“Two Nurses, Smoking”
by David Means
from the June 1, 2020 issue of The New Yorker
David Means has had a story per year in The New Yorker for a few years, and before that it was even more frequent. I like his work, and this story about two nurses falling in love sounds interesting.
The story is divided into about fifty short sections, each with a title that is actually the first words of the section. Here is the opening one, called “From a Wide Vantage.”
Two hospital workers, somewhat lonely-looking figures, taking a smoke break, back behind a trailer, leaning toward each other as they talked softly beside a row of neatly trimmed bushes. One had long hair and thin, pale arms that dangled from her scrubs. The other was big, burly, with a tattoo on his arm. Even that day in June — if you paid close attention, driving past — you might’ve seen desire in the way she pointed her toe and dug it into the dusty concrete while she listened to him, or you might’ve noticed the way he swayed as he talked, because he liked to riff on the subject at hand, and, lately, the last few times, when she visited with the trailer, he had expounded upon the recent news: a serial-killer nurse who had confessed to murdering, somewhere in Pennsylvania, at least a dozen patients. She, for her part, added a little commentary here and there, because it was a shared story that somehow seemed to make the job a bit easier, the kind of bullshit story that you’d tell to kill time, and she liked his deep, no- nonsense tone, which, she thought, might’ve come from his stint in the Army. He had green eyes that became deeply serious when he was listening.
The sections are all very short, some even just a few words. I’m curious if you think this works for the story. I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts, and I hope you’re on your way into a great final week of May.