Nearly a decade after Ploughshares published it, Elizabeth Graver’s short story “The Mourning Door” remains shrouded in a slippery surrealism that’s at once impenetrable and, simultaneously, the source of the piece’s staying power. In it, Graver’s pregnant narrator discovers a tiny human hand in her bed. Then she finds a shoulder in the laundry. Next it’s a foot, five small toes and all, in the basement. Is the narrator giving birth, or having a miscarriage? Is she piecing a baby together, or watching one fall apart?

Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →