"The Woman at the Store," Katherine Mansfield (from Stories)
As "The Garden-Party" has long been a favorite story of mine—for its subtlety, power of observation, and moral irony—I bought this book at a library sale a year or two back, but I haven't probed it, near as I can remember. This story lacks the elusiveness of "The Garden-Party" and is told in a more straightforward style, with a more formal resolution. The tale involves three people, at least two of them siblings (the female narrator one of the siblings) riding on horseback through a hot and barren region. They stop at the store Jim has mentioned, Jo picturing a lonely beauty of a woman waiting there, per Jim's description. The woman is nothing like her description, the geography and loneliness having taken their toll, as her husband has gone off shearing for a month—a story everyone doubts. There's a child drawing pictures she shouldn't, and Jo making romantic moves. And the ending, with a drawing and its implication of violence, mirrors the "slate" sky of the story's first paragraph and the red-flecked (as if with blood) kerchief of Jo one paragraph later. A fun story, solidly told, with haunting moments and suggestions.