The New Yorker fiction podcast has a great episode up right now, with Lorrie Moore joining Deborah Treisman to read and discuss “Naked Ladies,” by Antonya Nelson, from a 1992 issue of the magazine.
Here’s an excerpt from Nelson’s excellent short story below:
“Laura Laughlin, 17, and her family attended the annual Easter frolic of the Houses, the family her mother worked for in Eastborough, Kansas, a rich, incorporated city in the middle of Wichita, while Laura’s father was away showing his paintings. Laura’s mother took care of the House children, especially 4-year-old Mikey, a Downs syndrome baby, leaving her own children to fend for themselves. Laura’s father refused any invitations to the Houses; he hated it that they called his wife Nana, and that she had to wear an ugly smock to work. Mr. House greeted the overdressed Laughlins in his tuxedo jacket and sweatsuit. In one room, there were drawings of nude women and one, oddly, of Laura’s father’s somber paintings. Laura wandered through the house, saw a pristine studio and compared it to her father’s cold and chaotic back-porch studio. She found her mother with Mr. House and Mikey, who had her mother’s wedding ring. He obviously played with it a lot. During the egg hunt, Laura and her sister found chocolates shaped like naked women, eggs with crude riddles. She told Pammy that Mr. House and their mother were having an affair. When her father arrived unexpectedly, she led him to her mother, carefully avoiding his painting. Her mother was asleep next to Mikey. As they left, Laura watched her father look at the nude women, and was surprised that his eyes skipped over his own painting. She thought that the nudes could be of her mother, done by Mr. House. They never speak about it. Her mother never went back to the Houses. Her father stopped traveling. Laura intercepted the letter that returned her mother’s wedding ring.”