Short story identification post number one million or so
February 15, 2015 8:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to hunt down two grim short stories. Gory details (and spoilers) below the fold!

I'm trying to track down two short stories that have haunted me for years. Either the details I remember are too vague or my search mojo is insufficient for Professor Google to help me...I'm hoping that someone here can.

Story 1:
I read this 20+ years ago, in a collection of works by the same author. It could easily have been published much earlier than that, although I'd guess it's probably 60s or later. It's possible, but I'm not certain, that it was a foreign-language work translated into English. It wasn't overtly a horror collection, more literary fiction, with this one horrific standout.

The story features three boys; I believe two of them are brothers. They're playing, and one of the boys injures his leg slightly. One of the other boys declares that the leg is going to get infected and they'll have to amputate it to save his life. The others protest, but the first boy is insistent, and eventually they reluctantly go along with this plan...which as I remember, involves kitchen implements, with the younger brother worrying about getting in trouble about the mess they're making in Mom's kitchen. Of course, the injured boy dies from their attempt to "help" him. I remember the tone of the story being chillingly simple and matter-of-fact, with an effectively childlike POV.

Story 2:
Pretty sure I read this in an anthology, also pretty sure it was more horror-focused than the above. I remember the setting being a mid-century city, but couldn't say for sure if it's from that period or written later...

This one is a little fuzzier, but as I remember it, the protagonist is a mousy, nervous woman who's trying to run an errand at a department store during the holiday rush. She's trying to get into (or out of?) the store in the crush, and ends up in a revolving door unable to get the timing right to get out. The story describes her embarrassment and increasing panic as she goes around and around, with a crowd gathering as they realize she's trapped. She gets more and more exhausted, and finally collapses and is crushed in the door. It sounds silly and implausible, but at the time that I read it it struck me as really effectively written.

I'd love to revisit these nightmares, if anyone has any idea what either of them is!
posted by hilatron to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The second one sounds a little bit like Shirley Jackson's story "Pillar of Salt," although that story is quite a bit less dramatic than the one you describe.
posted by holborne at 10:33 PM on February 15, 2015

Best answer: Oh god, the amputation story...

It looks like it's a Danish story called "Blot en drengestreg" by Villy Sørensen. The title translates as "Just a Prank", but the English version was titled "Child's Play".
posted by bethnull at 11:15 PM on February 15, 2015

And apparently our shared nightmare has also been made into a film.
posted by bethnull at 11:38 PM on February 15, 2015

Response by poster: Ahhhhh yes that is Story 1!! Thank you bethnull, I owe you some cookies or an obscure fact.

Crossing my fingers someone can come drop some knowledge about my revolving door lady...
posted by hilatron at 6:01 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: How rude of me - holborne, thanks for the suggestion but that's not it. The story I'm remembering is much more overtly horror, and a lot of the action takes place inside the revolving door.

(There's definitely a hint of Jackson's ability to present the uncanny and horrific in a matter-of-fact, emotionally believable way though, if this story lives up to my memory.)
posted by hilatron at 6:46 AM on February 16, 2015

Might the second one be this?
posted by inire at 1:39 PM on February 16, 2015

Response by poster: Holy moly, that is an amazing find! The story as I remember it has some key differences: it's told from the woman's point of view; the event lasts (possibly several) hours instead of weeks; and there isn't a media satire angle. I also remember the writing style being a little more polished.

I'm willing to believe that this is the story and that I fabricated some details because MEMORIES RIGHT? However, I hold out hope there's yet another revolving door story out there somewhere...

inire, would you mind sharing your search magic? "Trapped revolving door" and variations keep bringing up essays and news stories using that phrase figuratively, for me. You got way closer than I have to what I'm looking for.
posted by hilatron at 2:02 PM on February 16, 2015

Just blind luck, I'm afraid - searched for woman trapped in revolving door and trawled through 6 or 7 pages of results.
posted by inire at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2015

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