Pushcart XLII: Reginald McKnight, “Float” from Georgia Review, Spring 2016

Walk into my room and come to find one of my Jordan Air Max 360s floating about five foot off the ground. Soon as I see it, my heart kinda go pie-yow! and my neck get hot. Then I smile at my foolish, foolish dumb-ass ass, and I say to myself my brother Ricky had done strung it up from the ceiling. I grab the thing, but it don’t budge. It’s like it’s glued up there in the air, and much as I tug and pull on it, that bad boy ain’t coming down. It ain’t hanging from nothing I can see, just up there where it don’t belong. Feel my neck start to warm up again, and my hands tremble a little. I tug, a couple more times, then give up. Turn back to my door like I’m fenda go ask somebody to come have a look, but I don’t know who in this house gonna explain this.

Complete story available online at Georgia Review

So what would you do if you were a high school kid who came home to find a shoe floating in your room, and nobody else would say anything about it but pretty much acted like it belonged there all along?

Dontrell has a kind of clueless helplessness that emanates as adorability. His father leans an elbow on the shoe while scolding him for leaving a wrench outside; his mother just skips right over it when he asks her; his brother Ricky uses it as a towel rack. What’s a kid to do? ‘Trey’s befuddlement, his frustration, is almost another character in the story. It’s as compelling as any who-done-it, this who’s-gonna-speak story.

Our view of his character deepens when he does something that’s pretty smart, solution-oriented, and logical: he goes to the library and looks for other people having this problem. On the internet he finds lots of people with lots of crazy-ass problems, and learns “a whole lotta people cain’t spell no better than me. Grown people. White people. Motherfuckers from England”, but nothing pertinent to floating shoes. He wonders if he’s crazy. Because that’s what the world does: it puts you in bizarre situations then tells you you’re crazy for noticing they’re bizarre. Anybody know how that feels?

He’s finally relieved, to some degree, when his sister admits she sees the shoes, after he gives her “one of them Muslim school looks: one part God, three parts hitman”, which makes Muslim school sound very much like the Catholic schools I’ve heard about all my life. “You know I cain’t say nothing about it, right?” she tells him. Yeah, he knows. She’s already got a bruise on her neck where Mom smacked her for not closing the window. He closes with an anthem celebrating the point of view he will not cede.

I felt this story. I don’t have much to say about it beyond recommending it as an example of how to connect readers with characters, how to create an emotional experience out of a fairly simple event. I suspect there’s more to the story than I’m getting, and maybe someday I’ll understand what that is. But for now – elephants in the room, gaslighting, naked emperors, this is fine – I got plenty.

One response to “Pushcart XLII: Reginald McKnight, “Float” from Georgia Review, Spring 2016

  1. Pingback: George Saunders: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (RH, 2021) | A Just Recompense

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