The Collected Short Stories of Harriette Simpson Arnow

The Collected Short Stories of Harriette Simpson Arnow

Sandra L. Ballard
Haeja K. Chung
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 259
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  • Book Info
    The Collected Short Stories of Harriette Simpson Arnow
    Book Description:

    Harriette Simpson Arnow is an American treasure. Of the twenty-five stories in this collection, fifteen were previously unpublished. Until now, the short fiction of Arnow has remained relatively obscure despite the literary acclaim given to her novelsThe DollmakerandHunter's Horn. These stories, written early in her career for the most part, reveal an artistic vision and narrative skill and serve as harbingers for her later work. They echo her interest in both agrarian and urban communities, the sharpening of her social conscience, and her commitment to creating credible and complex characters. This collection is organized against the backdrop of her life, from Kentucky in the 1920s to Ohio and Kentucky in the 1930s and to Michigan in the 1940s. As Arnow fans read these early gems, they will be led from gravel roads to city pavement and open layers of Arnow's development as a novelist to expose the full range of her contributions to American literature.In 1938,Esquirepurchased "The Hunters," which was eventually published as "The Two Hunters," a chilling story of a seventeen-year- old boy's confrontation with a deputy sheriff. At the time,Esquiredid not accept submissions from women, and its editors had no idea that writer H. L. Simpson was not a man. Years later, she admitted in an interview, "it worried me a little, that big lie, but I thought if they wanted a story, let them have it."Esquirepaid her $125 for this story. The contributor's notes at the back of the magazine include a photo of "H.L.Simpson," actually a photo of one of her brothers-in-law. It was her little joke on a publisher that discriminated against women....-from the Introduction

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-381-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. VII-XVIII)

    Harriette Simpson Arnow’s short stories have been on library shelves for years. To locate them, readers would have to search through university archives and dusty back issues of magazines and journals ranging fromSouthern Review, Esquire,andThe Atlantic Monthlyto little literary magazines that are now out of print. Written early in her career for the most part, these stories remain among her less-examined writings because most of them are unpublished and they have never been collected together. Yet readers will find flashes of brilliance in Arnow’s short stories, clearly revealing her artistic vision and narrative skill; they serve...

  4. Kentucky:: The 1920s
    • Winky Creek’s New Song
      (pp. 3-9)

      The little valley where Winky Creek begins its long race to the river is usually one of the quietest places on earth, quieter than an empty church, even. But on a certain breezy, blowsy afternoon in mid-April you should have heard it: that is, if you have fairy ears, and can understand flower talk. The Hepaticas and Anemones simply made the early butterflies’ ears ache with their loud and breathless conversation. Jack-in-the-Pulpit was preaching uncommonly loud in order to be heard above the din. Even the tiny, blue-eyed Forget-me-nots were forgetting their shyness, and screaming across a fallen twig to...

    • Dreams Come True
      (pp. 10-18)

      Ann, have you heard the latest?” Jeanette sang out, as Ann and her younger sister Willie entered the kitchen. Not giving her sister time to answer, Jeanette continued: “You know those awful Godbys. Well, Mrs. Godby sent her little boy up here to know if you wouldn’t be so kind as to come down and cook her children something to eat. Her husband is still in bed with pneumonia, and she got up too soon after this two-weeks-old baby was born and has taken a relapse.”

      “What did you tell the child?” Ann asked.

      “Naturally, we told him to tell...

    • The Goat Who Was a Cow
      (pp. 19-30)

      With a great yawn Jezebel Denny tossed the dog-eared geometry from her, shifted her sprawling position on the floor, and then as she thoughtfully masticated the rubber tip of her pencil, she leveled her searching, pensive gaze upon me. I, too, closed my textbook, thinking it worse than useless to try to cram a pupil for the approaching geometry exam when she was already hopelessly full of something else. It was only early May, yet the day was filled with the deadening stifling heat that May can bring to southern Kentucky. I concluded that Jezebel, like myself, found day dreaming...

