Fiction: "Arizona" by Rachel Khong
"Miss November" featured on American Short Fiction
It's nice to occasionally read something that doesn't follow the traditional pattern for "story." That isn't to say seeing new and different approaches to fiction is always exciting, though, but sometimes a writer comes along with a special knack for tossing style on its head and really comes out a winner.
From "Arizona," by Rachel Khong:
1. Where I live in Arizona, the lawns are aquarium floors: all gravel, punctuated by the occasional upright succulent. In recent weeks, a coyote has deemed it his duty to howl at quarter to eleven each night.
2. My research on coyote-human attacks does not confirm my primary hypothesis, which is: this coyote wants to devour me. Evidence points unequivocally to the contrary. In the U.S., in the past fifty years, it seems, there have only been two known coyote attacks.
3. The body of texts in support of my second theory—the animal is my ex-boyfriend, in actuality a shape-shifter, come from Boston to haunt me—is large.
4. A woman comes by selling tubes of charm. Pheromones are what she calls them, with authority. The only pheromones I know about are the ones that make my period cycle in tandem with my sisters’ and mother’s, which was what happened during the six months I lived at home. I moved away and now my monthly rhythms are my own.
You see what I mean? Definitely not a "traditional" approach to narrative. I think one of things you need to do in order to break the mold with any success is really understand how a traditional story works. I say that primarily because I've read a lot of stories that have attempted to do just what Khong does here and failed miserably. Khong knows her stuff, and she's put together an interesting tale.