“Beluga, Beluga” was published in the Fall 2008 edition of Sotto Voce.Â Nothing happens as expected in this story by Mark Leahy.Â
The first sentence immediately grabs the reader.Â
Â “I wake up on the foam mattress on my sister’s floor and for an hour the cat and I watch squirrels dart across the living room skylight.”Â
Why is the narrator at her sister’s?Â Is the hour time wasted?Â Is there somewhere else the narrator should be?Â Or is the narrator’s life such a mess that no one notices she’s not where she’s supposed to be?
Leahy picks words and phrases that are concise yet say so much.Â For example, “we’veÂ just beenÂ vending” conjures up the image of two people standing in front of the vending machine discussing the options and finally making a decision.Â The act itself is impersonal while the conversation about the choices can be the opposite.Â Returning to one’s desk with the vending machine prize can be a disheartening experience if the chosen item is not 100% to the person’s liking.
The question of whether the disappointment expressed in the endingÂ is for herself or her sister keeps it from being heartbreaking.
There are a lot of layers to this story and I think that’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back to it.