John Cheever’s “The Five-Forty-Eight”, first published in 1954, is a strange slither of a story. It complicates point of view with a mysterious royal, or rather upper-middle class, we. It is a story of a desperate attempt at communication, to be heard, for resolution, but it illuminates the inherent loneliness of being. Raymond Carver can smell loneliness on your clothes. You can change your detergent. You can iron, and mask yourself in perfume, but Carver can smell loneliness on you. “The Train”, first published in 1983, is Carver’s sequel to “The Five-Forty-Eight”, which takes us back to the night Miss Dent held a gun to the back of a man’s head to understand compassion. And yet, this is not the story of Miss Dent. A story concerned with meticulous, monotonous actions, with vanity and emptiness and vacant eyes, this is not your mother’s “Five-Forty-Eight.” Where we’re going, even the names are lost.
Here at The Five-Forty-Eight, we are interested in stories that continue a conversation and enlarge an existing world in surprising ways. Not necessarily sequels of events, but sequels of theme, of motive, of sensibility. Your story must, somehow, connect to someone else’s prose. Please do not send us sequels of your own stories.
At the moment, we publish only prose. We may publish poetry in the future. We will be older then, and so will you, and you will have much to tell us.
We publish original short stories that are responses to someone else’s short story. You have a sequel to John Updike’s “A&P?” Excellent. It takes place 150 years later? Excellent. It takes place later that day? Excellent? Your story takes place across town a week later and features no characters from the first story? Excellent.
In how many ways can a story speak to another story, become its aunt, its pet, its boss? We believe in playfulness, but also craft and reason. You better have damn good reasons for what you’ve done, see!