Sissy and Cash Behind the Counter: Margaret Malone’s “Minor Theatre”

The final finalist featured in the Wordstock 2007 Short Fiction collection is a great companion piece to the preceding story, “Corinth Behind the Counter.” Margaret Malone’s “Minot Theatre” also deals with an ambiguous relationship, but the two characters—known mainly by the names they put on their work badges in jest, Sissy and Cash—in Malone’s story are young hipster types working together at a movie theater, rather than the frumpy Corinth and her would-be suitor Lloyd. You can throw that distinction aside, though, and spend more time contemplating how two people obviously attracted to one another can get a lot out of their relationship if they don’t pair up.

You also get a lot out of these stories as a reader. Margaret Malone shares with the rest of the writers featured in this collection a real talent for description, with a knack for selecting just the right details at the right time. Here’s how she describes their work:

They are in the dark movie house, theater number two of two. They are supposed to be cleaning up, dumping whatever they find into the thick, black trash bags they drag from row to row, or offering what is left behind to lost and found or each other. What they ditch might be popcorn bags or empty cups, burrito wrappers, wet socks, beer bottles, bike locks, batteries, a flip flop, occasionally a syringe or used condom, and one time a pair of industrial strength black rubber gloves. What they might put in the big cardboard box in the office which is akin to opening their pockets could be glasses, keys, wallets, cash, knit caps, sweatshirts, CDs, scarves, coffee mugs, and once a journal written by a girl that was living in a van with her boyfriend who sold pot outside the supermarket, sometimes he would bite her when they kissed, it said, bite until she bled. They should be sweeping kernels off the floor. But the theater is pretty clean as is and she is tired, out drinking the night before, avoiding going home, avoiding less rumpled sheets and new familiar space that used to be filled with a couch and a boyfriend and his records lining the perimeter of the baseboard, alphabetical and pristine despite a proper shelf, a jagged alphabet trail leading a listener through three walls of living room and one wall of loft. Her boyfriend had liked his own things separate from hers. He did not like to share. An only child until late in life, sharing was just an extension of all the things that eventually went wrong with his family. So she let him.

It’s the eve of Wordstock 2008, so I’ll just give one last congratulations to last year’s batch of finalists before the unveiling of the 2008 finalists tomorrow.

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