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SHE ALWAYS FILLS THEM IN. Every white space in stories I assign from our workshop’s story collection bends to her will. She is adamant about her observations. She tells the class what happened, what we missed by failing to address each white space. She says in one story the neighbor is clearly stalking the teenage daughter; in another story the anorexic wife is having an affair; in another, the husband beats his delinquent son. She does the same with her fellow students’ stories. She announces: the twins drained the pool; the uncle stole the car; the old lady killed the cat. The students resent her willfulness, and soon their stories have no white spaces.

Tonight, she is on the workshop schedule. She passes out blank pages with titles: “The Banquet above the Balcony”; “Fatal Camping Trip with Cousins”; “House of Hollow Doors.” After class, I tell her the titles show promise, but she is going to fail if she doesn’t write stories to go with her titles. If she even has stories? She has a flat, blank face. Blank eyes. “You don’t get it,” she says. “My stories are all white spaces.”



Pamela Painter is the award-winning author of five story collections, most recently Fabrications: New and Selected (Johns Hopkins). Her stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies,  on the YouTube channel Cronogeo, and have been staged in Los Angeles, London, and New York.




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