WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT!
this explanation/intro will be posted before each day’s short story. scroll down to get to the story-review.
this is the SIXTH year of me doing a short story advent calendar as my december project. for those of you new to me or this endeavor, here’s the skinny: every day in december, i will be reading a short story that is 1) available free somewhere on internet, and 2) listed on goodreads as its own discrete entity. there will be links provided for those of you who like to read (or listen to) short stories for free, and also for those of you who have wildly overestimated how many books you can read in a year and are freaking out about not meeting your 2020 reading-challenge goals. i have been gathering links all year when tasty little tales have popped into my feed, but i will also accept additional suggestions, as long as they meet my aforementioned 1), 2) standards.
GR has deleted the pages for several of the stories i’ve read in previous years without warning, leaving me with a bunch of missing reviews and broken links, which makes me feel shitty. i have tried to restore the ones i could, but my to-do list is already a ball of nightmares, so that’s still a work-in-progress. however, because i don’t have a lot of time to waste, i’m not going to bother writing much in the way of reviews for these, in case GR decides to scrap ’em again.
i am doing my best.
DECEMBER 12: THE ENGLISHMAN – DOUGLAS STUART
i am one of the few people in the world who has not yet read Shuggie Bain. but i liked this story very much, so maybe that fact will change in 2022. first things first, though—before i plop out a brief review of it, let’s talk about this picture:
because every time i look at it, my brain insists on seeing it as a nude torso covered in gravy and every time it makes me go “ew.”
anyway, i read this over on the new yorker site, where they offer the option of reading the story with your eyes or listening to it with your ears. i am greedy, so i did both simultaneously. the audio takes just over 40 minutes, and it’s probably faster to read it yourself, but then you wouldn’t get to hear the author’s lovely scottish accent. not his Scotch accent, of course:
“Scot-tish. Scotch is what fat Americans call whisky.”
so, it’s about a young scot-tish man who answers an ad seeking a houseboy for a summer in london. it sounds like a pretty sweet gig:
The position paid four hundred pounds a week, cash in hand, and offered free bed and board (bathroom en suite). The Englishman said that he would buy me a plane ticket, and I had refused. Then came a berth on the Caledonian Sleeper, and I refused that also. It was stupid to be so proud but I knew it wouldn’t do to be beholden so soon—certainly not to an Englishman. They were not to be trusted, my father would tell us, although as to why, he could never quite say.
the bossman is a little bit vague on what his responsibilities will be, though:
I asked my new employer what I would be doing. “Oh, this and that—cooking, cleaning, gardening. Let’s make it up as we go along, shall we?”
but by day two the pretenses are already dropping and the conversation becomes more pointed:
“I’m just quiet. My father always said ye shouldn’t talk just to fill a room—”
The man sighed. “Do. You. Have. A. Big. Cock?”
turns out he’s just one houseboy of many—next in a long line of a season-by-season rotation of indentured boys filling an old man’s photo album.
better than a lemonade stand, but it might not be the *right* summer job for him.
DECEMBER 1: NIGHT STAND – DANIEL WOODRELL
DECEMBER 2: MR. DEATH – ALIX HARROW
DECEMBER 3: THE FRUIT OF MY WOMAN – HAN KANG
DECEMBER 4: THE TINDER BOX – KATE ELLIOTT
DECEMBER 5: BABYCAKES – NEIL GAIMAN
DECEMBER 6: HIS MIDDLE NAME WAS NOT JESUS – NOVIOLET BULAWAYO
DECEMBER 7: SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE – LILLI CARRÉ
DECEMBER 8: DARK TIDE – MARK LAWRENCE
DECEMBER 9: DARKER TIDE – MARK LAWRENCE
DECEMBER 10: BREAK – MISHELL BAKER
DECEMBER 11: A RUMOR OF ANGELS – DALE BAILEY
DECEMBER 13: IT CAME FROM CRUDEN FARM – MAX BARRY
DECEMBER 14: NO MOON AND FLAT CALM – ELIZABETH BEAR
DECEMBER 15: A STUDY IN SHADOWS – BENJAMIN PERCY
DECEMBER 16: ART APPRECIATION – FIONA MCFARLANE
DECEMBER 17: THE SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS – SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA
DECEMBER 18: WE HAVEN’T GOT THERE YET – HARRY TURTLEDOVE
DECEMBER 19: THE DUNE – STEPHEN KING
DECEMBER 20: THE WORTHINGTON – EMILY CARROLL
DECEMBER 21: SUNBLEACHED – NATHAN BALLINGRUD
DECEMBER 22: BLOOD DAUGHTER – MATTHEW LYONS
DECEMBER 23: THE LINE – AMOR TOWLES
DECEMBER 24: PIGEONS – NIBEDITA SEN
DECEMBER 25: WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED, WHAT WE WILL FORGET, WHAT WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FORGET – EUGENE LIM
DECEMBER 26: ONE/ZERO – KATHLEEN ANN GOONAN
DECEMBER 27: MATINÉE – ROBERT COOVER
DECEMBER 28: ACCESS – ANDY WEIR
DECEMBER 29: UNNECESSARY THINGS – TATYANA TOLSTAYA
DECEMBER 30: HOOK – DANIELLE MCLAUGHLIN
DECEMBER 31: HE’S VERY WELL READ – CATHERINE LACEY
previous years’ advent calendars (what’s left of ’em):