Short Stories

Follow the links to access several of Allegra’s stories in their entirety.

A Challenge You Have Overcome The New Yorker 2021

They were a family of long marriages. You might sleep in separate bedrooms and wash dishes in a fury. You might find a moldy peach in the refrigerator and leave it on the counter for three days as evidence in some private trial—but you would never leave.

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F.A.Q.s The New Yorker 2017

Phoebe found the house almost unchanged. Same furniture, same couch cushions worn out in the same old places, practically the same stack of magazines. Phoebe’s parents, Melanie and Dan, looked just as they had when she left them, and so their new coffeemaker startled her.
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Apple Cake The New Yorker 2014

Her sisters flinched because she was the youngest, but she looked so old. Jeanne was just seventy-four, and no one had ever thought . . . They didn’t speak of it. They would not allow themselves, but Helen was eighty, Sylvia seventy-eight. They’d married first, been mothers first. They were older. They should have been frailer. How could Jeanne be first to go?
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La Vita Nuova The New Yorker 2010

The day her fiancé left, Amanda went walking in the Colonial cemetery off Garden Street. The gravestones were so worn that she could hardly read them. They were melting away into the weedy grass. You are a very dark person, her fiancé had said.
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Long-Distance Client The New Yorker 2005

He was at work when it began. We offer a choice of two plans,” Mel told the new programmer on the phone. On the desk, his computer beamed at him, along with Sam and Annie, in their school pictures, his grown son and daughter fixed in first- and third-grade amber. The office was relatively quiet, the open-plan space still cavernous, although Mel was drawing up contracts and issuing I.D.s as fast as he could.
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Mosquitoes The New Yorker 1993

There is no one behind the desk at the Airport Green Shuttle Service, and no customers are waiting at the counter.  Ed thinks he must be in the wrong place.  He’s been traveling for ten days.  Customers mob the other shuttle counters.  Ed waits fifteen minutes and then tows his bags over to a pay phone.  “Markowitz?” someone calls out.  An enormously heavy woman rushes up to him with a clipboard.  “Peterstown?” she asks, out of breath.  “Christians and Jews–Ecumenical Institute?”

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Fantasy Rose The New Yorker 1992

Rose is making herself at home.  She pads around in bedroom slippers and enjoys the soft, dusty-rose carpet in her granddaughter Miriam’s old room.  It’s her favorite color, and her favorite room in the house.

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The Closet The New Yorker 1997

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The Wedding of Henry Markowitz The New Yorker 1992

Henry sits at the oval clawfoot table, expandable to seat twelve–his find at a Wantage estate sale, a jewel of Victoriana, refinished down to its griffin feet.  It’s big, but it’s the table he always wanted, and that’s why he bought it.  He simply hired piano movers.  The flat is full of his discoveries, his rare books, and his antique decanters.  There is a special case for his maps, his charts of the heavens.  He designed it and had it built by a cabinetmaker .  Everything fits; the colors are warm library hues, deep green and cinnabar.

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The Local Production of Cinderella The New Yorker 1999

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Sarah The New Yorker 1994

Sarah parks at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, her large purse on the seat next to her, along with a bunch of marked assignments.  She has written copiously on each one, making her comments in green because the students find red threatening.

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Onionskin The New Yorker 1991

Dr. Friedell,

This is to apologize if I offended you in class a few weeks ago, though I realize you probably forgot the whole thing by now.  I was the one who stood up and said “Fuck Augustine.” What I mean was I didn’t take the class to read him, I took it to learn about religion–God, prayer, ritual, the Madonna mother-goddess figure, forgiveness, miracles, sin, abortion, death, the big moral concepts.  Because obviously I am not eighteen and I work, so school is not just an academic exercise for me . . .
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The Art Biz Commentary 1996

In the cool dark California night, Henry Markowitz is closing Michael Spivitz Fine Art Gallery.  He has to stay open until ten on Thursday nights to take in the evening crowd. The tourists tracking in sand from the beach and the open-air cappuccino bars. Henry hates the sand and the bathing suits, but, as Michael says, this is the reality of selling art in Venice. Henry has often had to resist the urge to turn these people away. At least the ones without shoes.

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The Four Questions Commentary 1996

Ed is sitting in his mother-in-law Estelle’s gleaming kitchen.  “Is it coming in on time?” Estelle asks him.

He is on the phone checking on Yehudit’s flight from San Francisco.

“It’s still ringing,” Ed says. He sits on one of the kitchen swivel chairs and twists the telephone cord through his fingers. One wall of the kitchen is papered in a yellow and brown daisy pattern, the daisies as big as Ed’s hand. The window-shade has the same pattern on it. Ed’s in-laws live in a 1954 ranch house with all the original period details.

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One Down Commentary 1994

On a background of blue velvet stand two baby pictures in silver frames.   Then silver script letters scroll up the screen.  This is the opening Miriam and Jon have chosen for their wedding video. Bill, the videographer, has it all mocked up for Ed and Sarah in his studio. When the monitor darkens again, the two of them sit there in silence. Then Sarah says, “That wasn’t my daughter, by the way.”

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The Persians Commentary 1993

Ed goes all the way to the campus mailroom for his registered letter.  He had complained about it over lunch, and said it was inconvenient, but as soon as he left the café, he went over to get the thing. He has been receiving a great deal of mail recently as well as phone calls: requests for comments on radio and television. In the wake of the bombing at the World Trade Center, Ed is in demand as a terrorism expert—and working at Georgetown makes him accessible, too.

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Oral History Commentary 1989

Rose Markowitz volunteers once a week for the Venice Oral History project.  They send her a girl, Alma, on Mondays and Rose tells her the details of her life. It can be tedious but it is important that it be done. “The irony is not lost on me,” she tells her son Edward when he calls.

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Total Immersion Commentary 1987

Heavenly father,” the chaplain begins. The students hush at the outdoor assembly. They bow their heads and only a slight rustling can be heard among all those children marshaled in a standing wave—first-graders at one goal post, rising seniors at the other.

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The Succession Commentary 1987

Rabbi Everett Siegel walks stealthily through the mall carrying a Woolworth’s shopping bag. Tall and stout, he cannot hope to hide in the crowd of young mothers and strollers. If he is to avoid recognition he must rely on speed, and so he trots along puffing with little quick steps. He is nearly out the door when George Kugel runs up calling, “Rabbi! What are you doing in Hawaii Kai?”

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Wish List Commentary 1986

A sheik rushes through Heathrow airport followed by his wives and children and his childrens’ servants, each pushing a luggage cart. A young American couple cuts through with a screaming baby. “Where’s the plug?” the mother asks desperately. Her husband fishes out a pacifier from his load of baby gear and plugs the baby’s mouth. “We really shouldn’t do this,” he sighs.

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Variant Text Commentary 1986

Dear Aunt Ida,

Attalia is screaming under the piano. She has taken it into her head that she needs a pair of boots. Having explained that her mother and I are perfectly willing to provide our children with necessary items, but unable to supply their ceaseless demand for toys, clothes, and every extravagance, the vital necessity of which is impressed on them by seven-year-old peers, I have resolved to let her scream herself to sleep. I’d say she’s good for at least half an hour.

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