Following in the footsteps of the charity-driven record trend, 18 well-known American authors recently contributed previously unpublished short stories to Writers Harvest 2, the second in a series of “benefit” fiction anthologies from which all proceeds go to D.C.’s own Share Our Strength (SOS), an anti-hunger organization. Joining such literary luminaries as Michael Chabon, Jill McCorkle, and Frederick Barthelme in Harvest 2 is local writer Gary Krist, whose story “Sleep” stands out as one of the finest and most tender in the collection.
As stock markets crash all over the world, “Sleep”‘s protagonist, a young, struggling broker, is forced to care for his newborn son and simultaneously handle the tsunami of frantic calls pouring in from his even needier clients and superiors. Krist builds tension over a few hectic nights, leading the broker, on the brink of fatal exhaustion and about to lose his job, to an examination of his priorities. “Sleep”‘s twist-laden climax leaves the reader well rested and morally fine-tuned.
“‘Sleep’ was a story I wrote…in 1987, after the stock market crash,” says Krist, who moved from New York City to Silver Spring two years ago. “But the story just wasn’t working, so I stuck it in a desk drawer…taking it out every once in a while to add something.” When he started the tale, Krist was married but childless. A few years ago, however, after the birth of a daughter, the writer reached into the drawer, pulled out the manuscript, and plugged in some firsthand details about the rigors of late-night feedings. So, did that make “Sleep” finally ready for publication? Not even close, according to Krist. But this year, when he heard from friend and SOS executive director William H. Shore that a sequel to the original Harvest was in the works and that they wanted Krist involved, the author knew exactly which piece to donate. “It was the impetus to finally finish this story,” Krist says with a laugh. “One thing I’ve learned from all of this is to never throw anything away.”—Sean Daly