Nannette Croce: “The Box of Cereal”


It’s turning into The Rose & Thorn appreciation week here at Reiter’s Block. R&T editor Nannette Croce’s story about a man facing the brokenness of his relationships is well-paced, heartbreaking, and worth your attention. Here’s the beginning:

Hi, this is Richard Drake. I’m either not home, or I’m busy creating some ingenious piece of software. So leave a message at the tone, and I’ll get back to you – honest.

“Richard, are you there? Are you there?” I thought it might be my boss, but it’s Gwen. Ever since the suicide, she has this new voice, high-pitched and loud, even more of a teeth-grinder than her old one. “I need to talk to you. It’s important.” At the word “important,” I reach for the phone. Then I remember that there is nothing important left to tell me, and I relax back into my chair. “Richard. If you’re there and you’re not picking up….” There is some dead air. The machine clicks off. Maybe I’ll call her later. It doesn’t really matter. She’ll call back if I don’t.

She’s probably calling to ask me one more time what I remember about that weekend…that last one. She has to have asked the same questions a hundred times by now. What did he do? What did he say? Did he act depressed? Where could he have gotten the gun? And I answer her the same way every time. “I don’t remember.” “I don’t know.”

Read the rest here.

16 comments on “Nannette Croce: “The Box of Cereal”

  1. Hank Rodgers says:

    Wonderful story, Jendi! I printed and saved it with my “favorite shorts”, most of which are from the “Best American” anthologies.

    Reminds me of Alice Munro’s great story “The Children Stay”,told from the departing female point of view, which I most highly recommend, if you haven’t read it.

    I had a teenaged nephew who committed suicide in the midst of a family situation somewhat like that described by Croce; and am myself among the perpetrators/victims of a long-ago divorce, and father of a, then teenaged, son who is now middle-aged, divorced, and with his own teenaged son… too, Croce’s protagonist comes all too close to home, for me…

    These two, Croce and Munro, stories are both, particularly for me, quiet, wrenching, descriptions of the time that we come to realize the price that is paid, by all concerned, for our own necessarily selfish, though earnest and hopeful, choices in life.

    Even we perpetrators are the victims of the foolish hope that we can reclaim lost options; and of the fact that every action, whether choice or accident, leads to a place from which there is no return.

  2. Jendi Reiter says:

    My heartfelt condolences on the death of your nephew. I’m honored that you would share that painful story here. How easily we get ourselves into situations that there’s no way to get out of without hurting others. At times it can feel that we’re helpless not to repeat a family pattern. I know it can be a struggle to forgive myself and other family members for those repetitions, and to honor every little step in a new direction.

  3. Alegria Imperial says:

    Two ‘orphaned’ cats have prompted me to write in and tag some thoughts to this posting. Indeed, it’s a moving story that resonates deeply with readers who have experienced the shattering pain of separation or those like me who have been somehow snarled into it first as a compassionate observer, now a participant because of two cats. This couple who live in an efficient yet downy as a comforter suite two floors down in my apartment building has just stepped into and thrown off by a land mine. The man was forciby taken away by 911 and the wife has fled to one of the Atlantic islands to her grandmother’s embrace which nurtured her for reprieve, as she puts it. Apparently, both man and wife grew up stunted in spirit, a spirit bruised and torn by an abusive parent. It could have been their shredded beings that came together in search of repair. They have been together for 12 years drawn by their love of the French language and cats and perhaps more that underlie a sense of wholeness even fullness in that home now only their ‘boys’ their cats live in. I walk the cats every evening and often linger in the lambent bedroom lights. A palpable kind of loving, some kind of wedded-ness, a word I often misspell as ‘welded’, brushes me soft as whispers when I sit there. Often I find myself, leafing through bits of paper lying around that the cats mess up in their free play, hoping and yes, finding scribblings of hope. The cats play around mindless of pain like children, staring at me with their crystal irises. ‘Orphaned’ cats perhaps less as victims but more as accidents of loving, I think again, praying for healing. And yet, again, I know my prayer is of my own making. Would it help, I wonder.

  4. Thank you for recognizing “our” Nannette’s story *smiling*

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