Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Speed-Walk and Other Stories

Speed-Walk and Other Stories

Suzanne Greenberg
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Speed-Walk and Other Stories
    Book Description:

    The characters inSpeed-Walk and Other Storiesoften find themselves dislocated, living in places that do not resemble or feel like home. Their lives have somehow been turned on their axes, and often they cannot comprehend why. The stories in this stunning debut collection are united by their protagonists' common quest to make sense of the world, to bring it into focus, to set it right, to adapt.In selecting Suzanne Greenberg's fiction for the 2003 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Rick Moody wrote, "A charge sometimes leveled against contemporary fiction these days is that it has abrogated its responsibility to depict civilization as it actually exists. . . .Speed-Walkreplies forcefully to this aesthetic error by locating its protagonists in completely recognizable environments. . . . [They] are ever engaged by the routines of American life: walking the dog, eating at the sushi bar, doing the laundry." Tightly written yet realistically spare, these stories provide a blueprint for survival when the unexpected is thrust into an ordinary life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7878-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Speed-Walk
    (pp. 1-8)

    Two months after my wife, Becky, died, I went on my first speed-walking date. I followed behind Corrine and watched her thighs move. Tight and brown, they reminded me of roasted chicken legs. They made me hungry for a kind of take-out Becky used to bring home. I didn’t know where to find it. I pumped my arms as I walked, the way I’d seen others do, so it looked, I hoped, as if I were hard at work.

    When we got back to Corrine’s house, her daughter-in-law was bench-pressing her baby on the couch in the living room, both...

  2. The Yes Button
    (pp. 9-19)

    When Carson’s daughters take him to lunch, he sits between them at the sushi bar and feels as if he’s flanked by prostitutes. They’re too old for him to tell them how to dress and even if they weren’t, what would he say? What wouldn’t make him look like a fool or a dirty old man? The sushi bar is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Above the bar is a huge open skylight. As has been the case for the three days that he’s been in California, he’s at a loss to say whether he’s truly indoors or out.

    His oldest...

  3. The Queen of Laundry
    (pp. 20-28)

    Carmen, the queen of laundry, was late. My mother was already back from the bay and Carmen still wasn’t there. From my bed, I could smell my mother’s wet suit as she padded through the living room into the bathroom. Now there was only a wall between us. I propped myself up on my elbows and picked up a book from my night table and pretended to read. I heard my mother’s slight groan as she pulled the wet suit open at its seam and stepped out of it. It wasn’t a full body suit; it stopped at the elbows...

  4. Two Parties
    (pp. 29-33)

    Even though it’s only nine-thirty when Victoria’s family arrives at Lagoon Park to claim tables, the good ones—the ones on the sun-side of the playground—are already taken. A man sits at each. They can see this when they pull up, before they even get out of the car. “Perfect,” Victoria’s mother says. Because it’s her birthday, Victoria sits in front between her mother and father, instead of in the backseat of their Escort. She’s had to duck at each intersection on the way here so a policeman wouldn’t stop her father and make her belt up in the...

  5. Fumes
    (pp. 34-48)

    At four o’clock, it was mostly nannies that remained at the tot lot, Hispanic and Filipino women that Walden had come to recognize as regulars. They ignored the children and each other, each lost in what looked to Walden like his own familiar gloom. The children appeared oblivious to the prevailing mood of the late summer afternoon and chased each other with energetic rancor around the playground’s fenced-in perimeter.

    All the children, that is, except two little girls with elaborate, multicolored ribbons in their thin blond hair, who sat under the shade of the plastic slide, sifting sand onto each...

  6. Indoor-Outdoor Pool
    (pp. 49-58)

    Royce spent as much of his shared vacation as he could swimming between the outdoor and indoor pools at the hotel. While his parents, who hadn’t lived together since before Royce was born, read their novels on lounge chairs, he developed a kind of underwater twist-turn that felt to him both graceful and efficient. At seven, he hadn’t yet completely ruled out the possibility of mermaids, and, in the creation of his twist-turn, he emulated what he imagined to be their technique, a flick of the tail, or, in his case, legs pressed tightly together like a tail. He wished...

  7. Repeat After Me
    (pp. 59-88)

    When Ben gets home from work, Claire is sitting on the living room couch listening to a “French Made Easy” tape, repeating phrases after the speaker, asking for a hotel room that doesn’t overlook the street. The speaker is a woman with an encouraging, assured voice. She’s the sort of person, Ben thinks, who is certain of getting the room of her choice. Claire’s accent is bad, but she is trying and her tone is upbeat, so when she waves at Ben from the couch, he tries too, tells Clairebonjourand kisses her lightly on each cheek in a...

  8. Cheap Clown
    (pp. 89-94)

    We got the cheap clown. She came without helium, with those sad little balloons you can find in the grocery store. Her shoes fit her feet perfectly, and she didn’t even bother to try to pancake over the angry little hickey on her neck. I could go on, but having recently given birth, I lack all but the most base of imaginations.

    When the clown finally walked in, fifteen minutes late and without any of the fanfare promised by the more expensive clowns—no musical accompaniment, no unicycle, no rush of confetti—I retreated to my corner of the den...

