We’re thrilled to kick off our third volume of Ploughshares Solos with “Pie,” a story by Suzanne Matson. Over the past two years, our Ploughshares Solos series has given us the opportunity to publish excellent long-form stories and essays: first in an easily affordable digital format, and then in our annual Ploughshares Solos Omnibus collection. We have some great work lined up for this third year of Solos, and we’re really excited to share it with you. Stay tuned for a new Solo nearly every month from August through May. If you are in search of even more reading material, you can see all our Solos on www.pshares.org.
Leaving behind her strict Mennonite upbringing, Kathryn has moved west by herself. America has just won victory in Japan, and a charming older man begins visiting the diner where Kathryn works, taking her out dancing and around town. With her old soldier boyfriends now scattered, and the country flush with postwar happiness, Kathryn takes a chance on her mysterious admirer and moves to Los Angeles with him. But how much does she really know about her new boyfriend? In this Solo, acclaimed novelist and poet Suzanne Matson looks at the thrill and danger inherent in the American dream of unrestricted liberty.
This Solo is available on Kindle for $1.99.
Here’s an excerpt from the Solo:
He always came in towards the end of the day when she wasn’t busy. He’d take a second cup of coffee, black, and light a cigarette, smoking thoughtfully while she wiped the counters, topped up the salts and peppers, married the ketchups. She got used to his watching, so much so that one day when he didn’t come she felt that she didn’t quite know what to do, standing unmoored behind the counter.
Then he was back, ordering custard. She didn’t ask him where he’d been, because she thought he might expect it. That particular day rain streaked the windows where Charlie and Helen’s was painted in yellow, the letters appearing backwards as you looked out.
“Kay,” he said. She still felt a strange sensation when he called her that. She’d told him her name was Kathryn when he’d asked, and he’d nodded gravely, though when he stood up to leave that night he’d said, “Good night, Kay.” And “Kay” was all he’d ever called her since. It amazed her, how someone thought he could rename you, just like that, though after the shock of it, she had secretly agreed: Kay.
“I’d better give you a ride home tonight. Look at the rain.”
“I have an umbrella. And it’s just a few steps to the bus stop.”
“But when you get off the bus—you’ll have a walk then.”
“Not a long one.” But it was true that it was longer than she liked most evenings, and especially in weather like this.
“I had better.”
He was older than she was; she couldn’t tell by how much. Helen had noticed him one day and then the day after that and put two and two together. “He’s handsome,” she said. “But you’d better watch out.”
Kathryn—Kay—who was she now?—was made uneasy by the remark. She’d been dating soldiers, so she knew lots of things to watch out for, but he wasn’t fast-talking like a soldier on a 24-hour leave. She’d been minding her own business carrying plates. And now all of a sudden she had better take a ride.
About The Author
Suzanne Matson’s most recent novel is The Tree-Sitter, published by W. W. Norton and shortlisted for the PEN New England/L. L. Winship Prize in 2006. Her previous two novels, also from Norton, are A Trick of Nature and The Hunger Moon. She is currently writing a collection of linked short stories, which includes “Pie.” Her books of poems are Durable Goods and Sea Level, published by Alice James Books. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Matson teaches at Boston College. She’s received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation, as well as an Academy of American Poets Prize and Poetry Northwest’s Young Poet’s Prize. Her website is suzannematson.com.