Summer 2005 • Vol. XXVII No. 3 Fiction |

Surprise Surprise!

"Rashid? Come in, please take a seat." Glancing up as if pleasantly surprised. As if she hadn't been expecting him. Dreading his arrival, yet hoping he would come. For if he had not come, what then? The young man stood hesitantly in the doorway of her office. She repeated her greeting. Through the previous night she'd lain awake rehearsing what she might say to him, yet now the banality of Take a seat struck her. In this cavernous office with its twelve-foot ceiling and pitiless fluorescent lights your most innocuous words bounced back at you like deranged Ping-Pong balls. Take a seat! Take a . . . seat? Rashid approached her desk, frowning. He stared not at her, V. Birkhead, but at the lightweight vinyl chair placed at a discreet distance, not too close, not too far, in front of her desk. In his unease he was being literal- minded. He did not trust her, maybe. He was wishing he'd stayed away. Rashid Parmalee had to be in his mid-twenties but l

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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. Her memoir The Lost Landscape was published by Ecco in September 2015. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

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"Rashid? Come in, please take a seat." Glancing up as if pleasantly surprised. As if she hadn't been expecting him. Dreading his arrival, yet hoping he would come. For if […]

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