“Hurt People” by Cote Smith

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issueThere are reasons why parents tell their kids not to talk to strangers. One might be reading “Hurt People” by Cote Smith, a debut story in Issue 118 of One Story. Set in a town “with more prisons than restaurants,” the story begins when two fatherless boys meet a stranger swimming in their apartment’s pool. The brothers agree not to tell their mother about Chris, admitting him to the world they inhabit when their mother’s back is turned. With chilling elegance, Smith leads us into this secret life: a world apart from the dictates of towering, incomprehensible adults; a world so new that danger is ever-present; a world where our breathtaking independence forces us to make the toughest decisions alone. Told from the perspective of the younger brother, who learns “what it felt like to make a bad decision,” Smith’s story returns us to our lost innocence, the moment we become strangers to ourselves.


Steven Tagle is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. He produces short-form documentaries for Current TV, and his work has appeared in Leland Quarterly, Word Choice, and Rainy Day. He is finishing his first novel. More from this author →