Short Story #267: ID by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  ID 

Author:  Joyce Carol Oates


Photo of Joyce Carol Oates.  Source: Mulvey is called from her class to ID a body.  She's slightly drunk and so a bit worried about being taken out of class by an officer.  She thinks about escaping math class where she has so much trouble, unlike her mom who is good with numbers and was a blackjack dealer.  This triggers another thought that her mother had been missing for a few days, which wasn't unusual for her.  She thinks about how she used to well in school but now doesn't and that there was some kind of incident requiring facial surgery.  She also thinks about the boy in class that she likes, J.C. and flirts with him before leaving entirely.  He has a bit of the bad boy about him and she likes this too.  Lisette reflects further on her past and how her parents split and they ended up in Atlantic City.  She recalls how she had last heard from her mom on Friday night and knew she would be away for a while.  Lisette is finally guided out of the room and sent off with two officers to ID a body.  They begin to ask about Yvette, Listette's mom and when she last saw them.  She's not sure how to answer for fear of how they will react.  This train of thought leads Lisette to think about court and the separation of her parents, along with the abuse from her father that caused the facial surgery.  The officers bring her to the hospital, trying to explain what is going on, but Lisette only half-realizes things.  They ask about her father and when she last saw him.  They take her down to the morgue and Lisette waits, still unclear about what is going on.  She begins to realize something is wrong with her mom.  The officers explain that an unidentified woman was found near a hotel and her mom's ID was found nearby.  They explain that they tried to get the father to do the ID but he had gone AWOL from the military a few weeks back, much to Lisette's surprise.  She begins to get anxious when they approach the body but she quickly realizes that it's not her mother.  However, she is sickened after this realization.  They ask her to identify any of the materials found with the body, but Lisette has nothing.  Afterward, she makes full use of the bathroom.  She cries for a bit and insists they take her back to school, where she enters into the cafeteria and assumes a calm demeanor, pretending nothing happened.


It's a haunting adolescence story.  Beyond the fading of youth, this is more like the corruption of adulthood.  It's a story that captures wells the direct and echoing effects that adults and parents have on youth both at times knowing and not knowing.  Oates gives us a sad and damning look at the life of teens that's worth remembering for folks who deal with troubled youth (or all youth for that matter).

Short Story #266 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  8/1/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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