The characters in Jane McCafferty'sDirector of the World and Other Storiesare often distanced, lonely, or displaced from others and the events around them, yet they are almost always ready to act, to become involved with others, and to change. In "Eyes of Others," a woman, stopping with her family at a Howard Johnson's during a trip, becomes fascinated by the meeting of two strangers and attempts to connect with them as she has been unable to connect with her own family.Implicit in these stories is a rootlessness that gives way to yearning and a passion for remembering. In the title story, a disturbed child, whose father has recently abandoned the family, attempts, in language reflecting her shattered sense of the world, to recapture some of their last experiences together.These characters, and others in the collection, attempt to make sense of their broken lives and shattered thoughts. As John Wideman writes of the stories, there is "a sense of commitment to the struggle of making silent worlds speak, of forcing what is threatening or evil or destructive into some form we can see and conjure with."
Front MatterFront Matter (pp. [i]-[viii]) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.1
Table of ContentsTable of Contents (pp. [ix]-2) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.2
World Upon Her ShoulderWorld Upon Her Shoulder (pp. 3-18) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.3
A seven-inch Virgin Mary was glued to the white dashboard of the ’67 aqua Nova and usually surrounded by crumpled sheets of lipsticked Kleenex. She stood in all her blue plastic glory throughout the days of my childhood, cheap, constant, and watching the road—unlike the driver, my mother. My mother smelled like Tempest perfume and chain-smoked True Blues. She blamed her great speed and recklessness on the car, which she called Aqua Nova as if it were the car’s christened name.
“Come on Aqua Nova,” she’d say. “We gotta slowdown!” Then her foot in her pointy red shoe...
The Shadders Go AwayThe Shadders Go Away (pp. 19-32) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.4
Home from work, she climbed the iron steps that shot up the back of the pale blue apartment building. The dusk was bruise colored, winter quick in its lowering down; it always got dark too early. As she rose past the lit windows of other apartments, she did not look into the small kitchens and bedrooms that usually drew her eye, but the old man on the fourth floor, seated by his window as usual, knocked on the dark pane as she reached the near landing. She looked over at him as he yanked the window open; it was his...
Help, I’m Being KidnappedHelp, I’m Being Kidnapped (pp. 33-48) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.5
Horace was a famous photographer and the middle-aged boyfriend of Rosa. Rosa was the woman who tried to teach me to play the violin one year in southern New Jersey. I’ll tell you about Horace after I tell you some other things.
Rosa’s hair rippled down to her ankles. She wore peasant dresses back then and wire-frame glasses, and her southern-belle voice (she was a transplant from Macon, Georgia) was childish, though she must have been at least thirty. I was thirteen, about to turn fourteen at the time, and I’d signed up to take violin lessons from her after...
Eyes of OthersEyes of Others (pp. 49-62) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.6
Frank said, glancing at the children in the rearview, “I don’t need no backseat drivers.” Conine, Frank’s wife, said, “Maybe you need another frontseat driver?” She’d tried to say this warmly, then smiled over at him, her face already lined, worn looking, though she was a mere thirty-nine. Her hair, newly dyed red, was cut in a bowl shape, and she’d tried to curl it back to make a frame for her face like the rolled-back brim on the sort of hats that looked good on her. Now the curls were loosening, falling forward into her eyes. She fought off...
While Mother Was Gone with 571While Mother Was Gone with 571 (pp. 63-72) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.7
Last night my mother had her first date with 571. She has a big case on him, so she wore the beige dress with the ivy vines slinking all over it. And orange fishnet stockings on her legs. You could look at her face and know she knew what a knockout she was.
My sister and I call him 571 because that’s what his license plate says. He’s a doctor and very short. About as big as the floor fan that’s always spinning in the corner of our upstairs hall. Mother’s had a huge case on him for months, or...
ThirstThirst (pp. 73-88) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.8
It was the time of the fish.
It was the time of the fish and the pale blue house and the field of yellow reeds. Wind from the river rose up the hill like steep, translucent waves, then crashed through the field, sending reeds earthward, all of them rooted dancers flying together, never wholly aligned with earth but leaning, leaning, then suddenly standing up straight in the absence of wind. At night the moon poured into the reeds, giving them protection made of clear, white light, the bending and swaying inside of that light as if inside a room one...
By the Light of FriendshipBy the Light of Friendship (pp. 89-104) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.9
Through salt air Sam Taren walked toward the bus stop where a green wooden enclosure sheltered two women. One held a white stray cat on her broad lap, the other was smoking. Long red nails dragged through the dirty white fur; the cat purred loudly.
“It’s too damn hot to hold a cat like that, Gina,” said the smoker, and then, seeing Sam approach, said, “Look, a dead man.”
It was true that he was very pale and moved slowly now through the heat, but that was only a terrible hangover that he hadn’t been able to cure despite a...
Director of the WorldDirector of the World (pp. 105-114) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.10
You can pretend when your father comes home from the war he’s all right, same as he’ll pretend same as your mother will pretend. First, the big supper!
She got in her apron, wore it like the miniskirt, tied the sash tight, put on nylons, high heels, nothing else, just the apron with the fruit that’s the wrong color meaning oranges are grape and vice versa, someone’s humor we don’t need it.
He’s with his keys, we don’t know what they go to, there are fifty-two of them altogether, only I know because only I counted, it was night, they...
Good-bye NowGood-bye Now (pp. 115-128) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.11
Their ease astonished the girl, Sonja, especially her own brother’s voice and the way he held his body, as if it were a prize someone would receive someday, but not yet. His arms were crossed, his head cocked back, his shoulders had broadened as if to contain the unspeakable knowledge he breathed in like air. His name was John and he was talking now—his voice no longer cracked with change—and in the eyes of the other boys respect and envy mingled, making each one seem more solitary. He was telling them of an abandoned building he’d discovered downtown...
ReplacementReplacement (pp. 129-150) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.12
Sometimes Doreen couldn’t believe that she was still living in a room she would never have seen were it not for the night that she followed him. But he was gone, long gone. Now it was just her and the girl, Katrina. And yesterday, in the light of a morning moon, she had cut her own hair to look like the girl’s so that next time they ventured into the street strangers out there might thinkmother and daughter.The hair was piled in the corner now, a dark mound on the green wood floor.
The girl was eleven, playing...
An EvocationAn Evocation (pp. 151-176) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.13
The people who have mattered to me have revealed themselves in autumn. This is no coincidence, but rather reflects the fact that in autumn I feel at my strongest, more at home in the world, almost (though never entirely) willing to accept yearning itself as a partner. Which is of course when people come to you. You needn’t stay alive too long to learn that just when you’ve decided you don’t need anyone, well, there they are. It’s as if you’re in a forest when suddenly the wind has died, and the sun raining through open spaces that fallen leaves...
Back MatterBack Matter (pp. 177-178) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjncs.14