Review of “Raggedy Slipper”

 

 

John reads “Raggedy Slipper” by Cathy Eaton 

 

Nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize

by Bartleby Snopes: A Literary Magazine


 

Posted Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cathy Eaton uses sweaty sock smell and ironically, death, to breathe life into “Raggedy Slipper.” Her short piece (somewhere between flash and conventional short fiction) is filled with those fascinating things that inevitably get left behind:  slippers, overalls, wives, and sons. All of these things belong somewhere after they are left, and Eaton looks to explore where.

 

“Raggedy Slipper” follows Becca, a Pennsylvania farmer, as she traverses the solemn days following her husband Henry’s death. Household uncertainty is paired with “casseroles and pasta salads,” and despite the enormity of what’s happened, chores still remain. The Steelers hat of Roger, a friend of the deceased, and the Jersey cows that Becca tends are subtle reminders that this is a land of duty and a culture that has long stood without stagnation as a result of personal emotions. Becca must face what has befallen her with the same stoic resolve that has kept her community intact all this time.

 

Through the arrival of Seth, Becca’s son, the full effects of Henry’s death are illuminated. But what the interplay between these characters reveals is that the effects are quite different for each character individually. There is, on the one hand, the young man mournfully reflecting but still looking forward to initiating his own life, and on the other, the mother who has seemingly just lost half of hers. Both characters know this truth about the other. The final dialogue between the two is simple and yet it bleeds with the sympathy and compassion found in human nature.

 

In the bio of Eaton provided by Bartleby Snopes it states that she believes “conceiving a story and then living through its many transformations is like being pregnant giving birth, and raising a child: some days a joy, other days a heartache.”

 

I’m not sure there is a more perfect way than this to describe how “Raggedy Slippers” works. Nor is there a more apt setting than that confused and purgatorial space that exists after the death of a loved one through which to explore those feelings and themes that emerge out of simultaneous joy and heartache. On the surface of “Raggedy Slippers” are ordinary circumstances and situations that most people must face. Underneath the objective prose breathes an existence that is cyclical despite its spontaneity. There’s no telling when joy or sorrow will be found, but they lead up to the same thing. “Raggedy Slippers” is not celebration nor is it tragedy. It’s simply life; unrefined, uninhibited.