This short story might be literary fiction because there are no dinosaurs in it. Although the nine-year-old boy who might or might not have Asperger Syndrome frequently thinks about dinosaurs, as evidenced by his several intense, detailed internal monologues in which he names hundreds of different dinosaurs ordered in various ways—alphabetically, chronologically by first fossil appearance, by size, etc.—no actual dinosaur appears in the narrative. An Iguanadon does not pick the boy up from school one day; he does not discover a clutch of Bambiraptors in the woods near his home; no Tarbosaurus terrorizes the bucolic New England town where the story takes place, where the boy lives with his two mothers.
This story might be literary fiction because the lesbian couple—whose son might or might not have an autism spectrum disorder—have periodic conversations about what it means to be a lesbian—in a bucolic New England town and elsewhere—and about sexual identity and gender roles generally, but there are no sex scenes in this story. There is one rather long section of dialogue that takes place in the lesbians’ bed, but the passage is ultimately very disappointing to anyone hoping for some hot bucolic New England mom-on-mom action.
This story might be literary fiction because there is in fact no action of any kind in forty magazine pages. When the one mother is in town, at the hardware store, picking up batteries and ice salt in anticipation of the coming Nor’easter, and she notices, as the sky outside grows rapidly darker and the air colder, as if the sun is folding introspectively upon itself or whatever, that the only other person in the store with her is a man she has never seen before in the bucolic New England town where she and her wife and their dinosaur-obsessed son have lived for six years, having moved there from another New England town, not quite as bucolic as this one... by the time she is finished wondering who this stranger might be, and where he might be from, and what he might be doing in town and what his views on sexual identity and gender roles might be, he’s paid for his purchases and left the store, never to be seen again. He certainly doesn’t rape or murder anyone, as the reader hopes he’s in town to do.
The only plot in the story, which might be literary fiction for this reason alone, is the cemetery plot visited by the other mother, while her counterpart is not being kidnapped or cannibalized in town. Snow has begun to fall, and by the time she finds her way to the grave she has come to see, the engraving on the tombstone is already obscured. Undaunted, the woman stands at the graveside and remembers, at length, her childhood summers spent with her grandmother—and her grandmother’s own colored, lesbian partner—at their bungalow in the South, the site of regular cross-burnings and other hate crimes, until an uneasy feeling suggests to the woman that she is standing at the wrong grave. She brushes the snow from the tombstone with her sleeve and reveals a name that is not her grandmother’s—but of course it isn’t; her grandmother wouldn’t be buried here, in a bucolic New England town that the granddaughter herself moved to only six years ago. Her grandmother is still alive, in fact. This is the grave of a different old woman who had reminded the young woman of her own grandmother before she, the old woman, had died, and the two women had become friends in the last year of the old woman’s life, so the young woman now visits the old—now dead—woman’s grave from time to time. The old, dead woman does not come back to life. There are no zombies or ghosts in this story.
At his school, the boy who might or might not lack nonverbal communication skills, demonstrate limited empathy with his peers, and be physically clumsy waits for one or the other—or even both at once!—of his two mothers to get him. He stands rigidly still at a window at the front of the school building, staring out into the bucolic New England snow, counting flakes as they fall. Sometimes, the other kids will tease him, call him robotic—but there are no robots in this story. The only mechanical thing of note, really, is the coffee maker in the kitchen of the home where the two lesbians are raising a boy who thinks about dinosaurs a lot, and where, when they are all three having dinner that night, as the snow continues to fall, one of them asks another, “How was your day?,” the question just has so much fucking meaning that this must be a work of literary fiction.
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.