Pamela Painter

Three Stories

Appearances and Disappearances

George General patient­ly explained it to his pret­ty blonde wife:  how the sun instead of set­ting this evening had turned right around and rose with the full moon.  He was quite sure it hadn’t hap­pened before.  Never? she want­ed to know but only in a desul­to­ry way.  They were strolling hand in hand on the gat­ed beach, return­ing back from two bot­tles of a white Bordeaux at the island’s pre­mier din­ing estab­lish­ment.  George General’s san­dals kept tak­ing on sand, slow­ing him down.  His pret­ty blonde wife dropped his hand to lift her skirts like Princess-Cinderella-before-Midnight and tip­ple down into the sur-sur­ring surf.  Alas, their pricey sun­tan lotion lay on the table, on the deck back at their vil­la.  Their sun­glass­es too.  The moon and sun’s reflec­tions stretched out across the lap­ping sea, like an invit­ing mul­ti-hulled ves­sel.  Yes, a sparkling cata­ma­ran.  Catamarans almost nev­er cap­size George General was think­ing, as he wad­ed waf­fle­ly past the sea’s sil­very edge to tell his pret­ty blonde wife.

Now I’ve Heard it All

In a loud­er reg­is­ter than usu­al, our host­ess announces, as a point of infor­ma­tion, that three of the eight guests assem­bled at her ele­gant table are almost deaf.  One of the three iden­ti­fies her­self with a dra­mat­ic wav­ing of her pearls and laments that alas she left her hear­ing aid at home.  Besides, she says, it picks up too much ambi­ent noise.  She goes on to describe ambi­ent noise as what she hears when there are two or more con­ver­sa­tions going simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.  She pouts as she com­plains that she feels exclud­ed from all of them.  Her dis­may lasts only sec­onds.  Grander than the rest of us in numer­ous and var­i­ous ways, she then decrees that we will have only a sin­gle con­ver­sa­tion top­ic going at once.  After a moment of silence, our host­ess gra­cious­ly agrees.  Chelsea art gal­leries.  New restau­rants.   Republicans.  This impo­si­tion holds through to the sal­ad course.  By then I am lean­ing in, whis­per­ing to the man on my left, ask­ing him to elab­o­rate, but only for me, what he said about the edi­to­r­i­al board of the New York Review of Books.  Whispering nev­er felt so naughty or so good.  Better even than a hand on my knee.

Over-Coming Writer’s Block

I rent­ed a room from a shrink.  I rent­ed it by the 50-minute hour to over­come my writer’s block.  In our first e‑mail exchange, she had list­ed times when the room was free.  In our sec­ond exchange she men­tioned the rental fee.  When she ush­ered me into the room, she enu­mer­at­ed the room’s restric­tions:  I could not use her desk nor sit in her chair; I must not look in her files, nor turn on her com­put­er; I could not use her elec­tric tea pot, nor bring in any food;  I was told not to wear per­fume or shoes, but not come bare­foot either.  I was not allowed to have guests; I should bring my own Kleenex;  I could not leave any paper in her waste­bas­ket;  I must not dis­turb the pletho­ra of totems scat­tered on var­i­ous tables;  when I left I was instruct­ed to turn off the lights, turn down the ther­mo­stat, exit the door I came in rather than take the sec­ond door through which her patients left.  Maybe they are clients?  I put my com­put­er on the radiator—it was sum­mer.  I brought a fold­ing chair.  Norman Mailer once said, “Writer’s block is mere­ly a fail­ure of ego.”  I wrote this sto­ry.  I was cured, so I left after the first week. She won’t miss the one tiny totem I took with me.  I didn’t envy her ego.  It was larg­er than mine.


Pamela Painter is the author of three sto­ry col­lec­tions, Getting to Know the Weather, which won the GLCA Award for First Fiction, The Long and Short of It, and Wouldn’t You Like to Know.   She is also the co-author of What If?  Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. Her sto­ries have appeared in The Atlantic, Five Points, Harper’s, Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, and Ploughshares, among oth­ers and in numer­ous antholo­gies, such as Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward and MicroFiction.  She received grants from The Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts, and won three Pushcart Prizes and Agni Review’s The John Cheever Award for Fiction.  Painter’s sto­ries have been pre­sent­ed on stage by Stage Turner, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, and Word Theatre.  Her new sto­ry col­lec­tion, Ways to Spend the Night, is due out in Winter, 2016.