Short Stories 366:128 — “Windfall,” by Lesley Nneka Arimah

coverHoly flying crap this story. Okay, first off, major content warnings for, well, all sorts of things: familial abuse, under-age sex and statutory rape, injury, miscarriage… it’s a lot. Like most of What It Means when a Man Falls from the Sky, the core upon which this story is built is a familial relationship between a mother and daughter, and in this case, they’re on their own ever since an accident claimed the life of the father, and a settlement check set the mother on a particular path.

The daughter—written in the second-person “you” to incredible effect—tells the story, and it unfolds almost casually, told with an off-the-cuff tone despite the various moments of truly awful, illegal, and life-changing damages done to her. The mother blew through the initial settlement thanks to young men who realized she was a somewhat easy mark, and thereafter a second accident—a fall in a grocery store that left the daughter with a brace and the lingering unsurety of just how accidental the fall was—another settlement puts them on the path they now live: from one false “fall” to another, seeking the pay cheques and gag orders that keep them flush and always moving.

Then something changes for the daughter, and she tries to put a stop to it, tries to get out, tries to settle and reach for something different. And the final narrative zag at the end of the story is an emotional punch, followed by an even worse moment that somehow seals it all together into the brilliant, unsettling, and incredibly dark story it is. The audio performer blows this one away with the progression of the flippant narration into something a little cooler, then a little vulnerable, and—ultimately—to the story’s final moments.

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