Fiction: "In Which a Coffin ..." by Brenda K. Marshall

Full title: "In Which a Coffin is a Bed but an Ox is Not a Coffin"

Nov. 15, 2010
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I know, it's been a couple weeks, and I promise that won't happen again. Now that I'm teaching, I'm in the process of constantly adjusting my schedule depending on how many students show up to class. On top of that, I've been sending out queries to dozens and dozens of agents for the new book. On top of that, I'm sifting through a mound of rejection letters ... slowly, slowly sifting through those. Because they're depressing.

Here's something not depressing: fiction on the Michigan Quarterly Review website. I really, really like Brenda K. Marshall's writing style. It's got an old-fashioned feel and there's a smudge of dark humor between the words that really attracted me to this story.

From "In Which a Coffin ...":


Where do you think youre going? he asked.

The presumption of the question, Frances knew, was her own fault. She had been admonished several times by Percy for her readiness to mix with the farm help, but Percy was rarely around, and Frances had grown fond of the odd little cook.

I fail to see how that is your concern, Carl, but since you have asked so politely, I am on my way to Fargo to conduct some business at the Luger Furniture Company.

You dont want to do that.

Frances looked down at Little Carl from her upholstered seat. As a matter of fact, she was very little interested in furnishing the house in Fargo (and every bit of it on credit, at that), but even Little Carl, whose powers of perception Frances had found at times to be disconcerting, would not have presumed to speak to her quite so personally.

And why is that, pray tell?


Carl, Frances said, completing her unspoken thought with a sweep of her arm that took in a dozen outbuildings and the field beyond where several head of cattle had been turned out to graze upon the remnants of the cornstalks there. An overnight dusting of snow lay lightly upon the frozen ground. It was a gray February day, but in no way threatening.

Miss Frances, every bit of me hurts today. I cant barely move my neck, and that is as sure a sign as any that a storms coming.

I am sorry for your discomfort, but my neck feels fine, and the sooner I get going the sooner I can return. Now, I am certain that you have something better to do than . . .

Click here to read the full story.

Don't forget to submit your writing! Those rejection letters get a little easier to stomach after a couple hundred ...

Ken Brosky

P.S. Couldn't find a credit for the pic, so email me if you have a clue.


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