‘Probate’ by Joyce Carol Oates
|October 15, 2010|
From Fifty-Two Short Stories:
It was the third day of her new life. This life was diminished as in the aftermath of brain surgery executed with a meat cleaver yet she meant to do all that was required of her and to do it alone, and capably, and without complaint.
She was in Trenton, New Jersey. Whatever this terrible place was—the rear entrance of a massive granite building, a parking lot partly under construction and edged with a mean, despoiled crust of ice like Styrofoam—and the winter morning very cold, wet and windy with the smell of the oily Delaware River a half-mile away—she was struck by the fact that it appeared to be an actual place and not one of those ominous but imprecise nightmare-places of the troubled sleep of her new life.
In a brave voice she said, a little louder: “Excuse me?—I’m sorry to trouble you but is this the rear entrance to Probate Court?”
Pale Youths in Love
I remember when I was a pre-teen and they moved into a loft across the street from me in Tribeca, where I lived. And an older neighbor friend told me they were living in her building, on the top floor. I saw him at my corner deli, and on the street smoking, but never her. At night, I sometimes looked up at their windows and saw their lights on. He was not very impressive in person. Cute, but no big deal.
What is Work?
Without a written record, we cannot know with certainty how the earliest humans thought about work, but the importance of sharing food and other resources means that prehistoric work embodied at least an element of serving the needs of a community rather than just those of an individual and his or her immediate family.
Genesis: A Supreme Fiction
It occurred to me that Genesis is such a supreme fiction, or perhaps it is the supreme fiction in western culture, which begat many others. For thousands of years this book has been the mirror or lamp that reveals what reality consists of – regarding the nature of human existence, the cosmos and God. Or, to put it differently: the meaning of life, the universe and everything.
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After his second heart attack, the judge knew that he could no longer put off informing his wife about the contents of his will. He did this for the sake of the woman he had been keeping for twenty-five years, who, ever since his first attack, had been agitating about provisions for her future.