This Week in Short Fiction


Austin-based indie publisher A Strange Object unleashed a new digital magazine this week called Covered with Fur. The site is an elegant lesson in design, sleek and simple with just two large rectangles to choose from for its weekly offerings, labeled “Fiction” and “Not.” According to their Submissions page, which is currently open, the “Not” category includes nonfiction writings in the form of microessays, essays, or columns about objects including “treatments of found things, repurposings, archival encounters… [also] writing on design or attachment or loss.”

With their first issue, Covered with Fur sets the fiction bar high with Bess Winter’s story, “Are You Running Away?” Set in a contemporary high school, the story delves into the familiar territory of adolescent mean girls à la Margaret Atwood or Joyce Carol Oates. The story begins with a nameless narrator, eating crackers and listening to her friend Val, an unpopular girl who “doesn’t care about anything,” as she lays out her plan to get school canceled.

The most compelling energy in this story comes from the different perspectives Winter takes from section to section. Hovering in the school somewhere just beyond Val and co., there’s Ms. Wilson, an English teacher who confiscates and reappropriates as her own the contraband of her students. Even more removed, in a distant memory of Ms. Wilson’s, there’s the curious voice of the kimono-clad chorus from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, speaking here:

This is what happens during the pirouette: one of us kicks her sandal off, right into the empty seats. It flips off her rotating foot like the launch of a discus and just misses Ellen and Ms. Freund. Moments later, the clap of wood sandal against wall, somewhere we can’t see. Some of us burst into laughs, but soon there’s a sense of relief that melts through us all. That was it. A flying sandal. A sudden slap.

We follow behind. We bow and shuffle. When we twirl, we’re just colors. When we look up, the stage lights smudge in our eyes. When we lift our voices, they braid together and rise, and rise, and rise.

These multi-voiced segments are carefully sequenced to press against and amplify one another, resolving in a quiet fade a half-beat before all of the storylines collide. There’s something about the way the narration moves in “Are You Running Away?” that calls to mind that Tears for Fears “Head Over Heels” sequence in Donnie Darko. Time flies and Winter uses her floating, ethereal narratives to show us a few of the broken and shifting perspectives haunting a school.

Jill Schepmann's stories have been read on NPR and have appeared in Parcel and Midwestern Gothic, among others. She worked as a fiction and nonfiction editor at Nashville Review while getting her MFA at Vanderbilt. She lives in San Francisco and tweets @jillypants. More from this author →