Month of the Shorties: “Colombo” by Ben Loory

By Melanie Yarbrough

Today’s shorty can be found in the tenth issue of Keyhole magazine.

Don’t let the length or the quiet writing of Ben Loory’s “Colombo” fool you. Inside these (barely) two pages are books’ worth of commentary on death, memories, the future, life. The narrator recounts a jar of tiny puddle fish that used to sit on his back porch as a kid. He lists names he remembers – they gave each of the fish names – along with the ritual of their burial. Despite the great care shown for each tiny life they took responsibility for, the narrator is faced with the task of accepting their disappearance. As time goes on, there are fewer rains and fewer fish until all that is left is the narrator’s memory of their ancestors.

Loory travels from the minute and immediate task of gathering and caring for the fish to the grand and all-encompassing image of the sea. From puddles to oceans, there is no permanence, there is no certainty in what has passed, only in what is. Still, Loory manages a hopeful tone in the humbling realization that we are a tiny factor in a universe too big to understand. The narrator’s emphasis on the importance of names comes full circle in the final two lines.

Check out more of Ben Loory at his website or his always entertaining Twitter feed. His book Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day is forthcoming from Penguin Books in July 2011.

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