Fiction Fix: Hurt People by Cote Smith

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The Fiction Fix is your weekly dose of short story. If that’s not your drug of choice, too bad: consider it medicine. Every week, we’ll scour the literary magazines you don’t have time to read, online and in print, and let you know where to find one story worth reading.

This week we’re directing you to One Story #118, “Hurt People” by Cote Smith. One Story is keeping short story love alive by sending subscribers exactly what it says, one story, every three weeks. The magazine is edited by Hannah Tinti — you may have noticed we’re rather fond of her around here — and has published some of our favorite writers: Ben Greenman, Lauren Groff, Nam Le, Kelly Link, Kevin Wilson, and many more. Issue #118 arrived in a very special envelope touting Cote Smith’s publishing debut. Read what we thought of it after the jump. “Hurt People” is about two brothers and their love for the pool in their apartment complex. It is also about their mother, who is not doing a terrific job balancing her job as a cashier at a golf course with taking care of her sons, and her possibly pervy coworker. Not surprisingly, the boys encounter a bit of bad luck, and the story comes to a rather ambiguous ending. The story is narrated in an almost clinical 3rd person: “The elder boy — whose ancillary information includes the fact that he was a whiz at the times tables game Around the World and he no longer had a best friend after that friend stole the younger’s favorite stuffed animal…” But Smith is also able to drop the reader inside his characters’ heads: “He wanted to put his arm around his brother’s shoulder, but he didn’t. Instead, he tried to step each place the elder stepped.” It’s difficult to pull off such perspective shifts without inducing nausea in your readers, but Smith does. We’ll be watching for more of his work.