Friday, September 28, 2007

Small Wonders

(I workshopped a bit of this today. I'd be interested to know if people think the ending works in the context of the whole story.)

“Why do you want to work at Small Wonders Bookstore?” asks the job application.


I stare at the badly-photocopied Times New Roman, wondering if this is some kind of trick question. The truth is, I don’t want to work at all, but my Mom is insistent.

“Delia,” she lectured me over breakfast, “you’re sixteen. Time to enter into the World of Adults.”

Something tells me that “parental pressure” isn’t going to work as an answer, but honestly, I’m applying for an entry-level retail job—what do they want me to say? Little girls don’t exactly dream about becoming low-paid cashiers. Even more confusing, the application gives me six lines to respond on. Are they expecting some kind of mini-essay?

In the end, I conjure some B.S. about how I love books and helping people, which is half-true, at least. Then I stare at the remaining four lines. I’ve explained why I want to work at a bookstore, but not Small Wonders specifically, so I add, “I’d also prefer to work for an independent business instead of some huge, evil corporation intent on wedging its tentacles into every small town in America.”

“This part was a bad idea,” my mom tells me when she checks over my application. “It makes you sound kind of bitter. And crazy.” I raise my pen to scribble it out, but she stops me. “You can’t cross anything out on an application—it’ll look sloppy. Just leave it.”

Apparently, it’s better to come off as deranged rather than messy.

This was exactly why I hesitate to enter the World of Adults.

(continued at


CDiVizio said...

In terms of the whole story, I liked it! Lots of good images, and I could really feel the bookstore being emptied as it reached its last days. That being said, I think that the vividness of that theme was what made the ending not really work for me. I was kind of being set up for some statement on corporate America, or some vaguely amusing and slightly irreverent likening of the bookstore to a terminally ill patient (and no, I'm not a horrible person), but all I got was a joke about gay marriage. It was unexpected and rather unfulfilling, as if it was only there for comic relief and not as a conclusion of anything.

Ankit said...

on a technical note, you could use Neil's new fancy cuts to put the post the entire story here if you'd like :) (see the FAQ for how)

Manisha said...

I loved this story, Jessica, and you've really perfected that wry, sarcastic tone here. The narrator was very well-developed, and my favorite thing in the story is her interaction with other people.

I have to say, though, that I agree with Claire in that the small joke in the ending seemed unsatisfying after all the build-up... I totally expected them to go trash Borders or something! Don't get me wrong, the exchange with the old lady is very amusing, and you should leave that in there as one of the episodes, but your readers are craving some kind of big climax.

If you do end up editing it, I would love to see where you go with it. Oh and I absolutely adore your magazine title haikus!