The Corn Maiden

By Joyce Carol Oates

An incomparable grasp storyteller in all types, in The Corn Maiden and different Nightmares Joyce Carol Oates spins six imaginitive stories of suspense. “The Corn Maiden” is the gut-wrenching tale of Marissa, a stunning and candy eleven-year-old woman with hair the colour of corn silk. Taken by way of an older woman from her college who has instructed pals in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, during which a lady is sacrificed to make sure an exceptional crop, Marissa is saved in a secluded basement and confident that the realm has ended. Marissa’s possible inevitable destiny turns into ever extra terrifying because the older lady relishes her energy, giving the story insufferable rigidity with a stunning end. In “Helping Hands,” released right here for the 1st time, a lonely lady meets a guy within the not going muddle of a dingy charity store and extends friendship. She has no thought what sorts of doorways she might be beginning. The strong tales during this outstanding assortment extra improve Joyce Carol Oates’s status as one of many world’s maximum writers of suspense.

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Overhead was once a excessive ceiling of hammered tin, an old ceiling from which paint had peeled and flaked like leprous pores and skin. the ground naked floor-boards lined haphazardly with rug- and linoleum-remnants like jigsaw puzzle items that had labored their manner aside. And the smell—dust, dirt, anything acidulous, gingery-medicinal combined with the outer, gritty smoky-chemical air of Trenton—that stung her nostrils. What chagrin she felt to be bringing her husband’s intimate articles of garments to this position that was once a graveyard of undesirable issues: sofas that regarded as though, if overwhelmed with a brush, they might explode in a fury of dirt; lamps with stained and drunk-tilted colours; rolled-up carpets stacked opposed to the wall like cast-aside our bodies; boxes of heaped footwear and boots as in these bad images taken after the liberation of the Nazi demise camps; a small platoon of (men’s) outfits sagging on cord hangers on gurney-like racks, like hunched figures in a soup kitchen line. at the back of the counter a radio was once taking part in, grew to become low. the following used to be a snug if slovenly area an individual had formed for himself, like an animal’s den. the following used to be a hot nimbus of sunshine from a ground lamp, and in a sagging leather-based chair a guy with a dark-stubbled jaw and straggling darkish hair was once sprawled interpreting a book—Euripides’ performs. Belatedly—with a just-perceptible tinge of apology, until it was once annoyance—the stubble-jawed guy glanced up. “Ma’am! allow me assist you. ” With a express of deferential haste he set the booklet down—facedown, now not minding if the backbone cracked—untwined himself from the leather-based chair with no rather straightening up and scrambled round to front of the counter. He moved—limped, lurched—as one with a man-made leg may circulation, pumping himself ahead. “Sorry! Didn’t see you return in, long ago right here. ” His smile used to be a short flash baring small a little bit asymmetric the teeth and one darkish area the place a decrease incisor used to be lacking. From the widow’s fingers he took the smartly tied plastic baggage. For without doubt his paintings at supporting palms had made him practiced at making a choice on widow, bereft lady. on my own. With care the stubble-jawed guy situated her baggage on a desk as though their contents have been prone to be novel, important. Helene desired to clarify that she’d introduced simply small articles of clothing—she hadn’t but faced the duty of dealing with her husband’s higher things—but her voice faltered and failed and finally she stood gazing the baggage in a type of abashed silence. prior to the disaster in her lifestyles she’d been a lady who spoke simply to strangers, as to friends—now, her voice unaccountably faltered, usually she looked as if it would lose the thread of what she used to be announcing. And now she used to be frightened all at once that her husband’s issues didn’t qualify as lightly used, because the aiding palms commercial within the Mercer County telephone book had requested—or weren’t fresh; she used to be worried that the stubble-jawed clerk may research her donation and reject it. yet he spoke kindly, as though sensing her misery: “You can name assisting fingers, y’know.

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