Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer, with Twins

Summer, with Twins by Rebecca Curtis tells the story of four waitress who are trying to make their way in life using the circumstances that each has in their individual lives.

At first Dina earned the most money, but soon the twins were each earning double and triple what Dina and I did. Dina didn't seem to notice; she didn't seem to notice much. She was a better waitress than the twins, but the twins had a secret weapon --- their sameness.

The narrator is spending her summer with twins Jean and Jessica. The twins' father is an investment banker and they dream of finishing college and then follow in his footsteps. Dina is a waitress that they meet at the restaurant where they are working for the summer. She is a middle-aged single mother working hard to make ends meet for her two children, one of whom is in the hospital. The narrator finds herself in the middle: not as easy of a life as the rich, spoiled twins yet not as difficult of a life as the struggling mother trying to makes ends meet with her time and money. The twins seem to have whatever they want and need: a nice home, money for college, nice clothes, good looks, and time to relax on the beach or in front of the TV. Dina seems to have very little: no insurance, large hospital bills, old and stained clothes, huge veins on her legs, and little time for her children. Again, the narrator seems to fall in between.

When an opportunity arises to make some easy money, the narrator passes on the offer knowing that it is not the right thing to do. Everyone seems to agree with her decision, but the lesson has her looking at the waitresses in a different light. Why do some people work with so much ease and receive so much more in return without many worries while others work so hard and receive so little in return with worries that never seem to go away?

Summer, with Twins is a story with much to say about the unequal balance of life's circumstances and rewards that is often observed between people. The descriptions are rich and the observations of the narrator are evident and thoughtful. I enjoyed this short story that left two different impressions on me: first, the simple story of one summer when three young, sassy, inexperienced waitresses meet a seasoned, struggling waitress; and second, the layered story of life and its injustices that sometimes seem so hard to understand.

"Summer, with Twins" by Rebecca Curtis (from Harper's Magazine) from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 edited by Laura Furman

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