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“Yours” by Mary Robison is a masterful story. In class on Thursday we were given the advice to “look outward when you must contemplate.” The action of this entire story is very brief. Allison arrives home carrying pumpkins. She reads the mail. Clark and Allison carve the pumpkins. They go to bed. Allison begins to die. What makes this story so emotional is how much of the story is spent looking outward. Robison doesn’t focus solely on the action of the story, but instead spends the time talking about the inconsequential things like what is in the stack of mail (coupons, bills, tv guide, and a letter that informs the reader that this relationship isn’t one that everyone supports). These minor things end up being the sustenance of the story. Robison gives the reader the chance to reflect with the characters during this scene:

“Your jack-O’­lanterns are much, much better than mine,” Clark said to her.

“Like hell,” Allison said.

“Look at me,” Clark said, and Allison did.

She was holding a squishy bundle of newspapers. The papers reeked sweetly with the smell of pumpkin guts.

“Yours are far better,” he said.

“You’re wrong. You’ll see when they’re lit,” Allison said.

She went inside, came back with yellow vigil candles. It took her a while to get each candle settled, and then to line up the results in a row on the porch railing. She went along and lit each candle and the pumpkin lids over the little flames.

“See?” she said.

They sat together a moment and looked at the orange faces.

“We’re exhausted. It’s good night time,” Allison said. “Don’t blow out the candles. I’ll put in new ones tomorrow.”

This lets the reader feel and build an emotional response to the situation when it comes time for Allison’s dying. Robison allows the reader to view the characters and form a bond and an opinion within three pages because of the little details from Clark’s walker with padded feet and Allison’s “bright dyed denims” to the way they carved their pumpkins.

Though it won’t be the last time, this was the first time this semester I’ve felt this moved by a story. When I finished reading “Yours” I had to just sit still and think. Allison was sick and the reader knows that from the first page, but still, it seems as if the 78-year-old man should be the one we lose instead of the youthful child daycare center volunteer. When Allison begins to die, it is both startling and expected. It’s as if the narrator told us what was going to happen, but naiveté got the best of me. Yes, I expected Allison to die (and Clark, too, for that matter) and so she couldn’t actually die; then when she does, it’s shocking. “Hey,” I thought, “You can’t take her from me. I liked her.” I left confused and contemplative. Saddened.

Exactly right.

One Response to “Yours”

  1. Thanks, Jenny. Fine work.