Short story: “Agnes of Iowa”

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“Agnes of Iowa,” by Lorrie Moore

Appeared in Granta 54: Best of Young American Novelists, June 20th, 1996 (online here)

5652 words

I like the use of repetition here:

Over the next six years she and Joe tried to have a baby, but one night at dinner, looking at each other in a lonely way over the meat loaf, they realized with a shock that they probably never would. Nonetheless they still tried, vandalizing what romance was left in their marriage.

‘Honey,’ she would whisper at night when he was reading under the reading lamp, and she had already put her book away and curled toward him, wanting to place the red scarf over the lampshade but knowing it would annoy him and so not doing it. ‘Do you want to make love? It would be a good time of month.’

And Joe would groan. Or he would yawn. Or he would already be asleep. Once, after a long hard day, he said, ‘I’m sorry, Agnes. I’m just not in the mood.’

She grew exasperated. ‘You think I’m in the mood?’ she said. ‘I don’t want to do this any more than you do.’ He looked at her in a disgusted way, and it was two weeks after that they had the identical sad dawning over the meat loaf.

My instinct would have been to avoid repeating the meat loaf line, and I would have missed something: the sadness of the moment coming back sadder the second time.