Robert Boswell is the author of eleven books. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, Pushcart Prize Stories, Best Stories from the South, Esquire, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, Colorado Review.
“The Right Thing” was published in The Antioch Review while I was in my final year of the MFA program at the University of Arizona. The story is about a Vietnam vet trying to make his way in the world without being able to escape the past. When I was a counselor I worked with several Vietnam veterans. The story I tell in “The Right Thing” is not based on any story they told me; rather, it’s an attempt to understand the haunted feeling they described to me. The only part of the story that comes directly from one of them is a line of dialogue: “Does this sound like a whisper?” One of the vets asked me that while we were speaking. For reasons I cannot really explain, that line funneled me directly into the narrative.
Reading the story now, twenty-some years after writing it, I am reasonably happy with it. I see a lot that I’d edit and change, of course, but the basic story seems fairly sound. The idea of the past and present existing simultaneously is an obsession of mine, and until just now, rereading the story after all these years, I had forgotten that it started with “The Right Thing.” Characters attempting to evaluate their lives in terms of right and wrong is another obsession. My command of craft has, perhaps, improved but the obsessions endure unchanged.
Read “The Right Thing” on Fictionaut.
Previously on Line Breaks:
- “Gershwin’s Second Prelude” by Charles Baxter
- “Something Better Than This” by Mary Gaitskill
- “Coping Stones” by Ann Beattie
- “Moving Day” by Robert Olen Butler
- “The Palatski Man” by Stuart Dybek
- “My Date with Satan” by Stacey Richter
- “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel
- “Credentials” by John Holman
- “Pink” by Terese Svoboda
- “The Line” by James Robison
- “We” by Mary Grimm
- “Shopgirls” by Frederick Barthelme
- “Fragment from an Untelevised Revolution” by Rick Moody
- “One-Way Ticket” by Antonya Nelson
- “The OD & Hepatitis RR or Bust” by T.C. Boyle