Foes by Lorrie Moore, 2008
The magic trick:
Illustrating the push and pull of relationships ever changing
It’s Lorrie Moore Week here at SSMT; or to be less grandiose, I just read Lorrie Moore’s recent collection, Bark, so get ready for a bunch of Bark-related blog posts. It’s awesome. Go read it. Really. It’s very good.
“Foes” is not my favorite story in the collection, but it’s a good place to start for SSMT purposes because it features one of Moore’s hallmarks: the ability to demonstrate the changing nature of relationships in a very few words. In this story, we meet a man who appears to be fairly bored in his marriage and life. He meets a woman at a banquet and begins to flirt. He assesses her as a potential romantic option. Quickly, though, she repulses him with her opinions and politics. Just as quickly, these feelings turn to guilt, shame and fear when he learns more of her background. Full circle, we have the same man clinging by the end of the story to the same marriage and life he took for granted at the start. With the simplest of plots – a conversation at a banquet – the story has presented the way small and big relationships can shift on a dime. And that’s quite a trick on Moore’s part.
“I’m Linda Santo,” the woman to his right said, smiling. Her hair was black and shiny and long enough so that with a toss of the head she could swing it back behind her shoulder and short enough that it would fall quickly forward again. She was wearing a navy-blue satin dress and a string of pearls. The red shawl she had wrapped over her shoulders she now placed on the back of her seat. He felt a small stirring in him. He had always been attracted to Asian women, though he knew he mustn’t ever mention this to Suzy, or to anyone really.
“I’m Baker McKurty,” he said, shaking her hand.
“Baker?” she repeated.
“I usually go by ‘Bake’.” He accidentally gave her a wink. One had to be very stable to wink at a person and not frighten them.