Anne Leigh Parrish’s “An Imaginary Life” in the new issue of Storyglossia stands out to me. There’s a lot in this story. Every character is deep with stories, both true stories, and stories of things they wish were true. I read once in some lost piece of writing instruction that a short story should be like an iceberg. The reader should see the tip, but know that there’s a huge mass under the water as well. This story made me think of this advice. Each character peeks out above the surface, but they are tied together beneath it all by the shared tangle of myths people make up in order to survive:
“Can I ask you something?” she says.
“You ever believe something that isn’t true?”
“You mean a lie?”
“Something made up.”
“Like Santa Claus?”
Nina laughs. Jud is so real, so down to earth. He’s talked a lot about his days with the Arizona Border Patrol chasing “illegals,” staking them out, and waiting, always waiting, for the next one to try his luck.
The beer she sips has warmed in the bottle from being held too long. She sets the bottle on the brick beside her chair and watches a hawk circle above the peak before her. The sun is so intense on the hillside that the saguaro seem to tremble.
“No, something you made up yourself. A fantasy. A dream. Maybe just a tall tale,” says Nina.
The story plays cleverly with this idea, until arriving at a surprisingly hopeful and believable conclusion.