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Comments Daniel Orozco
O. Henry Recommended Story Author

Three origin stories for "Only Connect": (1) For a while I'd been fascinated with the idea of structuring a story as a kind of "narrative relay," wherein one character hands off the drama to another, and that one to another. Whose story would it be? How would it end? I wanted to see if I could tell a story that way, to see if I could pull it off. (2) I was invited to a wedding in Chinook, Washington, by two dear friends I hadn't seen in a while. They were bride and groom, and real busy that day, and except for them I didn't know anybody else in attendance. I was feeling awkward and lonely, and so I ditched the festivities and spent the next day-and-a-half in a motel room in Astoria, Oregon, just across the Columbia River. The Astoria Bridge crosses the river from one state to another, and I had a pretty spectacular view of it from my room. But I was in a mood and so the bridge, the river, everything about these lovely waterside environs seemed seedy and oppressive to me. A year later, I needed a setting for the middle episode of "Only Connect," someplace where killers would go to relax, and so Astoria--or rather, my tainted memory of it--fit the bill. (3) I lived in Seattle for five years in the early 90's. As this story is set in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to let myself go and to indulge in a scenic nostalgia, lingering over the panoramas and vistas of a city and region I still miss.

Writing Tips

From "Only Connect," a PEN/O. Henry Recommended Story

She called in sick the next day, and the day after that. Maybe he was out there, looking for her. She stayed home and indulged in fearful fantasy. She peeked out her window at the steps that led down to her door. She jumped when the mail dropped through her mail slot. She gazed anxiously at the phone, which did not ring. She drank tea and dozed fitfully through the day, awaking at dusk to her darkened apartment. She kept the radio turned off. She did not need to hear about what had happened. A man was dead, and his killer was out there. She imagined staying in her apartment forever—the Woman Downstairs. But the romance of her fear soon dissipated, and she grew restless and bored, and ran out of tea, and after three days she went back to work.

Her name was Hailey and she was a paralegal assistant at a successful real estate practice. Long ago, in her first months out of paralegal school, they'd had a Christmas party where one of the lawyers she worked for had taken her into an empty office and kissed her for ten full minutes. He was twice her age and married, with three children in college. After the holidays he'd taken her to lunch and apologized, all stammering and shy. She hoped he would call this week, ask after her, wonder where she'd been for four days. But he didn't. She was twenty-nine years old, on the brink of her next decade, and in love with a man who did not call her after she saw somebody die.

"Only Connect" by Daniel Orozco first appeared in Ecotone. Copyright© 2008. Excerpted by permission of the author.

About the Author

Daniel Orozco's work has appeared in the Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and in Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, Zoetrope All-Story, and others. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Idaho.

Writer's Desk

  • I've been avoiding an unfinished novel, and to that end, tinkering with short story drafts while thinking of the avoided novel that's not being finished.

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