zoetrope all story

"Safety Tips for Living Alone" by Jim Shepard

Recommended by Joshua Ferris

Issue No. 133

Original Fiction


Twenty-five years before Texas Tower No. 4 became one of the Air Force’s most unlikely achievements and most lethal peacetime disasters, marooning each of nineteen Air Force wives including Ellie Phelan, Betty Bakke, Edna Kovarick and Jeannette Laino in their own little stew pots of grief and recrimination, the six year-old Ellie thought of herself as forever stuck in Kansas: someone who would probably never see Chicago, never mind the Atlantic Ocean. Her grandfather wore his old brown duster whatever the weather, and when he rode in her father’s convertible always insisted on sitting dead center in the back seat with a hand on each side of the top to maintain the car’s balance on the road. This was back when the Army was running the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Navy exploring the Pole with Admiral Byrd, and the Air Corps still flying the mail in open cockpit biplanes. Gordon had reminded her of her grandfather, in a way that stirred her up and set her teeth on edge—she’d first noticed him when he’d stood on the Ferris wheel before the ride had begun to make sure another family’s toddlers had been adequately strapped in—and her first words to him when they’d been introduced had been “Who made you the Ferris Wheel Monitor?” And when he’d answered with a grin, “Isn’t it amazing how much guys like me pretend we know what we’re doing?” she’d been shocked by how exhilarating it had been to catch a glimpse of someone who saw the world the way she did.

Click here to get the Kindle Single !

About the Author


Jim Shepard is the author of seven novels, including the forthcoming The Book of Aron, and four story collections, including Like You’d Understand, Anyway, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won The Story Prize. His short fiction has appeared in, among other magazines, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Tin House, The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All Story, and Playboy, and five of his stories have been chosen for The Best American Short Stories, two for the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and one for a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at Williams College.

About the Guest Editor


Joshua Ferris is the bestselling author of three novels, Then We Came to the End, The Unnamed andTo Rise Again at a Decent Hour. He was a finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the Barnes and Noble Discover Award and the PEN/Hemingway Award, and was named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40”writers in 2010. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, and Best American Short Stories. He lives in New York.


Copyright © Jim Shepard 2014. All rights reserved by the author.


Want it on your Kindle? Click below!