“Transfer,” by Laura van den Berg
Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018; also an “online exclusive,” whatever that means, here
7.5 pages in the print magazine and 3,970 words, which means Conjunctions fits approximately 529 words to a page
This is fascinating, but it feels incomplete. It seems to me the main character doesn’t entangle herself deeply enough in the plot to be the main character. The story seemingly belongs to the director, the one who’s dealing so desperately badly with her grief. I want the narrator to snoop and interrogate even more than she does.
I’m curious about the choice to summarize the letter instead of quoting it. Filtering it through the narrator’s sensibility keeps our attention on her curiosity, her voyeurism.
Maybe the key to this story is the main character’s confession that she was the first to find the body. She’s trying to become closer to the director, or at least to trade one secret for another, but the director’s madness forms a barrier between them. Or it could be more reticence than madness.
When the main character tells the staff one of the director’s secrets, I wonder how much she’s motivated by “hoping that they might take pity on her” and how much by the very human need to share what she knows.
Semicolon watch: I noticed many semicolons here, every one of them connecting two independent clauses. The narrator is literate and reflective, so semicolons suit her.