“The Two Sams” by Glen Hirshberg

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Deal Me In 2014 – Short Story Reading Challenge week 7

This week I drew the queen of diamonds for my Deal Me In 2014 challenge (details here). This year, Diamonds are my designated suit for “stories recommended by others,” and one thing I’m discovering is that I don’t always do a good job documenting where I heard about a story. Poking around my records for this one, I think I heard about it via Nina’s excellent blog “Multo (Ghost)” which also led me to the great story anthology, “The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories,” which is also represented on my Deal Me In 2014 list.

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“The Two Sams” is the title story in the author’s volume of short stories subtitled “ghost stories.” That works for me. 🙂 I own it in e-book format and will certainly be reading the others at some point.
It is one of those stories that reveals details only slowly, which sometimes annoys me and sometimes works for me – probably depending on my mood as much as anything – am I willing to do a little extra work in reading a story or not? In this case I was.

It begins with a husband waking in the middle of the night and not realizing what has awakened him. An earthquake? The noise from a garbage truck? His wife’s unborn baby moving (as her belly is pressed against him)? Or something else that is more sinister?

The reader later learns that the couple lost their first two babies, so naturally there is much anxiety about how this third pregnancy will turn out. We also slowly learn that the husband suspects that the spirits of the two children have come back to greet the third child. Creepy, eh? Well, trust me, it gets even creepier by the end. More so than I liked, but that’s the story this author chose to tell.

There’s also a great, chill-inducing scene in the story where the husband relates an incident – this one during the second pregnancy – when he is starting to sing to the unborn child in his wife’s womb (his song of choice? “You Are My Sunshine”) and “realizes” there is another presence in the room with them. He panics, but his wife reassures him “It’s just Sam. You and me and Sam.” The couple had decided to name their first child Sam and stuck with the name for the second pregnancy, but abandoned it after it also ended in loss (thus the title of the story). The husband goes on to relate that:

“Not until long after Lizzie had fallen asleep, just as I was finally dropping off, did it occur to me that she could have been more right than she knew. Maybe it was just us, and Sam. The FIRST Sam – the one we’d lost – returning to greet his successor with us.”

Overall a pretty good story, even if not exactly to my tastes. Have you read or heard of this author? He has also published a novel, “The Snowman’s Children” and recently another collection of short stories, titled “The Janus Tree.” You may check out the author’s website at http://www.glenhirshberg.com/

I don’t think this story is available online anywhere, but here is a link to the collection on Amazon (only 2.99 for the kindle version) http://www.amazon.com/The-Two-Sams-Ghost-Stories/dp/0786712554

What short story(s) did you read this week?

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8 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    February 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Jay,
    This story definitely sounds creepy…but strangely compelling.
    And “You Are My Sunshine”? Even creepier.
    -Dale

    Like

    • Jay said,

      February 16, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Hi Dale,
      It certainly was that. At first in the story, he quotes some of the lyrics without mentioning the song, and I knew that I recognized them, but couldn’t immediately think of their source. When I did, I began to look at that song in a new light…
      -Jay

      Like

  2. Candiss said,

    February 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this author, but as I do love old-school ghost stories (creepy and perhaps Gothic but not particularly gory) I will certainly look him up.

    I always find ghost stories involving children particularly sad. Something about all that potential whisked away and the lingering sense of loss that clings to the situation makes me feel more for the characters than I might otherwise. Whether or not a particular story in this vein actually turns out to be a literal “ghost story,” the figurative ghosts of memory, grief and painful emotion are more than enough.

    Thanks for introducing me to this author! (And “The Weird” has been on my wishlist ever since I first heard of it. So many wonderful authors are included!)

    Like

    • Jay said,

      February 20, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Candiss,
      I agree with you regarding ghost stories involving children. I had no idea what is one was about when I added it to my roster (but I did know it was a ghost story). I think the title is clever also. This one was a little too disturbing for my taste, but it was well-written.
      -Jay

      Like

  3. February 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    I came upon Glen Hirshberg about a year and a half ago as part of an anthology of Jewish speculative fiction. I loved that story (“The Muldoon”) so much that I snatched up The Two Sams and The Snowman’s Children from PaperbackSwap. He’s pretty much what I prefer in horror fiction. The Snowman’s Children isn’t at all supernatural, relying more things parents and children dread in the real world.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      February 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Katherine,
      I’ll definitely read more of him. Your comment on The Sowman’s Children makes me want to give it a try.
      -Jay

      Like

  4. Hanne, on Cloud 9 said,

    February 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    whoa, sounds a bit creepy indeed!

    Like


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