  9. A Good Bet
    (pp. 95-100)

    Ada feels her heart move. It pushes out like fingers against the inside of her chest. She stops breathing for a moment and lets it pass. There is very little that will not pass. Her granddaughter, she notices, has become an odd attraction. She is six feet tall and wears a vinyl miniskirt that zippers up the back. In the Golden Nugget, their blackjack dealer slows down the turning of his cards to look at Cynthia again. Ada’s heart moves back inside where it lives.

    “Grandma,” Cynthia says, “I’m down to five dollars. Now can we play the slots?”


  10. You Canʹt Dance
    (pp. 101-107)

    All night long Jenny has been trying to get me to dance with her. She gives me the choice of either dancing or agreeing to do one other thing for her without objection. At first we are inside, in her living room, surrounded by all of the things I hope one day to forget: the frail-looking porcelain doll carrying the basket of gold and blue silk flowers, the arched arms of the wicker couch, the Mexican vase that I gave her for her birthday.

    When I go out to the patio to smoke, she follows me with her tape player,...

  11. My Treat, Geronimo
    (pp. 108-116)

    When I see a child like this, there is only one thing I can think: What are his parents like? Since my husband, Louis, died, I’ve seen plenty. For the past two years, I’ve ridden the train from Baltimore to D.C. because I never did learn how to drive, and I don’t care what my daughter says, sixty-five is too old to start learning something mechanical, especially when your health is privately failing. Not that an older person can’t learn other things. They make black baby dolls for children now. Asian ones, too. This, for example, is something I didn’t...

  12. Aghast
    (pp. 117-121)

    I see the fat lady smoking and I think this: she doesn’t have too long for this world. She smokes so comfortably it’s like we’re in a neighborhood bar, but we’re outside, all gathered together around the police barricade, watching. I’m right up front and the fat lady is next to me. When she drops her cigarette and looks down to step on it, that’s when she notices me. I stare up at her, daring her to have a reaction to my size, and she shakes her head a little as if she’s sayingnoand then looks back out...

  13. Mr. Herzinger
    (pp. 122-127)

    We are sitting in Carlotta’s mother’s walk-in closet, her shoes tossed around us on the lower shelves. We didn’t make this mess. This is how Carlotta’s mother, Kim, keeps her things, strewn around like scraps of old wrapping paper. Carlotta has a gypsy scarf tied around her forehead. The long part keeps falling down across her face when Carlotta examines my palm, and she has to push it back over her hair. I am not sure how a gypsy wears a scarf, but I know that Carlotta has got it wrong.

    “You will have seven, no, eight children,” she says...

  14. Naked Lake
    (pp. 128-134)

    I want to explain how it happened that I saw the woman who lives next door while she was naked. Jimmy, Curtis, and Gail were sitting out back on the deck talking about how they wanted to quit their jobs and try something new. My husband, Jimmy, he’s the one who started the conversation. He likes to get people going. Gail’s been a secretary for as long as I’ve known her, and I doubt that she has the confidence required to ever find anything else. And Curtis, although he used to answer almost any kind of want ad, he wouldn’t...

  15. Honeymoon
    (pp. 135-141)

    Our motel pool in Anaheim is full of Farm Families of America: pale, fleshy women wearing skirted bathing suits, their vaguely startled-looking husbands and overeager, corn-fed children are floating everywhere. The women are mostly gathered around the perimeter, talking about God-knows-what. From my lounge chair, I catch a few choice words:cross-stitch, soybeans, solar eclipse, grandbaby.

    While the Farm Families of America have their convention, my husband of two weeks sleeps in the lounge chair beside me, dreaming, no doubt, of Space Mountain, the final frontier of our amusement-theme-park-themed honeymoon, which we plan to conquer tomorrow. Yes, he is young...

  16. The Visit
    (pp. 142-160)

    My mother’s earrings have taken over the bathroom. They are everywhere—twisted silver threads, heavy wedged triangles, loose oval hoops. My daughter, Jamie, stands on tiptoe each morning when she is finished brushing her teeth and matches her grandmother’s earrings into pairs, hooks each pair together by their thin wires, and lines them up next to each other in the lid of the box her pink ballet shoes came in, a box she gives all indication of having saved for this very purpose.

    My mother has been camping out in the backyard for the past two weeks. When Sophie arrived...

  17. Biloxi
    (pp. 161-164)

    When she left, I wanted her to take everything with her. I left the window open in case she needed to look back in. There are no screens, and I can see all that passes by—people, sometimes something beautiful, a girl with shiny hair. A cat sits on my window ledge and licks her paw.

    We swam in a courtyard pool that’s deeper than it is long. I licked the chlorine off of her until she was smoother than a pebble.

    Today my roommate George wakes me up with a water pistol in my face. “Get a job,” he...

  18. Perm
    (pp. 165-170)

    I used to be more of an idealist. Hair used to slip through my fingers, and I could envision a design, a style that would command notice. I’d say,Talk to me about that picture you’re holding. Tell me what it is you like about it. Maybe it would be the color when I thought it was the wave. Sometimes a customer would get to talking about how the bangs fell, and I’d see it was the forehead she was really after, a high, smooth forehead. I might say,How about a little lift on top? That might work better...