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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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The Fullness of a Long Career

My paternal grandfather passed last Thursday afternoon. It was strange to see him dead, jaundiced, but still warm, supple shoulders, in the hospital bed. A man who died physically strong but succumbed to little giants: microbes, sepsis. A surprise, at least, to us, who knew him as a long shoresman. But perhaps he was only waiting for the right moment to take leave of us. He had been in the hospital five times this year alone, with ninety years of spring, summer, fall, and winter behind him. I'm sure he wanted to get out on two feet, not imprisoned in a bed, in his mind, some shell of himself where one expires like a gasp, a crumpled tissue.

I have nothing new to add on the subject of death except that there's occasion to find regret in life and that one can only live perfectly imperfectly. My relationship was not vibrant with the father of my father (nor was it with my own father) but, even given another year to make amends, I don't know that it would have been anything more than it had been. And I'm okay with that. He was a good, flawed, man, and I'm a good, flawed, woman, and we didn't need to validate that for each other.

I read verse at the church—my aunts picked out some lovely pieces, and there's a part in mine, Wisdom 4:7-15, that I really like:

Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career;
for his soul was pleasing to the Lord,
therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.


My grandmother is still alive, but she is expected to go very soon as well. After a few more days? The weekend? It's hard to say. She, unlike my grandfather, is not a surprise. Her body surrendered years ago. But the waiting will always be a surprise.