Short Story Month, Day 18: JSP Jacobs
"The Expected Passing of Elliot’s Wife" by JSP Jacobs
I like a good writing contest, but I hate the entry fees. I get that most journals have no money and need to compensate their amazing judges, but paying $20 for someone to read microfiction is ludicrous. When I do find a good one, though, I tell my friends to enter, too, because if I'm going to lose a writing contest, I'd rather lose to a friend than a stranger. This is why, out of all the JSP Jacobs stories out there, I chose "The Expected Passing of Elliot’s Wife." Jennifer is someone I tell about contest when I'm entering them or, in this case, couldn't enter because working on my book made submitting multiple stories to SmokeLong Quarterly's Kathy Fish Fellowship improbable. Luckily, Jennifer became a finalist, and this story was published to highlight her talents.
Many of Jennifer's stories contain quirky characters or quirky situations, but this one is comparatively straightforward and, as evident by the title, melancholy with a clear ending. Much as I like quirky, I also like that this instead a quiet but impactful slice of life story rather than a journey filled with conflict. We're left to contemplate Elliot as a character and how he reflects ourselves and the people around us. At first, Elliot just sounds like a person with a great capacity for compassion, but as we keep reading, we see that he, like his wife, is tired. Despite his capacity for love, he hasn't the means for expression and no one seems interested in helping him the way he helps them. Not even his daughter recognizes the way she takes without giving, without caring in return.
The one person who does seem to care, though? His wife. It seems like the ultimate sacrifice that she decides that their daughter needs him, then dies. But what does it mean to be needed if he's not also loved? That loneliness is hard to contemplate sometimes when we read, but I always want that feeling to stay for a while after I'm done because I want to look at other around me—real people rather than just characters—and wonder if they need someone to care about them, too.