God Bless America: Stories
“The Darkness Together”
“The Darkness Together” is from Steve Almond’s collection, God Bless America (Lookout Press), a finalist for The Story Prize. Almond is the author of three story collections, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and two nonfiction books. His stories have appeared in Playboy, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, Ecotone, and other magazines, and have been reprinted in Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize.
Almond said this about the origin of his story: “The Darkness Together” began as an experiment in entrapment. I just wanted to write a story where the characters couldn’t escape. I liked the idea of a train compartment because I think of trains—particularly at night—as both peaceful and menacing. The first image that came to mind was of a mother setting her stuff on the seats around her, so as to have the compartment (and her son) all to herself. I also saw an image of her standing in front of a mirror topless, knowing that her young son could see her. Why does my mind work like this?
Anyway, once I had this overweening mom in place, it was clear to me that the third character was going to terrorize her. Not by threatening her. (There’s enough violence spewing out of Hollywood to numb the soul.) I was more interested in just letting him run his mouth. She thinks he’s some dumb cretin. But he understands her, and her son, and he’s willing to lay them bare. I’m always on the lookout for characters like this – the ones who don’t just disturb the peace, but shatter it.
Praise for Steve Almond:
“Steve Almond’s work is funny and beguiling and completely original.” –Lorrie Moore, author of A Gate at the Stairs
“Steve Almond is one of our finest literary provocateurs. His stories are without equal in their beautiful terrible honesty. Stylish and finely wrought, these are tales with the force of life itself.” –Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao