Exam Questions for the Story that Kills its Readers

Note: this story is reproduced on the blog because Schlock magazine appears to be defunct.

1. Pick the word that best describes the tone of the story:

  1. hainted
  2. cantilevered
  3. tricksy
  4. you have no memory of the story, but the scent of petroleum lingers in your nostrils

2. Why did the milkman’s father follow the fata morgana across the border into Zanzibar?
Would you have followed? Would you have brought the dog?

3. Summarize the value of your life in three short, inarticulate sounds.

4. Why did the babies on the throne of fire laugh at the inventor? What might the fat one
represent? The dead one? The one whom the author described as “herbaceous?”

5. Where is that wind coming from? Is there a door open?

6. In your view, does the setting affect the protagonist’s actions? Choose one answer:

  1. Only when he tries to breathe
  2. Yes, also no
  3. [shivers]

7. Since reading the story, do you often see a pale man loitering in the corners of your
vision? Is he waving a set of keys?
8. Speculate about the author. On second thought, don’t.
9. Pick three of the following story elements and discuss what they might symbolize:

a. The limbless child. The saltshaker
c. The gross domestic product
d. The skull
e. General Sheridan
f. The feeling of unfounded optimism
g. The can of teeth
h. The dog
10. Are you more like air or more like the sea? Tell your answer to the pale man.

11. What themes does the author reinforce via repetition of the following words:

a) ham

b) grass

c) silence.
12. Observe: A skull with a candle inside. A corridor. The spare and laughing winter wind.