Michelle Berry’s “Knock, Knock” isn’t about anything. Well, okay, so it’s about being a mom, it’s about working from home, it’s about danger coming to the door, about presumption and disorder and even a little bit about dogs and teddy bears. Or at least, all these things are in the story, which I guess doesn’t mean that these are things the story is about.

The narrator is a busy woman, who makes specialty bears and frequently trips over her dog, and the dog doesn’t even eat crumbs off the floor, so the woman still has to do things like vacuum. There’s a weird turn when a small bald man knocks on the door, and then says ‘Knock knock,” out loud on the stoop, because he uses onomatopoeia to punctuate his strangeness.

He gives her a pamphlet, and she’s trying to get rid of him, and when she sees whatever it is that he’s placed in her hand, that’s the exact point you get that there’s a lot in this story, even if it’s not about the things that happen in it.

Berry’s style seems dead realist right up until this little dip into the dark, into something vauge and sinister and a little bit surreal. It’s a great effect, but she nearly ruins it by trying to explain it away with the last paragraph. If you can help yourself, read only to the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph and you’ll walk away just a little off kilter. Disturbed, but in a good way, by a story that roughs up the edges of the world, just a little, just enough.


You can read this story here,  in The New Quarterly.

Image taken from a post about dogs and couches in the Albany Times Union, um,  dog blog.