When I Say Nine O’Clock I Need To Mean It

As this short story opens, the narrator is sitting in her apartment in the dark, not answering her phone, not answering her door. Gabe, the man she is dating, tries to phone her. Then he comes to the door and knocks. He drives away, then drives back and knocks again. At nine o’clock, the time they had agreed to meet, she finally lets him in. She thinks, “When I say nine o’clock, I need to mean it.” It seems, as the story progresses, that what the narrator needs most is to mean something she says — anything at all. The tension resides in the ever-widening gap between what the narrator says she means to see happen and what actually winds up happening. Keeping Gabe out until nine o’clock is really the only event that jibes with the narrator’s desires. By the end of the story, the reader turns the final page expecting some sort of resolution, but all that’s there is a blank page. Silence. And it’s probably the most meaningful moment in the story. There’s also another woman in Gabe’s life, Sharon. The narrator knows about Sharon, and is, in fact, friends with her. The two women meet to compare notes on Gabe. Gabe is very fat. He pukes blood when the narrator says she is going to leave him. Gabe says he can’t go on living without the narrator. The narrator never actually leaves Gabe. At one point the narrator says, “Nothing makes sense any more.” This, it seems to me, is true of the story throughout. Individual events seem poised to direct the story toward some sort of meaning, but no meaning ever develops. What does develop is a terrible sense of foreboding. A feeling that these events sit as random moments in what is going to continue to be an eternally random life. In this, the story feels very real — and very frightening. (KS)

chapbook, 16 pages / main creator: Jenny Durrant / publisher: smoking lung press / $5 / 103-1014 Homer St., Vancouver, BC, V6B 2W9, [email protected]

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