Throughout 2022, I’ll be reviewing short stories. Some of these may be classics, others forgotten. The two things that all will have in common is that they are part of my personal collection and they will be selected through a randomization process. What works and authors I look at will be entirely selected by a roll of the dice.
“Minister Without Portfolio” was Mildred Clingerman’s debut short story and first appeared in the February 1952 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It is the sort of short story which occasionally appears, but not often, but perfectly captures the time in which it was written.
Mrs. Ida Chriswell is a widow living with her son and daughter-in-law, and, in fact, living in some fear of her daughter-in-law. Not particularly worldly, she has few hobbies aside from crocheting, apparently has few friends, and little interest in the world around her. As the story opens, she is going out to try her hand at bird watching at her daughter-in-law’s insistence, although Ida points out that her inability to see color, reflective, perhaps, of the drab existence she has, will limit her enjoyment of the pastime, which she isn’t actually interested in. Her daughter-in-law’s insistence and her own desire not to rock the boat, results in Ida heading out to an empty field to watch birds, or at least pretend to watch birds while she sits by a tree and crochets.