Due to time constraints and the random "let's read the shortest thing in the nearest available book" nature of this website, it is not often that we get to present one of our absolute favorite short stories, but here is one today. This is a narrative, about a family of ugly Americans who meet Death in the form of an outlaw named The Misfit, which seems both years ahead of its time both in its violence and social critique, and as ancient as a medieval allegory of the Devil and divine redemption. Actually, it's a heck of a lot more fun than that sounds. Read by Elizabeth Leavell.
When she was a little girl, Mary (Flannery) O'Connor owned a chicken that could walk backwards; her pet got written up in the local papers and life was "all downhill from there," as she put it much later. Towards the end of her days, she raised peacocks (a few of which survived until the 1980s, when the last of them was eaten by foxes) and other exotic birds, as well as ducks, geese, and chickens. These are not the most important facts about her too-short life, but they do give some of the flavor of her self-aware eccentricity and comic take on the serious matters of life. She described herself as a "pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I'll-bite-you complex," but of course she was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century--normally we'd hesitate to put "American" there, but she is so homespun-American in accent and style, it seems appropriate. See our previous offering from O'Connor, "A Late Encounter with the Enemy" for furthur inconsequential details.
Not unlike her fellow Georgian, Elizabeth Farley Leavell has a love for birds and the quirky nature of mankind. She deals with its quirks every day as a teacher and writer and lives on a very old farm in rural New England, where she battles the mosquitos between long walks among the sand dunes of the nearby beach. People say she can tame a bucking bronco, hunt squirrels with her hound dog, plant rare orchids, and discover another great unknown folk artist, all before a hearty vegetarian breakfast. She also loves to read.