"Marlinspike" by Tom Paine

As Will Allison puts it in his interview with author Tom Paine in One Story #185, "Marlinspike" is about "the intimate relationship between Phineas, a grown man, and Julia, a ten-year-old girl." What is remarkable about the story is that Paine never allows, as he puts it, "the perv shoe" to drop. The relationship is odd, but never creepy. It is transgressive, without ever seeming illegal. There is a sense of danger, the kind that every story needs, but it's not coming from Phineas; it's coming from the particulars of Julia's life.

For this reason, and so many others—as Allison points out, the use of setting is also admirable—"Marlinspike" is a story worth reading, worth studying. Even if Caribbean islands and casual pot smoking are as much of a turn off for you as they are for me, the characters will win you over. A scuba instructor who's just lost his fiancée meets a girl in a cowboy hat who's looking for something to do while her father attends a conference—what's not to love?

And if that doesn't sell you, a supporting character called Topless Annie just might.

"Marlinspike" was first published in One Story #185, which is available in the iOS App Store and for Kindle.