I’ve been reading The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2022. So far, my favorite short story is “Skinder’s Veil” by Kelly Link. I’ve read it twice.
I want everyone to read this story. It felt as if it changed me, like suddenly a thin veil was pulled from my eyes and I noticed magic in everything. Andy, the main character, is a procrastinator with fairly humble goals for his future. Many of us are like Andy, we have terrible roommates, struggle to communicate our feelings, and need to pop a Vyvanse every now and then. We’d all like to spend a weekend away from the mess of it all, to find comfort in solitude, and regenerate our batteries. When someone offers you 900 dollars to house sit in a beautiful secluded Vermont home, with little notice, it’s tough to say no. Especially, when you have nothing going on other than writing a long dissertation. (Being the un-scholarly bookworm I am, I had no clue what that word was, it’s just a long paper)
I love the mystery of this short story so much, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I highly recommend you read it before you read the headings. There’s mention of fish town, Philly and Wawa that make the reading even more pleasurable (if you live in the area). There’s short stories within this short story. So go to the library, find this book, or if your clever there’s other ways to find what you need for free. Ask Reddit they know.
Then come back here and start a conversation with me. Or DM me on instagram. Whatever is easiest. I promise this story will leave you with much to think about.
There was much to think about, wasn’t there? When I was on the verge of finishing this story I was catching flies in my mouth and had to sit quietly letting it all sink in. There’s so much to expand on, I want a short film made, then a movie, and screw it a book!
I’m going to address different parts of the story, so feel free to skip headings that aren’t interesting to you and head to the ones that are. If I missed something you thought I should’ve addressed, please leave an angry comment that I will see later and completely miss the sarcasm. Thanks!
Hannah Wants Her Ring Back
Yeah I know, there was no ring in the story, shuddup for a second. Skinder’s house reminds me of the Artifact of Attraction trope, much like the ring from the Lord of The Rings. But in all seriousness, who would want to leave that house? I’d be like, “Rose White tell me another juicy story”, then BAM, I wake up to find I’ve just written another blockbuster movie. I’d house sit any day of the year, screw it I’d neglect my kids and family for months at that house.
The entire property sounds very enchanting, it’s the adult Bridge of Terabithia, sorta. Throughout the story, Hannah withholds telling Andy the truth about the house. Probably in the same way Andy decides to share a modified version of his stay. Maybe their shared silence must be the fear of sounding absolutely insane? Or, perhaps there’s shame and embarrassment involved. I don’t know about you, but I’d be telling Hannah exactly the crazy shit I was seeing and doing, and if she suggested it was the waters fault, well I’d be highly disappointed.
Andy ends up back at the house in the end. Is he Skinder? Why didn’t Skinder let him in? Was he following his own rule? Is it a PARADOX? Ugh much to think about. All I know is, if I spent a week there I’d be crawling back desperately feigning for the water and mushrooms hoping I meet another strange character to help open up my third eye.
The House Is Not A House?
The house is not a house, whenever Andy is on drugs. But the house belongs to Death, so maybe sober people only see an illusion of a house. Perhaps Death likes to sleep in nature but likes the idea of having doors because he’s eccentric and a bit strange.
Andy demonstrates he’s pretty skeptical about supernatural phenomenon when he talks about Bronwen’s ghost experience, “Regardless of what she felt or thought, it wasn’t real”. I wonder if he feels the same way about the house? When Bronwen shares her story of the ghost that follows, Andy finds it funny. But at the gas station he speaks out loud in hopes that the ghost will hear and leave Bronwen alone. So at least he’s a bit open-minded?
It’s tough to tell if he really believes everything that happened to him, or if he simply attributes his experiences to the hallucinogenic mushrooms and water he consumed. It seems perfectly reasonable that he hung out with a bear and some deer in the woods. Especially when you find out the house may not actually be a house, but just some thin veil Skinder is casting over his own neck of the woods.
Death is You
Or maybe he’s just Andy. I like the idea of Death killing everyone using their own faces. So whenever they come to take you away, it’s You that takes you from this world. Much to think about.
I was trying to piece the concept together in my brain while reading. The second read through helped me put the puzzle together. But my theory could be completely off.
Hannah does refer to Skinder as a male. So I ruled out the idea of Skinder always looking like the person who is house sitting. I certainly believe he is Death, but I don’t think Andy is. Is it merely just coincidence they look alike? Maybe I don’t have the puzzle together, what is your theory? In the meantime, I now have a story of my own I want to write inspired by Kelly Link. (She’s the Link)
Regardless this has to be Death’s home. Rose White or Rose Red alludes to it pretty clearly. There’s also a subtle hint when Andy reads, “WEST EAST HOME IS THE BEAST”, a play on the saying “WEST EAST HOME IS THE BEST.” There’s no place like the grim reapers home. It also makes sense that Death would enjoy Stephen King and Michael Connelly.
And Danny if your reading, Death also enjoys Settlers of Catan.
My Favorite Short
Once upon a time there was a starving artist. The short story about the writer making a modest living for herself and younger sister really resonated with me. Anyone who makes art knows there’s a masterpiece of their own waiting to be unleashed but bills need to be paid and food needs digesting.
“Skinder’s Veil” reminds me of the play The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. There are stories within the story that move, ignite, and inspire. When Rose White or Red tell a story, I get closer to the book and really listen. “The merit of the books was they were easy to produce at a rate which kept a roof over their heads, and they served purpose, which was to entertain those whose lives were hard enough”.
I’d like to make that part of my mission statement. No real agenda, no saving society, no ego driven projects, just providing a healthy dose of escapism. But for me it feels less rewarding adding to the collection of art these days. Who isn’t consuming something and who doesn’t want to be an artist? Art seems to do more harm than good. When one wants to be an artist and only that, it feels shameful. Are you even contributing to society? Especially when society seems to be so screwed.
I have a feeling this might turn into a rant about TikTok’s agenda of exposing us all to crude and dopamine hitting content instead of showing us wholesome and healthy forms of video. So I’ll stop now.
All I know is there’s a price to making art. It has the power to destroy the artist or make people do strange things like write blog post. Feel free to mark up your favorite sentences in red (inside joke for readers, why didn’t you read it!! WHY!!).
Thanks for reading this far, if you enjoyed, I’ll be doing this more often, so sign up if you want to be notified. Also follow my Instagram I’ll add updates to my stories. This marks the beginning of the Too Busy blogs. Signing off. 2BZ Out!