Some authors have the skill to turn character into narrative, and it’s one of those things that I find myself studying, dissecting, and trying hard not to descend entirely into paralytic envy over, but I love this type of short story so very much that I generally get over it just to sit back and enjoy. “Peggy Park,” by Bryan Washington, does this with a group of neighbourhood young adults and on the surface, it’s simply a list of characters, but holy crap does it tell one hell of a quick-punch story. Like the rest of Lot: Stories, it’s a snapshot of a place and people usually dismissed, poor and not-white Houstonians, but through the lens of a particular park, and those who played there.
The first line, “Micah turned pro and the rest of us went regular.” is so pitch-perfect for the tale as a whole. What follows is a run through of every player, their position, and—most centrally—where they are now. It’s a snapshot sort of story, a list of characters and situations and often tragedy, but it paints this brilliant picture of there can be a group of people playing baseball one moment, and in what can seem like the blink of an eye, they are gone, scattered to different places and lives, and with perhaps one or two of the whole to even remember.
I often talk about whether or not a story feels “triumphant” (especially when I’m talking about stories that centre queer voices and queer characters), but I think “Peggy Park” is a brilliant example of a story where I can’t be that reductive. There’s a triumph, yes, but I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t the point. There’s a scene near the end of this incredibly short story where Micah—the one who turned pro—succeeds because of all the others, and I think that’s the moment the story collected itself into a whole for me: the “we” of it, maybe. It stuck with me a long time thereafter.