by Sarah Braunstein
from the August 9, 2021 issue of The New Yorker
Sarah Braunstein has published two other stories in The New Yorker — “Marjorie Lemke” in 2013 and “All You Have to Do” in 2015 — and I’m afraid I didn’t really care for either of them. That doesn’t dissuade me from digging into “Superstition,” though, when I get a chance later on this week. I quite like the opening paragraph, which I think captures a certain kind of late-1990s / early-2000s upbringing succinctly:
They were born to the cul-de-sacs of the Arizona desert, hose-drinking boys, allowed to run loose provided they came when called, and they did, these two. James and Lenny. Obedient and clever. Garages packed with scooters, go-carts, arsenals of water guns, each machine-gun soaker more elaborate than the last. They’d outgrown the toys only yesterday, but the rift was total. Now they were sixteen and spent afternoons in the food court dreaming up pranks, or sprawled on the carpet watching sitcoms. Their aimlessness was permitted—not a mark against their future. They had been in Gifted and Talented. Lenny was funny and good at math; James was an ace mimic. Sometimes he was in the school plays. James wanted to become an actor, a theatre rat in Manhattan; Lenny wanted to write for “The Simpsons.”
And I kept reading, enjoying myself as Lenny sells a “lucky” mounted fish on eBay, inventing stories to induce the gullible.
After three months, he had a dream. In the dream, the fish spoke to him. It said, Share the wealth. At this point his luck started wearing off. He got a parking ticket, and other annoying things happened, until he gave the fish to his sister, at which point she got a spot on the gymnastics team, etc., and then after three months she had a dream, the fish gave her the same message, and now they are selling it and hope the lucky winner respects its commands.
I’m curious to see where this story goes! Please feel welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section below!