Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry
Twelve Plus Twelve
“Twelve Plus Twelve” is from Christine Sneed’s collection, Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry (Bloomsbury). Sneed is also the author of the novel, Little Known Facts, named one of Booklist’s top ten debut novels in 2013. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, New England Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and a number of other journals. Portraits was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story prize.
Sneed said this about her story: I wrote “Twelve Plus Twelve” during the middle of a cold, seemingly interminable winter, and what precipitated its creation is my proximity to a hospital and an elementary school on the south end of Evanston, which perches on top of Chicago like a hat. My neighborhood features a lot of intrusive noise: among them, ambulances’ blaring sirens, some more strident than others, depending on the medical service running the ambulance, and irate parents who park out in the alley that my writing space overlooks, blasting their music while they’re waiting for their children, honking their horns if someone takes too long to pick up a son or daughter, occasionally screaming at each other too.
Late one night I had also heard two people fighting, breaking up, it sounded like to me, and I started thinking about the effects of the noise and anger often on display directly outside my windows and down three flights of stairs.
I was also thinking about the people who staff the hospital, and this led me to reflect on the kind of stalwart unsentimentality doctors and nurses likely have to learn to internalize early on in their training, but what if they can’t always do this? I expect that it is impossible anyway. Add to this a May-December love story — one of my favorite subjects — and the characters of Brynne and Griggs began to take form, especially Brynne, the ICU nurse and point-of-view character. I see this as a story about longing and regret and bereavement, and despite its occasional heavy emotional terrain, it was a joy to write.