  5. Ohio & Kentucky:: The 1930s
    • Marigolds and Mules
      (pp. 33-39)

      Istopped at Mrs. Joe Madigan’s. I liked talking to her. She was young. Not so old as my mother. She was cooking black bean soup with cheese and onion. She gave me a taste. I remember wishing it were a bowlful.

      “I made it special for Joe,” she said.

      “Will he be home for supper?” I said.

      “Sure,” she said.

      “Don’t you get worried?” I said.

      “No,” she said. “Joe knows how to handle the stuff. He hauled it in Texas before he came here.”

      We talked about the weather then. October in Wolf County, Kentucky, is a pretty...

    • A Mess of Pork
      (pp. 40-49)

      Igot off the bus at a town called Somerset, in Kentucky, and went to the post office. I wanted to see if my picture was there. It was. A tall man looked at me with his dead blue eyes, and I was afraid. I went outside, but he did not follow me. I stood still in the street, and I heard a man say, “He didn’t have a gun. He fell on his face.”

      “Six children, they say,” another man said.

      “They run after the other one. They left him for the hogs.”

      “Did they mess him up?”


    • Ketchup-Making Saturday
      (pp. 50-59)

      Daisy shoved her buttocks hard against my stomach again, and I heard eggs sizzle in the little skillet with the broken handle. Delphie’s elbows raked my spine, and I wiggled a little and thought that coffee and cornbread and bacon would taste good in this half way time between midnight and morning. I couldn’t sleep anyway. I couldn’t do anything but remember yesterday and wonder about today.

      I got up and lighted the lamp and saw a pile of uncorrected fourth grade arithmetic papers. Thoughts of anything that had to do with numbers filled me with a great unhappiness. When...

    • The Washerwoman’s Day
      (pp. 60-65)

      It was pneumonia all right, but the lye maybe had something to do with it,” Granma said.

      Mama shifted Joie to her other breast. “Ollie Rankin ought to have had more sense,” she said.

      “She didn’t know the old fool would take off her shoes and scrub the kitchen barefooted.”

      “Can I go to the funeral,” I said.

      “Be quiet,” Mama said. “Her shoes were new, and she maybe thought to save them. The poor fool, her legs were swollen purple to her waist, Molly Hardwick said.”

      “If that Laurie Mae were fit to go into a decent house. They...

    • Zekie, The Hill-billy Mouse
      (pp. 66-71)

      The city mouse and the country mouse had another cousin. His name was Zekie. He was a hill-billy mouse. He lived with his wife and children in the high hills. They lived in a log cabin. It was a little house with only two rooms, but it was always clean. There were many trees by Zekie’s cabin. The hickory trees dropped nuts upon the ground for Zekie’s children. The beech trees gave nuts, too; and in the fall their leaves made Zekie think of flakes of gold. The oak trees gave acorns for the squirrels, and in the fall their...

    • An Episode in the Life of Ezekial Whitmore
      (pp. 72-77)

      Once there was a little mouse. His name was Zekie. He had long black whiskers like a pirate. But he wasn’t a pirate. He was a hill-billy mouse. He was a pure-blooded Anglo-Saxon hill-billy mouse. Literary ladies said he was. That made it true in spite of his long black whiskers.

      Zekie had a tail longer than his whiskers. He carried a gun longer than his tail. He used swear words longer than his gun. He lived up a holler longer than his swear words. He chewed tobacco. He had a jack-knife. It was sharp, and less long than his...

    • The Two Hunters
      (pp. 78-87)

      He was a tall boy, slender, with small hands and small feet, a narrow thin-cheeked face, and hair the color of weather-bleached sandstone. His eyes were blue, now dark, now light; quiet, bottomless eyes that, like deep quiet water, covered and revealed and reflected many things. In one hand he carried a rifle, and carefully cradled in the crook of his other ann was his old felt hat, lined with moss and half filled with flowers.

      Now and then he looked below him toward the bottom of the narrow valley where a faint thread of pale blue smoke wavered up...

