Florida short fiction single (Mavis Gallant)

Florida, a short story by Mavis Gallant
Narrated by Margot Dionne
Listening Time: 20:31

Florida is a short fiction single from Montreal Stories, a collection of short stories by Mavis Gallant, available as an MP3 audio book CD and an MP3 download. Florida appeared in The New Yorker, August 26, 1985.

The following is an excerpt from the story:

Marie Carette spent eight Christmases of her life in Florida, where her son was establishing a future in the motel industry. Every time Marie went down she found Raymond starting over in a new place: his motels seemed to die on his hands. She used to come back to Montreal riddled with static electricity. Her sister Berthe couldn't hand her a teaspoon without receiving a shock, like a small silver bullet. Berthe believed the current was generated by a chemical change that occurred as she flew out of Fort Lauderdale toward a wet, dark, snowy city.

Marie had been living with Berthe ever since 1969, the year her husband died. She still expected what Berthe thought of as husband service: flights met, cabs hailed, doors held, tips attended to. Berthe had to take the bus out to Dorval Airport, with Marie's second-best fur coat over her arm and her high-heeled boots in a plastic bag. 'Don't tell me it's still winter,' Marie would wail, kissing Berthe as if she had been away for months rather than just a few days.

Guiding Marie's arms into the second-best-mink sleeves (paws and piecework), Berthe would get the first of the silvery shocks. One year, when her son Raymond had fallen in love with a divorced woman twice his age (it didn't last), Marie arrived home crackling, exchanging sparks with everything she touched. Berthe had placed a pot of flowering paper-white narcissi on Marie's dressing table, a welcome-home present reflected on and on in the three mirrors. Marie shuffled along the carpeted passage, still in her boots. She had on her Florida manner, pretending she was in Berthe's flat by mistake. As soon as she saw the plant, she went straight over and gave it a kiss. The flower absorbed a charge and hurled it back. Berthe examined the spot on Marie's lip where the shock had struck. She could find nothing, no trace. Nevertheless Marie applied an ice cube.

She waited until midnight before calling Raymond, to get the benefit of the lower rate. Marie told him about the plant. He made her repeat the story twice, then said she had built up a reserve of static by standing on a shag rug with her boots on. She was not properly grounded when she approached the flower.

This Canadian audiobook recording brought to you by Rattling Books of Newfoundland and Labrador.