Fiction Fix: “Childcare” by Lorrie Moore

Have you consulted the Flavorpill food pyramid lately? You’ll notice that we recommend a weekly dose of Fiction Fix as an essential part of your healthy cultural diet. How come? Well, you may not have time for novels, but short stories are like Flintstones vitamins: quick, fun, and good for you! Read this one, and don’t forget to grab a lollipop on your way out.

There’s a new story from Lorrie Moore, master of Midwestern yarns, in this week’s New Yorker. Adapted from Moore’s forthcoming novel, A Gate at the Stairs, “Childcare” introduces us to Tassie, a farm girl who goes away to college, where she has her first brushes with both Chinese food (“These odd Chinese vegetables — fungal and gnomic in their brown sauce — had for me the power of an adventure or a rite, a statement to be savored”) and liberal education:

Twice a week, a young professor named Thad, dressed in jeans and a tie, stood before a lecture hall of stunned farm kids like me and spoke thrillingly of Henry James’s masturbation of the comma. I was riveted. I had never before seen a man wear jeans with a tie.

The story concerns Tassie’s attempts to find work as a babysitter, and what happens when it turns out that one of the mothers who interviews her is adopting.  For a naif like Tassie, (“I’d known only one adopted girl when I was growing up, Becky Sussluch, who at sixteen was spoiled and beautiful and having an affair with a mussed and handsome student teacher whom I myself had a crush on”), it’s another eye-opening experience.

Read the full story here, and move on to thecomplete novel — coming in September — here.