From Ben Marcus’ introduction to The Collected Stories of Diane Williams:
“Diane Williams has spent her long, prolific career concocting fictions of perfect strangeness, most of them no more than a page long. She’s a hero of the form: the sudden fiction, the flash fiction, whatever it’s being called these days. The stories are short. They defy logic. They thumb their nose at conventional sense, or even unconventional sense. But if sense is in short supply in these texts, that leaves more room for splendor and sorrow. These stories upend expectations and prize enigma and the uncanny above all else. The Williams epiphany should be patented, or bottled—on the other hand, it should also be regulated and maybe rationed, because it’s severe. It’s a rare feeling her stories trigger, but it’s a keen and deep and welcome one, the sort of feeling that wakes us up to complication and beauty and dissonance and fragility.”
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|Publisher:||Soho Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.90(d)|
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She said please. Her face looked something more than bitter, with hair which it turned out was a hat, which came down over her ears, which was made of fake fur, which she never removed from her head. She had glasses on. Everything she wore helped me decide to let her in.
She wore flat black patent-leather shoes with pointed toes, with black stockings, wrinkled at the ankles, with silver triangles set in on top of the toes of the shoes to decorate them, and she had on a long black coat, and she was shorter than I am.
Her skin was a bleak sort of skin, and there was no beauty left in her—maybe in her body.
I felt that this lady is fast, because she was at the place where I keep my red rotary-dial phone before I was, after I said, “The phone is in here.”
She said, “I know the number.”
Sitting on the arm of my sofa, she dialed while her knees were knocking into and tipping back onto two legs my too-small table, which my phone sits on, and my oversized brass lamp, which sits on the table too, with the huge shade, might have crashed. The lamp was clanging, ready to go. She got it back.
She said, “Merla!” into the phone receiver.
I knew it—she must have known it—Merla knew it too, that Merla was only a matter of one hundred to two hundred yards from my house, because this woman I had let in, she had told me right off the house number she was looking for. She was telling Merla that it was impossible to get to her, that there was no way on earth, that she had kept on running into this east-west street.
“A nice picture,” she said to me. She had gotten herself up. She was looking at all of those men dressed for one of the dark-age centuries, marching through foliage, trekking around a hunched-up woman at a well, with their weird insignias on their chests, that nobody I know can figure out, with their faces—version after version of the same face.
She said, “I have a”—something something—“reproduction—” I cannot remember the dates or the royal reign to which she referred, when she was toying with this miniature chair that I have, grabbing it by its arm, and swiveling it on the clubbed foot of one leg, as she was leaving, after everything had been agreed upon with Merla. She would not be getting out of her car for Merla. Merla would meet her at the corner. Merla would.
She, the lady, must have been curious or put off by the jumble of dirty things at my front door that I suppose she first noticed when she was leaving, or by the splendor of my living room just off from the jumble. She missed going inside of it to see what was going on in each of the pictures in there.
What this woman had done to me was incalculable, and she had done it all in a period of time which had lasted no more than five minutes, which so many others have done, coming in here only for the telephone, because I had waved at her while she was shouting at Merla, I had said, “Would it help you to know the number of this house?”
Then I had told this little person my wrong address, not because I wanted to, nor because of any need on my part to make up a lie.
I said 2-7-0 which is way off the track, except for two digits, but I had rearranged them, the 7 and the 0, but I did not know I had done that. All that I knew was that I had done something unforgivably uncivil.
It was a lapse to reckon with. I took her into my arms, so that she could never leave me, and then jammed her up into the corner with the jumble by the front door and held her in there, exhausting myself to keep her in there. I didn’t care. It hurt her more than it hurt me, to be a lady.
Violence is never the problem. Love at first sight is.
The Nature of the Miracle
The green glass bottle rolled into, rolled out of my arms, out of my hands, and then exploded, just as it should, when it hits our bluestone floor, and spreads itself, and sparkling water, on the territory it was able to cover from our refrigerator to the back door.
The bottle used to fit tightly in my hand, easily, by the neck, and the way one thing leads to another in my mind, this means I should run away from my marriage.
I should run to the man who has told me he does not want me. He does not even like me. Except for once he took me, and my head was up almost under his arm, my neck was, and my hand went up his back and down his back, and he copied what I did to him on my back with his hand, so that I would know what it would be like, I would have an idea, and then I could run home to my marriage afterward, which is what I did before, after we were done with each other; and the way one thing leads to another in my mind, this means I should run to the man for more of it, but the way one thing leads to another, first I will tell my husband, “I would not choose you for a friend,” then I will run to the other man, so that I can hear him say the same thing to me.
This is unrequited love, which is always going around so you can catch it, and get sick with it, and stay home with it, or go out and go about your business getting anyone you have anything to do with sick, even if all that person has done is push the same shopping cart you pushed, so that she can go home, too, and have an accident, such as leaning over to put dishwasher powder into the dishwasher, so that she gets her eye stabbed by the tip of the bread knife, which is drip-drying in the dish rack. It is a tragedy to lose my eye, but this heroism of mine lasted only a matter of moments.