by Michael Kardos
Issue #267 • July 21st, 2020•Buy Now!
I’ve never been hit in the face, and neither have you. That was my thought, reading the poetry manuscript submitted by this writer and endowed professor of English with the mile-long CV.
In the opening poem, the speaker is punched by his next door neighbor over the matter of dead tree limbs and who bore the responsibility for their removal. This got me thinking about all the people in books and movies and on TV who get punched in the face, and how this had never happened to me or to anyone I knew, except for one friend in college who, walking down the street, was sucker-punched by a man dressed in rags and muttering nonsense and probably flying on some drug or another. A cop saw it happen. The arrest took two seconds. In court several months later, the man looked sober, well-groomed, with a suit on. My friend couldn’t even say for sure if it was the same guy. He wasn’t after retribution anyway, my friend. The punch hadn’t fully connected and had only turned his lip purple and loosened one tooth that tightened again on its own within the week.
Michael Kardos is the author of the novels Bluff, Before He Finds Her, and The Three-Day Affair, the story collection One Last Good Time, and the craft book The Art and Craft of Fiction: A Writer’s Guide. His short fiction has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Southern Review, and Pleiades, among others, and has won a Pushcart Prize. He grew up on the Jersey Shore and now teaches at Mississippi State University, where he co-directs the creative writing program.
Patrick Ryan on The Wish
“I’ve never been hit in the face, and neither have you.” So begins our new issue, “The Wish.” It’s a great first sentence, a great hook, because not only do we not know who’s speaking; we don’t know who they’re speaking to. (Are you talking to me?) And the authority in those eleven words! Soon enough, it’s revealed that the speaker is Sean, a poetry editor at a small publishing house who places a high value on authenticity and wants to do right by his authors. He also wants to do right by someone he’s recently lost. When a manuscript comes across his desk, sent by the poet’s mother, Sean sees an opportunity to do some good in a world that, for him, has been particularly bad lately.
In general, I’m usually not drawn to short stories, novels, and films about writers or editors or the publishing business. Not because I don’t think those are worthy subjects, but because I usually don’t find them very compelling. There’s a reason why films about writers often don’t devote a lot of footage to the main characters actually writing: it’s boring to watch someone write. (It’s also boring to watch someone edit.) By that same token, get any six authors together at a dinner table and chances are the subject of writing won’t even come up. Who wants to talk about how they spent their morning moving words around? So I was guarded when I began reading “The Wish” and realized it was about an editor. But that first sentence had me, and soon the voice had me, and soon I’d read right to the end and wanted to start the story all over again.
Michael Kardos is a tremendous talent. In his hands, “The Wish” isn’t about an editor or about the publishing industry or about any aspect of the writing process. It’s a story about a damaged person who’s trying, simultaneously, both to heal and to do the right thing. We’re thrilled to be ushering it into the world, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. After you read the story, be sure to check out my Q&A with Michael, wherein he reveals which character showed up on the page unexpectedly and explains why he thinks of “The Wish” as a “yo-yo story.” (Note: There are no yo-yos in “The Wish.”)
Q&A by Patrick Ryan