And lots of other people still go up to her and consider her the way Tom does.
     Most persistently, she brings into view a face that displays full-bodied welcome.
     One weekday evening, in a local restaurant, a very tall drunk man walked over to the pair, kissed Valentina on the mouth, and then departed quickly.
     Tom had questions. It was a puzzling capper to a typical day.
     Tom, on that day at work, had closed out tax cases upon which no tax was due, and awaited a repairman to discuss the photocopier failure.
     And Valentina has responsibility for all of the patients on her hospital shift, as well as the building, and people are responsive to her, sometimes fervently.
     She did not respond, however, to Tom’s questions. She kept at her meat. She might otherwise have been caught in contradictions, but then she backed up in her chair and she gave her husband her answers: But it isn’t true.
I don’t recall. Sort of. Yes, I sometimes do.
     At bedtime Valentina lay on her back, arms at her sides, as did Tom. There was no intertwining and no tender touch that needed to become better still, except that their small-patterned wallpaper seemed to be excited the next morning.
     The tiny daisies were scored by the shadows of the slats of the venetian blinds and the stripes were shivering.
     And here at dawn was Valentina’s instrumental smile! Her sign of sweetness that is the flying start, the fresh impetus, the feature on her face that creates her particular style.
     And in theory she well understands any person’s right to have privacy; to challenge and to complain without fear of reprisal; to make known his or her wishes; to receive complete information. To be wrenched.

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