We recently published Todd Clay Stuart’s mournful “Nebraska.”
Here, we ask him two questions about his story:
1) What struck me about this story was the way you bring beauty into such a horrible moment — the sister’s “brown lossless eyes,” that just sings to me. Do you think that beauty can still be found, even in something awful like this?
I go along with Baudelaire, who said, “I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.” Of course, we don’t think about the beautiful sunset while our heart is breaking or the lovely relationship we have with someone while that person’s sliced off fingers are lost in the grass. But once the horror burns off a little, then maybe—just maybe—we can find something of beauty there: a selfless gesture, a brave act, a meaningful contrast to the awfulness of it all.
2) There are moments like this that are so hard for someone to let go. We see that the narrator, at the end, when he goes home, continues to search for his sister’s missing fingers. Why do you think that this, what is basically his sister’s loss, has stuck with him for so long?
Recurring images are something we all experience to some degree. Dreams, nightmares, replayed sequences and stills of people and events in our lives. Our mind’s own unreliable, never-ending streaming service. Some of these events may not even seem significant enough to warrant recurrence. But the reality is that we have little control over the process. Recurring images suggest that they are somehow meaningful to us, though we may not understand why. As for the narrator of “Nebraska,” maybe he never got over that day when he was ten, felt guilt over the incident his whole life, but I like to think there was more to it than that, that maybe those missing fingers brought he and sister closer, deeply and forever connecting them in ways nothing else ever could.