    • No Lady
      (pp. 88-91)

      I’ve heard it said that a lot of men fell in love with her that night, my great-great Aunt Kate, the time she wore the blue satin dress with the wide foaming skirts below her narrow waist and a red rose between her breasts. The blue silk, no baby blue it was, nor dark, but bright with shadows, matched her eyes, and the red rose matched her mouth.

      They say she bowed and smiled that night and played with her fan and held her skirts daintily as she tripped to the music of the violins. Her hair they said was...

    • Tin Cup
      (pp. 92-99)

      Iknew it was childish of me to beg. But the room was so quiet, and all over an even grey whiteness with neither shadows nor sunshine. I’d look for hours in the hope of finding one crack, just a little one in the plaster that I might have missed, but there were no cracks there. Every day I wished one of the nurses would yell once, or drop something, or come in with her cap askew, or that Dr. Waters would forget to come, or come too soon, or forget to order a glass of half and half for...

    • Home Coming
      (pp. 100-104)

      Now, you oughtn’t to be a settin a cryin by the fire. Here yer ole pappy comes in wet an cold an finds th big house dark an th fire low. Ain’t ye shamed, Son, snubbin like a two year old?

      But, Pop, what’s a keepin Mom so?

      Aye, Lord, son. You know how women talk. I can see yer Mom now a settin’ up at Becky Meece’s, a laughin with her head throwed back an her hair a curlin down into her eyes. She’s got no notion uv th time.

      I’m gittin hongry. I wisht we could eat.


    • Blessed—Blessed
      (pp. 105-114)

      Blessed are the peacemakers for … for …”¹ The words would come no further. Katy’s mind was winging away to the cry of the bloodhounds, no longer faint but suddenly loud, eager, sweeping in hot quick waves of sound down the wagon road that ran below the farm.

      “Go on, Katy,” old Mrs. Fairchild said, and counted three and purled. Katy squirmed on the low hard footstool, pushed back her brown forelock with sticky restless hands. “For … for …”

      Her grandmother exploded with a “Study some more,” and handed the Bible back to her. Katy cradled the big book...

    • The First Ride
      (pp. 115-120)

      She heard her mother’s voice, hoarse with fright pressing it into a flat stream of sound, “You’ll have to hurry.” And then her husband’s call, “I’ve fin’ly got him saddled,” while Rebel the big gray stallion neighed and pawed by the porch steps as if he too knew the joy of the long, wild ride that lay ahead. Her husband came to the door, and her father turned slowly away and then back to her so that she saw his old face, puckered into pale lines of fright and sorrow. She smiled at him and saw thoughts written into his...

    • Almost Two Thousand Years
      (pp. 121-130)

      Time was muskmelon seeds on a dusty pavement; the lights on Mahley Tower, twinkling yellow oranges in a deep smoky sky, or one still [quiet] glow in gray rain; strawberries in the market stalls; cherry stain on dirty hands; and the smell of pineapples hanging rich and heavy in a silent sunlit street. Time was cries that went beating up and down the marketplace: “New cabbage, five cents a pound. Lilies of the valley, lilies, lilies of the val-e-e-ey. Tender broilers, thirty cents, tender broilers—.” There were so many cries.

      They were like the feet, for the feet were...

    • Fra Lippi and Me
      (pp. 131-139)

      Ididn’t know she was mad. A minute before she looked at the man and smiled. That was when I heard it first. That name, Fra Lippi, I mean. She was saying something about it when I brought her tea. She looked at the cup. She looked at me. “But I wanted cream,” she said. She didn’t look at me the way she looked at the man.

      I smiled my all mouth and no eyes smile. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know you wanted cream instead of lemon.”

      “You could have asked,” she said. Another woman called across the...

    • White Collar Woman
      (pp. 140-149)

      She didn’t look it. Poetic type, some love sick school boy might have called her. Thin she was, with thin hands, and a look of brownness in her hair and eyes that seemed sometimes pure brown and then again nothing more than lights glinting. It was the lights that gave her away. Under the unshaded wire enmeshed bulbs along the alley, her hair had a red look with the brown, and her eyes had green sparks in the brown. She smiled and her teeth were small and even, set close together and tooth tip touched tooth tip, strange matching they...

