Photo by Dan Keck
Almost once a week, I head to my local post office branch to ship issues of Story to readers like you. It’s on the same lot as a grocery store, Lucky’s, so I often bop over there to get a sandwich, or olive oil, or coffee, or whatever other single items I realize I don’t have in my kitchen cabinets.
The branch is small: they don’t handle passports, but they do sell greeting cards and have P.O. boxes. The floor is cracked, the wall could use a touch-up paint job. In the corner, hidden, is a large stereo that is always tuned to our local pop radio station. The radio is usually on, but not always.
On this particular day, the line was four people long. We all wore masks and clutched our envelopes, boxes, packages. A fifth person walked in, got to the back of the line, and almost immediately said, I love this song. Isn’t this song the best?
I can’t say with total certainty which pop ditty it was on the radio, but I think it was a Carly Rae Jepsen song. Or not: I’m truly not sure. The woman at the back of the line said something else, sang along for one line, and from the sound, shuffled her feet a bit to sway along. Under my mask, I smiled. It was a good song. I bopped my head a bit. Great pop songs are catchy, infectious, and, no, they aren’t Beethoven, but so what?
I peeked over my shoulder. Even with all of us masked, I could see cheeks rounding into smiles. Everyone was swaying, just a little—hips, shoulders, heads—and doing a little footwork, too. What an odd place to find a little bit of joy.
Or perhaps not. For years, Marie Kondo has been asking us to hold up things we own—clothes, houseware, trinkets, products—and determine if they spark joy. The idea seems, to me, preposterous when you examine it. But joy from others? From people? Isn’t that where joy should come from?
In the middle of a dark year—a year of a global pandemic that has killed more than one million people, wildfires roaring across a heating planet, and a financial recession laced with race and class tensions—finding joy, maybe even solace, in others feels rare. But it continues to happen. Art and literature can help us achieve such a state. And it is in that spirit that we present the third and final issue of Story in 2020. This issue is the work of twelve writers, three artists, and more than a dozen readers. This is our work, our gift to you, in solace and joy and peace.