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Grace Paley’s Most Shocking Story

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From the Archive

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We’re celebrating by offering a sample of some of our favorite writing from the magazine’s past. Today, read Grace Paley’s story “The Little Girl,” from our Spring 1974 issue. Without spoiling too much, it’s the most shocking of her stories—and she told the Guardian in 2004 that it’s true. The narrator is a friend of hers she met in the fifties, through the Southern Conference for Human Welfare: “There were a lot of runaways then … and sometimes he would bring these girls to me and say, ‘Put some sense in her head.’ ” Paley, who died in 2007, refused to read the story aloud. It begins:

Carter stop by the cafe early. I just done waxing. He said, I believe I’m having company later on. Let me use your place, Charley, hear?

I told him, door is open, go ahead. Man coming for the meter, (why I took the lock off.) I told him Angie, my lodger could be home but he strung out most the time. He don’t even know when someone practicing the horn in the next room. Carter, you got hours and hours. There ain’t no wine there, nothing like it. He said he had some other stuff would keep him on top. That was a joke. Thank you, brother, he said. I told him I believe I have tried anything, but to this day, I like whiskey. If you have whiskey, you drunk, but if you pumped up with drugs, you just crazy. Yeah hear that man, he said. Then his eyeballs start walking away.

Read “The Little Girl” in full here; and subscribe now for digital access to every short story, poem, portfolio, and essay from The Paris Review.