Friday, February 19, 2016

"Why They Run the Way They Do"

Susan Perabo is Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Her books include the short story collection Who I Was Supposed to Be and the novel, The Broken Places.

Perabo applied the Page 69 Test to her new story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do, and reported the following:
Page 69 of  Why They Run the Way They Do is not even a full page -- it’s the last few sentences of a story called “Shelter.” In the story, the owner of a no-kill dog shelter in rural New Hampshire realizes that she has breast cancer; rather than seeking treatment, she spends her final healthy days trying to find homes for the dogs in her shelter before she is no longer able to care for them. She pins most of her hopes on Jerry, an unpleasant recluse who wants only one dog, but whom she tries to convince to take more. This story sounds pretty maudlin, but the narrator’s defining characteristic is an utter lack of self-pity, even in the darkest of circumstances; her desire to place the dogs stems not from affection but from a no-nonsense practicality. I am wary of spoiling the end of the story, but I can say that it takes place mostly in the narrator’s imagination, as she tries to predict the ultimate fate of her remaining dozen dogs.

I didn’t’ realize it until writing this piece, but characters throughout my collection spend a whole lot of time imagining. Sometimes this imagining is constructive, other times destructive. Very often what my characters imagine is a different outcome to a situation than what’s actually occurred, though in the case of “Shelter,” I’m pretty sure that what the narrator imagines is what happens. Will Jerry come through for her in the end? Is Jerry someone readers might find familiar? Perhaps.

Here’s a tiny bit of it:

“Shhhhh,” I said, because I could hear something in the distance, gravel crunching under tires, claws scraping on metal, a man cursing me. I smiled.
Learn more about Why They Run the Way They Do.

--Marshal Zeringue