Once she took a photograph of us, the flash reflecting off the glass and I screamed, which my husband thought unnecessarily dramatic. When my husband confronted her, she explained in a lilting little girl's voice that she was only taking a Polaroid of her cat. After that we hung curtains in the living room and planted more ficus trees along the border of our property.
from “What He Was Like” by Alexis Landau
In this short story by Alexis Landau (author of the just-released novel The Empire of the Senses), the narrator and her husband live next door to the proverbial crazy cat lady--a wispy-haired old woman who may or may not have given the evil eye to the couple’s unborn child. There’s a lot more nuance to “What He Was Like” that just this Peeping Thomasina aspect--the narrator’s blossoming relationship with Nadia, a convenience store clerk, for instance--but since the Watchlist anthology is all about surveillance, the idea of neighbor spying on neighbor is what interests me most. It’s as fascinating and unsettling as James Stewart’s telephoto lens in Rear Window. All I can say is, Thank God for ficus trees.
Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21. The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.