One great short story to read today: Steven Millhauser’s “Miracle Polish.”

Emily Temple

May 19, 2023, 10:00am

According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

“Miracle Polish” by Steven Millhauser

The problem with Steven Millhauser is that all of his stories are good, so it’s difficult to choose which one to highlight here. (If you’ve been following along from the beginning, you may notice that I’ve found this to be the problem with a number of writers.) But as your resident Millhauser fan, I think “Miracle Polish” is among his best, showcasing both the elevated, candy-coated tone and deep psychological resonance that he does so well. (By the way, if you like this story, NB that Millhauser has a new collection coming out this summer. We are blessed indeed.)

The story begins:

I should have said no to the stranger at the door, with his skinny throat and his black sample case that pulled him a little to the side, so that one of his jacket cuffs was higher than the other, a polite no would have done the trick, no thanks, I’m afraid not, not today, then the closing of the door and the heavy click of the latch, but I’d seen the lines of dirt in the black shoe creases, the worn-down heels, the shine on the jacket sleeves, the glint of desperation in his eyes. All the more reason, I said to myself, to send him on his way, as I stepped aside and watched him move into my living room.

Read it here.

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