Issue #233: Are You Mine and No One Else’s by Danny Lorberbaum

One of best things about reading short stories and novels is that we get to spend time with people we wouldn’t actually want to know. This applies to out-and-out villains, of course, but it also applies to jerks, narcissists, bigots, whiners, chronic interrupters, what have you. Spending time with such types via the written word is great not only because we get to observe them without having to be in the same room with them, but also because we get a chance to be in their heads for a little while and better understand what it’s like to be them. The feeling may only last for as long as your eyes are moving across the page, but there it is: empathy, no strings attached.

Our new issue takes us into the heads of two different characters—Rhoda and Tony—and I’m guessing you might not want to be besties with one of them. You will, however, be on intimate terms with both of them by the last sentence, and I wager you’ll see a little of yourself somewhere along the way. Mix longing with possessiveness, desire with performance anxiety, second-guessing with secret-keeping, skinny-dipping with fast driving, and project it all onto a backdrop of America in the early days of the Reagan administration, and you’ve got “Are You Mine and No One Else’s?” by emerging writer Danny Lorberbaum.

The goal of One Story, first and foremost, is to put great short stories into readers’ hands. Along the way, we often make readers aware of writers they might not yet have come across. I’m confident Danny Lorberbaum is at the beginning of a vast and varied career, and I’m thrilled to be sending you “Are You Mine and No One Else’s?”—a story I find as charming as it is unsettling. To read our Q&A with the author (and to hear about the news story that caused seven-year-old Danny to reassess the world), please visit our website.

8 thoughts on “Issue #233: Are You Mine and No One Else’s by Danny Lorberbaum

  1. I’m wondering if I missed something in the introduction of “the afternoon guy, Mitch” at the bottom of page six…and onto the top of page seven where “Rich and Tony might have been friends. They were about the same age…but there was a simple fact that Mitch could not have given less of a fuck about his job…” ?

    Was there a publication edit that removed Rich’s introduction and place in the story?

  2. Thank you for pointing this out. It’s a production error on our part. Our small and very dedicated staff didn’t catch these two mistakes in our proofreading.

  3. I love this story. It is so straightforward and yet has a deep truth about it that is deeply moving. I grew up in Missouri, so maybe I’m tuned into a cultural connection that is captured here. It evoked a very strong personal response, which is rare for me, and so I wanted to share my appreciation.

  4. There is a theory when you study film about how all the American cowboy movies made in the sixties are really about Viet Nam. Isn’t it interesting that this story makes its way into the world just when an atavistic world view is asking us to tear down all sorts of progress in order to make things “Great Again”?
    Every good story should challenge us in some way, but I am really struggling to respect this story–not because I am different than the characters– but because of its larger context. This is historical fiction about the 1980’s, and the lens of the past is being used (whether the author intends it or not) to think about the present. Even if some of us remember the 80’s the story can only be read now, and in this moment, I can’t help but think it fails badly in its depiction of women and sexuality. Almost everyone in this story is a stereotype. All the female characters fail the “Bechtel test” and don’t make up for this in anyway (say, by being satirical or funny or heartbreaking).
    The story doesn’t do the work of making Rhonda a complete and complex character as it does for Tony. If anything, I felt the story left her imperiled and victimized by Tony’s implicit shaming and explicit distrust. Tony’s character and its contradictions are only slightly better: he is meticulous at work, takes pride in his job, yet he is a liar (about the necklace), and drives recklessly (I’d call it road rage pathology for displaced feelings). He is the type of man who brings steak as a hostess gift. Some people might admire this. Fair enough.
    But what is this story actually saying about human connection? While maybe not exactly nostalgic for slow dancing to Van Halen, this story is shallow and more than a little soppy when it comes to depicting how sex both connects and alienates us. And what a shame. We are pretty hungry for a good story right now, starving even. And a story with a butcher as the hero only makes me want to weep.
    I don’t get it. Why this story? Why now?

  5. Great story. I was on the edge of my seat thinking it would turn out one way, and it wasn’t what I expected at all. I like stories that make me feel something for each of the characters and I didn’t expect to but really did feel sorry for Tony by the end. He has a lot of weakness under his calloused surface. And Rhoda and MaryAnn are very real to me. Thanks for introducing me to this author’s work. I’d like to read more!

  6. What a wonderful and sweet story.! I’m a sucker for a romance, and I enjoyed how this brought in a romantic theme but flipped things around so there’s an unexpected twist at the end. I would enjoy reading more about Tony. I also like the mixed point of view, which so many writers are told not to do, but it works really well in this piece.

  7. I was also taken aback by the “Rich” and “Mitch” confusion — in the same scene, first he’s Mitch, then Rich, then Mitch, then Rich, and then Mitch again. This was such a pattern that I wondered if the author was trying to express Tony’s disconnect with the people around him by making it seem as if the character could not get his co-worker’s name right, but this seemed like a stretch. Also, “brakes” is spelled “breaks” on p. 19. This story would have been better served by better copy-editing!
    To give the story its due, the multiple points of view are interesting, as someone else commented. After seeing Tony through Rhoda’s eyes, we then see from his point of view that he is quite different from what she imagines. I think that Rhoda and Maryann are not as thoroughly developed, but unlike another reader’s (Didi’s) reaction, I did get a sense of who they are as characters. I agree with Didi that Rhoda may be victimized by Tony…he is a troubled, lonely, and needy person. But I don’t think this is a failing of the story. It’s a portrait of a relationship that shows how people see what they want to in others, how they project their own needs and wants onto someone else.

  8. Just as a follow up–within recent months, the response to a New Yorker story has gone viral over its depiction of a young woman who has a disappointing encounter with an older man. .
    My problem with OS#233 is not a writerly one. This is not a bad story– I thought it was remarkably skillful in depicting emotional ambiguity, a hallmark of good realistic fiction. Apparently, we are not all reading the same story–I read violation and judgement that is dangerous to women when Tony raids the medicine chest and finds birth control pills. Other people seem to think this story is just a sweet and romantic love story between flawed characters. Of course a story published by One Story stands on solid ground in terms of craft and merit–it doesn’t fail, but the editorial choice might still be questionable. Any literary publication is an ideological vector–it shoots an arrow through our time. With so many writers and submissions to choose from, why this one? For me, just one reader, issue #233 feels like a move backwards.

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