Literary Orphans

Broken Thing by Tom Whalen


“I can’t let this thing tell me what to do,” Grandfather said, stepped into the street, and was run over by a diesel hauling nightgowns to the mall.

I looked at Grandmother, who appeared unchanged, that is in no sense a “thing,” as the expression on her face turned from shock to horror.

Still, I wasn’t entirely convinced my grandfather wasn’t right.

“What are you really?” I asked.

“Your grandmother,” she said, scraping her balding, despairing head on the sidewalk, which, I admit, was unusual, but then so were the circumstances, what with Grandfather dead on the street strewn with nightgowns.

“Why did you kill Grandfather?”

“I didn’t, I didn’t! I told him to wait for us!”

“Ah, yes,” I said, just like Grandfather would say, “that’s just like something Grandmother would say,” as if she were only another broken thing.

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Tom Whalen’s books include DollsElongated Figures,  The President in Her TowersWinter Coat, and most recently a translation of Robert Walser’s Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories (NYRB Classics). He lives in Stuttgart, Germany.

Photo of Tom Whalen by Kim Graser (2015)

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–Art by Milton G. (Paradise Found)

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