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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 Author A.B. Young
“For me, I guess fairytales are where I am simultaneously most at home, and most at odds with the world around me.”
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.
The unheard-breach of faith not
Feigned feeling to fill other vacancies
Dorian Gray forgets to pray most nights, listening instead to the cat caw on the back porch; listening with the cat for the crows to caw back. Wind whispers to the tired plaster walls, and sweat drips from the roof to the carpet of browning roses.
Dorian Gray crosses the village square on shoes that click as they lift from the cobblestones. The seamstress and her beau, with fingers curled around the edges of each other’s pockets, pause to watch him pass but don’t notice that the footsteps sound out of time. They look, instead, at the mask he wears beneath his hooded cloak. It is the taxidermied face of a fog-white wolf, fangs bared, eye cavities excavated. He walks with long, sure strides in the fading light.
He speaks to no one, but does turn to look at those who stop to watch him. The wolf mask sits slightly crooked on his face, and the long snout tilts, as if the wolf’s head is cocked. Murk glares out from where eyes should be.
When he reaches the edge of the woods, he follows a hard, worn path through the trees and to the grove of the moon goddess. An altar sits beside a shallow pool, and on it black roses float in a bowl of water.
He stops walking at the edge of the pool. The sound of his clacking footsteps continues for several seconds after.
He waits, silent, still. He waits for six minutes.
Where did you find the idea for this story?
Mind Over Matter
We Are Okay
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“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”
“I wrote much of the story listening to jazz, including the title song, for inspiration on how to shift without imposing too much of a structure.”
“I wanted to portray the pain of trying to reach someone who is inside their own, unreachable pain, and how this often puts untenable pressure on relationships.”
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“I feel any person who has to deal with losing the one person who is their world has every right to do whatever it takes to self-preserve, even when that includes deflection and denial.”
“The themes of social justice, the magic of water, and the power of queer love to create a different world—these are themes that I return to again and again in my writing and my life.”