The Everest Society
by Shannon Sanders
Issue #263 • March 16, 2020•Buy Now!
Eight days before the social worker’s home visit, Liv squeezed into the lobby of her apartment building to find that the elevator meeting had already started. She scanned the crowd until she located her husband, Dante, who’d apparently arrived early enough to score a seat near the front of the room now packed with residents. Liv tried to catch Dante’s eye, but he was preoccupied, his brow furrowed as the conversation thrummed toward a fever pitch.
Nishan, their neighbor from the eighth floor, wanted to know what the hell was taking so long. It was starting to get ridiculous, he said, slapping a knee for emphasis. Trudging up and down seven flights of stairs like goddamned mountain climbers. He and his neighbors on Eight—they had taken to calling themselves the Everest Society—had started a group text among themselves, a perpetual flurry of notifications about who’d be hitting the mailbox soon, who didn’t mind carrying home an extra carton of milk, and so forth, thereby sparing the, forgive his expression, older aunties of the eighth floor—Silvia and Tomasina, who huddled together and winced at this but urged him on—from having to make the trek for basic necessities.
Shannon Sanders is an attorney and test-prep instructor, and a finalist for One Story’s 2019 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship. Her fiction appears in Electric Literature, Strange Horizons, SLICE, and elsewhere. She won a 2020 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers for “The Good, Good Men,” which was featured in Puerto del Sol’s Black Voices Series and will be reprinted in Best Debut Short Stories 2020. She lives with her husband and son near Washington, D.C. Find her at ShannonSandersWrites.com and on Instagram (@i.exaggerate) and Twitter (@shanderswrites).
Will Allison on The Everest Society
If you’ve ever lived in a high-rise, you’ll appreciate the frustration Liv MacHale and her neighbors feel in “The Everest Society,” by Shannon Sanders. The elevator in their building is out of order—indefinitely—so the residents have to schlep up and down as many as seven flights of stairs every time they go out.
To make matters worse, Liv and her husband, Dante, want to adopt a child, but first they—and their apartment—have to pass muster with a social worker. Liv, in her obsessive preparation for the home visit, fears that the building’s lack of a working elevator (not to mention its dingy stairwell) will reflect poorly on them. Easygoing Dante, on the other hand, doesn’t see what the big deal is.
This is but one of the many ways in which Dante irks Liv: He says weary when he means wary. He fails to notice the hanging produce baskets she lugs home and installs in their kitchen. He gets frisky while she’s fretting over their cracked bedroom ceiling. And when Liv mentions Margaret, the social worker, Dante can’t even place the name.
If Liv and Dante’s relationship sounds prickly, it is—but only sometimes. They actually have a pretty great marriage with lots of give and take, which Sanders renders with uncommon grace, generosity, and humor. The result is one of the most charming fictional marriages I’ve encountered. It’s also one of the most convincing, with all of the messy richness that characterizes real married life. Sanders is a rising literary talent with a gift for writing big-hearted stories, and we are thrilled to present her work in the pages of One Story.
P.S. from Managing Editor Lena Valencia:
I live in a 60-unit apartment building in Brooklyn. My husband and some neighbors recently started a building-wide Facebook group in the hopes of creating a network of support for those who might be more vulnerable to COVID-19. As I was placing flyers outside doors, alerting the residents to the group’s existence, I couldn’t help but think of the way Shannon Sanders so expertly captures the nuances of apartment living in “The Everest Society,” and how—whether it’s a broken elevator or a global pandemic—neighbors come together to help each other in times of strife and upheaval. It’s a message that felt especially timely at this moment. I hope you enjoy this brilliant story as much as I did, and remember to take care of each other.
Q&A by Will Allison
The seed of the story came to me during one of my self-pitying journeys from the underground garage to my floor—but the important details took shape when I got over myself and realized I was one of the lucky ones. Some of my neighbors had mobility issues that rendered them housebound, or lived alone and had to do all the schlepping themselves. (The nine-month-old was no help at all, but my husband was incredible—though it did test our communication skills.) That got me thinking about all the less-obvious casualties of the outage: strained relationships, indignant pets, deferred visits from social workers...
From my teacher, Jennifer Buxton, who’s become a good friend: “It all comes down to the writing.” What she means is that it’s no good bemoaning the credentials I don’t have, or endlessly tweaking my cover letter, or (on the flipside) fretting about what color beret I’ll wear in my author photo before I’ve even written the first paragraph. If I can write a good story, someone will enjoy reading it—that is the extent of the transaction. The rest is window dressing.
And from my dad, who is not a natural fiction lover but kindly reads all my work: “Oh, you can write a story about that!” He says it whenever I’m up against a hard time at work or home, and it’s a fantastic reminder to find inspiration in all the things that intrude on my writing time. And after all, if I never had anything to do but write, well—what in the hell would I write about?