‘May Queen’ by Mary Robison

May Queen by Mary Robison, 1978

The magic trick:

Snatching the story away from the reader quickly, leaving us to imagine where it was going or where it had been

This is a very short story. One of those where you finish it and think, “Wow, that’s barely even a sketch, let alone a story!” And two days later when you’re still thinking about it, you realize, “Wow, that’s a really full story!”

Denise and Mickey are excited to see their daughter lead a parade into church as the newly minted May Queen. There is very little here to give us a picture of their life together as a family. Addictively little, in fact. That is how the story sticks in your head for two days, growing and unfolding.

The character of Mickey reveals itself through his words. So when he tries to solve his daughter’s problem (her dress catches fire during the May Queen ceremony) by making odd promises about a trip to Lake Erie, the reader’s imagination goes wild trying to figure out exactly what this angry exchange between father and daughter means.

And that’s quite a trick on Robison’s part.

The selection:

“You know,” Mickey said to Riva, “something else I just thought of. Tad’s wife will be at Erie some of the time. Remember how I told you about her? She’s the one who went on television and won a convertible.”

“Will you shut up?” Riva said.

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