For issue #126, “Stag” by Robert McCarthy, I’m turning the blog reins over to Jason Watt, who acted as issue editor. Be sure to stop by Rob’s Q&A to find out more on how he wrote this amazing new story. Enjoy!—Hannah
Rob McCarthy’s “Stag” is an exemplary work of short fiction. It’s all there: depth of character, an imaginative plot, a vivid setting, a clear central crisis, heart, humor, wisdom, closure, and of course: story. When I finished reading it, I remembered why we tell stories. Because they matter. And these were my reactions to Rob’s initial draft. I was glad, but not surprised, when Hannah and my colleagues at One Story ratified my feelings and selected “Stag” for publication. As the editing process began, it clarified my feelings about both the piece and Rob McCarthy’s singular talent.
When we meet the protagonist, Sean, he is getting his new house ready for a big evening: his young daughter is coming to stay the night. This sleepover is the first night she’ll be spending with Sean since he split with his wife, and he wants to prove, to himself more than anyone, that his failed marriage has not made him a failure. But that’s not going to be easy. The divorce left him a new address near the local landfill and a life that also looks destined for the dump. Sean didn’t want this for himself. Certainly the home isn’t the place he wanted for his daughter. But this is his life, this is his address, and his stubborn, romantic, even naive attempt not just to cope but to start anew develops into extraordinary evening, one that will forever shape Sean’s destiny, and one that will enthrall readers.—Jason Watt