One Story Issue #276: Jackie Thomas-Kennedy’s “Extinction”

When it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to be over anytime soon, and social distancing turned into lockdown, and lockdown turned into finding new ways to live and stay creative and sane, we at One Story began to anticipate the pandemic-related submissions we were bound to receive. As they started to come in, I couldn’t help but wonder if someone was going to write a story about how weird we all became. What I mean is, consciously or not, we all had to reinvent our notions of interaction and intimacy. We all had to find new ways to lend emotional support, and we all had to find new ways to receive emotional support.

It wasn’t a smooth process, by any means. We were living in a world of constantly changing information, trying to cope with a global health crisis that immediately and bizarrely had become political. And as the spring of 2020 edged toward summer, everything became more challenging, more unsettling, more of a mirror held up to our faces, showing us ourselves in stark relief.

I’ve been a fan of Jackie Thomas-Kennedy’s writing for a long time, so I’m particularly thrilled to be presenting “Extinction” to you. This, in many ways, is the story I was wondering if someone was going to write: a story about how our world was (and still is) upended, and how it changed us not just in obvious ways but in subtle ways we might not even have been aware of. How do we make the best of things when a better version of our world is rapidly receding from our view, when distancing becomes isolation, and when we can’t trust ourselves to make the best choices? “Extinction” puts its finger on the pulse of our current lives. It’s both a story for our times and a story with staying power.

4 thoughts on “One Story Issue #276: Jackie Thomas-Kennedy’s “Extinction”

  1. I’m hoping to hear from other readers of this story. Maybe someone can give me some insight which will allow me to enjoy what I read. At this point it is the only story since beginning this subscription (two years now) I have not enjoyed.

  2. I’m in my third subscription year and this is the first story I have not enjoyed. This post is made with the hope that someone can provide me with some insight to help me change my opinion.

  3. This was a compelling story on many levels. The story effectively explores estrangement in the middle of a pandemic.

    We don’t find until the end of the piece an essential truth about Billie, the protagonist, and Shannon who is absent neighbor. Billie does not hear from or see Shannon for months over the course of the story though they are neighbors, becoming obsessed about her. Billie chose family life because it was something her mother had been seemingly denied due to work responsibilities with children to raise. Billie is a caring mother and wife. To her it’s a life of comfort even if there constant annoyances and miscommunications. Shannon, however, became a wife and mother due to an unexpected pregnancy. Billie, it seems, is mom for an entire neighborhood.

    Extinction depicts family life well. A lot of copy is about food, stickiness and sloppiness. The story feels authentic. I felt like I was in Billie’s kitchen the whole time.

  4. I loved the simple details of Billie’s life and how that became the focus during the pandemic; what everyone ate and when, their hygiene, their activiities. The loss of her friendship was so potent because it was a way of stepping out of her daily routine that had already been so rudely interrupted by the virus, and then pow! the brutality of murder and the vicious racism that had been seething, now erupting in the social gut.
    So understated, this story reminded me of how stressful last year was here in Felton, California. In addition to lockdown, political uncertainty,
    unimaginable deaths, we experienced drought and ferocious fires without the network of family and friends for support. The tumult took hostages and life,
    personally, I feel I aged more last year than any other year of my 75 years.
    Thank you for making beauty out of mayhem.

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