    • Failure
      (pp. 150-158)

      Ihad always known the taste of it, that is since I was big enough to feel the wind and smell dead leaves on a wet still night in fall. There were falls when it was bad, like a hunger eating through your insides. But mostly that was when I was young, less than sixteen, I guess, almost too young to dream, but plenty big enough to watch the wild geese go flying south, and watch them till there was nothing in the south but sky. I would feel an ache in my throat, and that wild lifting hunger that...

    • Sugar Tree Holler
      (pp. 159-182)

      Dear Cousin Sadie,

      They’re going to investigate the WPA again, Federal Writers and all. Can you beat it. And me with $140 saved,¹ and it took me eleven months to save it, and I won’t just draw it out and spend it for anything. I keep thinking of that land in Sugar Tree Holler; $5 dollars an acre, and $200 dollars would buy forty acres, and the timber off of it would bring $100 dollars, and if bad comes to worse I could corne horne and live with Marna and have me a cabin built up there and rent it...

  6. Michigan:: The 1940s & After
    • King Devil’s Bargain
      (pp. 185-195)

      Twilight was darkness in the valleys, and the Ballous were finishing supper when Jaw Buster Anderson’s horn call came floating down from the ridge crest. Zing, the grizzled fox hound, ran to the road gate and whined, but Nunn sat still by the eating table with a wedge of molasses bread in one hand and a glass of buttermilk cold from the spring in the other, and listened, frowning.

      The Keith horns from across the creek were soon answering Jaw Buster, and almost immediately after, there came a strange horn with an ugly tinny sound, blown it was plain by...

    • The Hunter
      (pp. 196-208)

      Hour after hour the hounds, with Nunn Ballou’s Zing in the lead, swung up and around Little Indian Creek over the strong hot trail that only King Devil could lay down. The men squatted in tense silence about a bumedout fire that nobody bothered to replenish—not even old Richmond, whose rheumatic bones ached in the cold. It was uncommon for the big red fox to run a straight race with no tricks and no foolery for so long. Maybe Zing was pressing him so hard he couldn’t backtrack; for not once in the hours of the long running had...

    • The Un-American Activities of Miss Prink
      (pp. 209-225)

      Did he mean everybody?

      The voice had spoken out of turn, no lifted hand above it. Still, she nodded, smiling, seeing past it as she always did, the red dust of Virginia stirred by a breath of warm wind, the people crowding by the jail window, looking upward, listening, some frowning in disapproval, as Patrick McSnarty frowned now, others eager, drinking it in, believing, trying hard but not succeeding like those of the sober eyes.

      “Yes, for every one—… ¹—For some of religious thought—you see, even then in Virginia when Washington was young—preachers of many sects...

    • Love?
      (pp. 226-236)

      It seemed a sin to break that sprig of honeysuckle so fresh and pretty when she already had some in her hair. The flowers would wilt before she reached the Gospel Sing, but she’d still have the smell. Head lifted, reaching for a spray above the fence, her gaze went past the flowers into the sky. Her hands fell from the unbroken flower; only her head moved as her eyes followed the great circle of a hawk’s flight.

      High and far away, she knew him from any other bird. No other creature she’d ever seen was so at home in...

    • Interruptions to School at Home
      (pp. 237-250)

      Next morning Belle felt school was going well in spite of her absentminded lapses of worried wonderings on William’s plans¹ or the safety of the men in Dead Man’s Cave.² Dave [Belle’s twelve-year-old son] was less restless than usual; not once had he complained of having to be in school when he ought to be outside at work with the other men.

      Robert, her prime pupil, had answered all questions in history, read in the fourth reader with never a stumble, and was now working his arithmetic problems. Allison [Belle’s youngest child, a six-year-old daughter, nicknamed “Sissie”] had not once...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 251-256)
  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 257-258)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 259-259)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-260)