I am steadily making my way through the Library of America's Cheever: Collected Stories & Other Writings and I remain impressed by how much detail John Cheever could pack into a ten-or-twelve-page short story. Many of his short story characters are as fleshed out and memorable as those from his five novels.
One of the first stories in the collection is "The Hartleys," the story of a young couple who, along with their little girl, have decided to revisit the places that once made them happy. One of those places is the Pemaquoddy Inn at a little upstate New York ski resort they had last visited some eight years earlier.
Other guests of the inn note how attached the little girl is to her father, even to the point of preferring his company to that of her mother, and how when her parents are on the ski slope she never takes her eyes off them as they work their way back down to where she waits.
As the story progresses, the reader begins to get a growing sense that all is not well with this little family despite their best efforts to blend into the community they have temporarily joined. Cheever turns that sense of unease into one of true dread as the story approaches its unforgettable ending.
"The Hartleys" may only be nine pages long but no one reading the story will soon forget it.