“Tiny Man”
by Sam Shepard
from the December 5, 2016 issue of The New Yorker

december-5-2016It’s been quite a while since Sam Shepard published a story in The New Yorker — November 23, 2009, in fact — and I’m thrilled to see him here again. Though known primarily for his plays (and for his acting career), I’ve generally enjoyed Shepard’s short stories and wondered, since his last collection was published in January 2010, when we might see more.

I haven’t read this one fully yet, but I’m definitely interested after the strange first paragraph:

Early morning: They deliver my father’s corpse in the trunk of a ’49 Mercury coupe, dew still heavy on the taillights. His body is wrapped up tight in see-through plastic, head to toe. Flesh-colored rubber bands bind it at the neck, waist, and ankles — mummy style. He’s become very small in the course of things — maybe eight inches tall. In fact, I’m holding him now, in the palm of my hand. I ask them for permission to unwrap his tiny head, just to make sure he’s truly dead. They allow me to do this. They all stand aside, hands clasped behind their tailored backs, heads bowed in a kind of ashamed mourning, but not something you would question them on. It’s smart to keep on their good side. Besides, they seem quite polite and stoic now.

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