As a freshman criminal justice major, I chose creative writing as my elective requirement for my love of writing and short stories. We’re currently reading a couple short stories a week by various authors from the book Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers edited by Joyce Carol Oates. One day, I finished my reading for the class and came across a short story called “Cutter” by C.E. Poverman. This story wasn’t assigned, but when I read the first paragraph, I was hooked.
The first sentence introduces readers to a man named Jorge who receives a regular phone call. This person calls Jorge every time he supposedly commits a rape. My criminal justice mind automatically wanted to know everything. Who was this man that’s calling? Had he raped someone? Why was he calling Jorge? Why is Jorge important to the storyline? Why did this man want someone to know he had raped someone?
Throughout the eighteen-page story, all of my questions were answered. Jorge works at a suicide hotline; the person on the other end of the call is a mentally ill man named Buddy. Jorge and a co-worker had been working on catching this supposed rapist for months. They had also been working on answering the question, “why would he be telling someone he was committing rape?” Somehow, the story always goes back to Buddy and the mystery of whether what he was saying was a hoax or not.
Jorge talks to several other callers throughout the story. He fixates on people who self-harm by cutting their arms with razors. We get a sense of the pressure Jorge feels as someone volunteering for a suicide hotline. He connects with the clients he speaks to over the phone without even knowing their names, and as they connect with him, they start to rely on him. It’s interesting to see this side of suicide. With most stories about depression and suicide, we read about the person going through it directly. Getting the point of view from someone who is helping others on a daily basis, makes for a whole new story.
Anyone interested in CSI or even the old Nancy Drew books would thoroughly enjoy this intense story. It’s not too long and the whole storyline is a hook. Other short stories in this book are also definitely worth looking into, each telling a unique story about a unique character. I always finish reading them with a new point of view in mind.
If you are interested in C.E. Poverman, check out his collection of short stories Skin, featuring “Cutter.”
If you’d like to check out the rest of the stories compiled in Joyce Carol Oates collection, click here.
by Sarah Hedley