After reading this issue of Epoch produced by Cornell University, it is clear why many stories published here will later be accepted for compilations like The O. Henry Prize Stories or The Best American Short Stories. This issue of Epoch contained many interesting short stories, several poems, and a beautifully written essay.
The very first story in this publication was one that I truly enjoyed, more than most short stories I have read. “A Little Rain Gotta Fall Sometime” by Elizabeth Wetmore shares the story of a struggling drunk father and his daughter Denise. They move from one town to another, chasing jobs and living in dingy apartments while Denise struggles to finish high school. Unfortunately for Denise, this story starts off on the day her father passes away. While she tries so hard to pretend not to care as deeply as she does, Denise comes to the realization that “if burying Ray is an end, maybe it can also be a beginning.” Denise’s loss and loneliness are offset by her stalwart decision to push on and make a new future for herself—a clear reminder that no matter what, we can all push forward and make better futures too.
Another short story in this issue that caught my attention was “Strangers” by Glori Simmons. In this story, Ted is trying to cope with the fact that he will be a father soon. With both a pregnant wife and a pregnant mistress, Ted is in a panic and struggles to find some form of stability in a world that has turned upside down. An unexpected experience seems to settle all of these issues at once and although “he’d always worried that she would find out he didn’t have a heart,” he learns that he does have a heart, and the world becomes both bigger and smaller at the same time. For the first time, the realization that he has created something so special clearly hits Ted, just as it might for any new parent.
The most unique story in this issue is a tale from Adam Peterson titled “The First Woman on Earth, or: DENISE.” In this story of self-discovery, a woman realizes that she is the “first woman” to exist; the first person to have thoughts and feelings beyond throwing rocks at scary things. She is startled to find that she has any thoughts at all, and reflects after her very first thought, “I didn’t realize I was the only one on this round earth to have one.” While the people around Denise seem mindless, she has learned that she is different. This story reminds me of how children slowly learn that people and animals around them also have thoughts and are affected by the actions of others. It is a very interesting story that made me want to read more about Denise and her adventures.
This issue also contained an essay by Kenneth A. McClane titled, “Friendship.” It tells the story of a man named Bill Preston, a friend of the author’s family. He recollects the events of his life that included Bill, and the memories Bill shared with him. Throughout the story, we see connections to the Civil Rights movements and to well-renowned activists, artists, and writers who passed through the author’s life. The author shares insights as one of the first wealthy black families to own a home in Martha’s Vineyard and the racism they faced there. However, he also shares how that racism was overcome: “And if they initially didn’t want us among them, they, just as powerfully, did not want us to die [ . . . ] many of them turned out to be good neighbors.” This essay shows a great deal not just about issues of racism in the 60s, but also about World War II and the experiences of soldiers who had to fight Germans, and then witness the horror of the concentration camps. This essay is beautifully written, and I will be sure to share this story with others.
This issue of Epoch told many stories of self-discovery, loneliness, racism, and the stress that comes with the trials of life. Some of the stories left me wanting more, while others left me feeling a sense of resolution. I hope to see some of them continued in future publications, and I look forward to more issues of Epoch.