20 Under 40: A Comprehensive (Subjective) Guide

Salvatore Scibona, “The Kid,” June 14/21:

Salvatore Scibona
Carlos Ferguson

With this story about a young father (Elroy) who abandons his son (Janis) at an airport, I think Scibona’s biggest achievement was inhabiting the minds of both characters (and shifting between the two every few pages). The story is told in third-person, but only from the mind of the son or the father. Take this, when Janis is sitting with airport officers that have brought him to a room and treated him with a mixture of aggravation and good intentions: “Why did it feel goodto cry? For ages, Janis had wondered what was the matter with him that when he cried, which was feeling bad, it felt good somehow.”

Elroy makes it onto another flight and finds his father, apparently with very little guilt about leaving the boy, and Janis is still with authorities when we leave him. By the end, we’re a few years in the future and Elroy gets a letter from his former wife asking about her son. We can only imagine that he’s going to have a hard time answering that letter.

But you have to wonder where the hell the kid ended up, if anyone ever tracks down Elroy to make him responsible for what he left behind, etc. In that regard, this may have been a piece of a novel. And in the Q&A with the New Yorker, Scibona says that the idea came from when he “saw a young boy at a ticket counter, sobbing. He seemed unexceptional until I realized that the women trying to comfort him were not his guardians, did not know him, and could not figure out what language he was speaking… I have no idea what became of him.” Then, asked what he’s now working on, he answers “A novel.” Could be obvious.

I hope this wasn’t an excerpt. I think it works better as a short story. And because the boy is literally left standing in the airport, I’m left thinking of this story more than many of the others.


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