Friday from the Archives: “The Anderson Kid” by Anita Collins from NCLR 26 (2017).
We join family and friends in mourning the passing of Anita Collins, our ’16 Doris Betts Fiction Prize winner, who passed away in December.
Her story, printed in our 2017 issue, was her first publication.
The short story is told in first person by a “recovery diver” (“They used to call it “rescue diving,” but it doesn’t take long to figure out there’s not much rescue about it.”) searching for a high school graduate in a lake.
The narrator shares about the other divers; the victim and family and friends; and personal history. “When you’re pulling yourself along in the dark and the quiet, it frees your mind up to do some thinking. You want to distract yourself so you don’t focus too much on what else is down here with you (snapping turtles come to mind). Used to be, I’d occupy my mind with planning our church’s next barbecue fundraiser or thinking about the cabin Ada and I were going to build when we retired. Now seems like my thoughts always want to go to darker things, like what if Gray hadn’t gotten down to me in time.”
Upon selecting Anita Collins’s story, as the 2016 Doris Betts Fiction Prize winner, NCLR Fiction Editor Liza Wieland wrote, “I admire ‘The Anderson Kid’ for its clean and emotionally honest writing. The narrator, a diver who is working to find the body of a drowned swimmer, is both moved by his task and thoroughly businesslike. It’s this mix of compassion and focus that drew me to this story, and to the way the writer creates suspense even though we know what he will find. Through the lens of the diver’s work, literally through his mask, we see the family and friends of Evan Anderson, as well as the rest of the dive team. We become the diver; we experience his absolute need to see, even though we are terrified by what we will find.”