A new entry in my weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:
- “Jimmy's Roadside Cafe,” by Ramsey Shehadeh
- A heartbreaking story about life after an apocalyptic plague, and about trying to find a certain kind of grace amidst devastation. (Published in 2008.) (4,400 words.)
- “After the world ended, Jimmy set up a roadside cafe in the median of I-95, just north of the Fallston exit.”
(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)
I still find this story lovely and tremendously sad. And I like that the catharsis shown in the story echoes the catharsis of reading it; reading it always makes me cry, but also gives me some relief, some restoration. Which I'm especially in need of this week.
I also like the small details in this story, such as the doughnut that “tasted like sweetened cement, hard on the outside and chalky on the inside.” And the portrayals of different people's different ways of dealing with pain and loss and grief. And especially the paragraph about Jimmy having buried his own family.
But what I like best about it is what I said in the intro up above, something that often appeals to me in fiction: the attempt to find a kind of grace amid overwhelming devastation, both personal and global.
If you're interested in the author's thoughts about the story, see a brief interview of Ramsey by John Joseph Adams, associated with JJA's reprint of this story in Wastelands 2.