Chapter 1 Summary
Lorrie Moore is the author of several story collections and novels and she has won honors from the Lannan Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Moore has won the Irish Times International Prize for Fiction and the Rea Award for the Short Story. She is a Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. A Gate at the Stairs was published in 2009.
It is a cold December in Troy, Wisconsin, in the winter of 2011, and twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjen is looking for a job. She is from a small farm and came to the university town of Troy to attend school, and for her it was like moving from a cave to a bustling civilization. This city is known to the rest of the state as being a “smug, liberal, recycling, civic-minded” place. Troy is an antagonistic town, particularly towards religion; to its citizens, God is “a cross between a billboard, a charlatan, a hamburger, and a fairy king.” In general, Tassie believes “a little’s a dangerous thing. But so is a lot. And so is none.”
Tassie has just finished her college exams for the semester and is looking for a child-care job beginning in January, though she does not particularly like children—at least not for long stretches of time. After five interviews, Tassie arrives at a house which, though somewhat neglected, makes her think of familiar things. It is on a corner lot, and the gate at the fence is loose and missing a nail. The thin woman who answers the door is colorful, a little older than the other women with whom she has interviewed, and not pregnant.
The interview is odd and a bit uncomfortable, but Tassie is generally uncomfortable in these kinds of settings—actually, in most settings. Her roommate, Elizabeth Murphy Krueger (“Murph”) is never at a loss for words; however, Tassie is. The woman is Sarah Brink. She is forty-five years old and owns a classy restaurant in town; she...
(The entire section is 725 words.)