Friday from the Archives: “Distance” the 2007 Doris Betts Fiction Prize Winner by Thomas Wolf from NCLR Issue 17 (2008)
“That spring, Coover moved to Monmouth, Illinois, the town where Wyatt Earp was born. Coover rented a small furnished house for himself on a dead-end street, a few miles east of the Mississippi River.” So begins Wolf’s Betts-prize winning short story, a brief look into Coover’s experience with his landlord, Johnson, and Johnson’s girlfriend, Holly. Even mundane lives contain thrillers every once in a while.
Wolf, who resides in Chapel Hill, also won the 2011 Betts Prize with the short story “Boundaries.” That story starts “My wife likes to get up just before dawn, when the sky is still gray or streaked with a rosy light and the day is about to form. She lets me sleep for another thirty minutes while she makes coffee and carefully sets the table and arranges whatever it is that we are going to have for breakfast. She closes the blinds on the kitchen windows so that the morning sun will not stream into the room and blind us. This is her time, a private world of stillness and the order she imposes on her surroundings. This half-hour, she tells me, is the best part of her day.” The remainder is mainly a reminiscence of a story about a harrowing incident in the narrator’s small hometown and the youth involved.
Both stories are quiet, yet both startle the reader with driving plot points. Wolf’s writing skill clearly lies in story-crafting, whether that’s the short stories like NCLR has published or his book-length creative nonfiction work.
Betts Prize winners come from a wide range of writing backgrounds, places, and literary directions. This year’s submission window is open through October 31. Find out more on the submission guidelines.
The 2011 short story “Boundaries” is available on ProQuest.