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Goodnight, Nobody by Michael Knight


Rating: (Recommended)


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The nine short stories in Michael Knight’s new collection, Goodnight, Nobody, all pack a wallop. Treat yourself to nine nights of fine reading by reading this book. Make it eight nights, here’s an excerpt of one complete story, “The Mesmerist” (pp. 67-69):

Moody boarded The Silver Star bound for DC, where he would hop The Crescent and ride it through the night. There was a dinner theater in New Orleans looking for a mesmerist to open the show and he had played well there in the past. In the seat opposite his, a girl was reading a fashion magazine. She was wearing a sweatshirt (Boston University Chamber Music Society), and every few seconds she tucked the same wayward strand of hair behind her ear. Moody had a gift for reading people and, in this girl, he recognized a sadness, something familiar and close to his heart. He saw it in the slump of her shoulders. He saw it in the hint of wear and tear around her eyes. She was hopeful and afraid. She had been unlucky all her life. This girl would have a broken heart before too long.

"Are you watching me?" she said. "I hate being watched."

She closed the magazine and leveled a glare at Moody. In one motion, he reached into the pocket of his coat, withdrew a penlight, and flicked the beam across her line of sight. He said, "Every muscle in your body is limp now. I am pulling your eyes closed with silken threads." The girl opened her mouth, but instead of speaking, she slumped in her seat. He counted down from ten to one and when he was finished, she was perfectly asleep. Her hands upturned and pendulous beside her. Her head bobbing as they rocked across a trestle. She looked vaguely surprised.

In Philadelphia, Moody steered her along in the tide of exiting passengers. He bought a pair of tickets in a sleeping berth to Cleveland. While they rolled cross-country in the dark. Moody described the life they would have together. He said she would never be lonely. He told her she would be possessed of grace and charm. He rambled until morning. "I’m going to count again," he said. "This time, when you wake, you will no longer be acquainted with unhappiness."


Moody found day work and they rented in a neighborhood sumptuous with brick and shade. They were happy for a while. Penelope took piano lessons from an elderly woman on the block, Mrs. Berryman, who often stopped Moody on the street and said, "That

Penelope of yours is the most confident beginner I’ve ever had. It's like she knows piano in her bones." If the weather was right for open windows, Moody could hear her practicing when he walked home at night He would stand in the yard marveling at the simple bricks and elegant maples and surprise himself with the notion that this was the life he had been looking for all his days.


One evening, already within earshot of Penelope's piano, Moody spotted a stranger peeking in the windows. It was fall, leaves chameleoning on their branches. Moody hurried up the street, called a friendly hello, wondered aloud what the man was doing on his porch. The man smiled in what Moody guessed was meant to be a reassuring way.

"I'm a private investigator," he said. "I've been looking for a girl." He retrieved a photograph from his briefcase—Penelope with a green ribbon pinned to her shoulder.

"What did she win?" Moody said.

"Second prize in the Fairfax County Piano Recital," he said. "She did Chopin. Her name's Penelope."

Moody slipped his penlight from his pocket, flicked the beam in his practiced manner. He lowered his voice and said,"You have made a mistake. There is no Penelope here."

"I have made a mistake," the man repeated. "There is no Penelope here."


His eyes were glazed, his mouth hanging open. The photograph fluttered from his fingertips.

Moody said, "Perhaps she has run off to Honduras. You should go down and have a look."

"Perhaps she has run off to Honduras," the man said. "I should go down and have a look."

Moody watched him stagger up the sidewalk to his car and drive away. He bent and picked up the picture, stood looking at it until Penelope's music came back to him, a melancholy sound on the fragile air.


At Christmas, they invited lonely Mrs. Berryman over and after dinner she sat beside Penelope on the piano bench and they played duets of holiday songs. When she was tired, they bundled Mrs. Berryman into her coat and walked her home. They stood at the curb and watched the snow gathering on the hood of Moody’s car.

Penelope said, "I love how the snow muffles and magnifies everything at the same time. My voice sounds so loud just now.”


Moody slipped his arm around her waist, let the deepening silence drift back in behind her words. He kissed the top of Penelope's head, her hair cold and brittle and dusted with snow.


He said, "You should have worn your hat"

I’ll be fine," she said. "You mother me too much, Moody."

She leaned her head on his shoulder and drew him against her. Christmas trees shone through parted curtains. The snow sparkled. Moody wondered if their footprints would be covered by morning.

“The Mesmerist” is the shortest story in the collection, and the others are equally imaginative and well written, with just enough character development to bring pleasure to a reader. Enjoy reading Goodnight, Nobody.

Steve Hopkins, March 25, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the April 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Nobody.htm


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