Short Story #303: 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Title:  2BR02B 

Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr 

Summary

Drawing of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluinfaccia/2543845899/in/photolist-4SMSL4-993gfe-4HTnvp-GkBsh-GmKoP-4Nm4Rx-Gm3Jw-9nnc1p-fhUVmA-52pTRp-gE3oUa-iHyUD6-nwbo4z-5EaGa6-6r26iv-7zuDkN-MxynM-6w8iNP-og2GA-48zydg-8yKcP6-cFVosf-64ZtmG-7fxXiv-4Umt4m-4Gj978-7EXxrx-ceog9q-jHcPcC-47KRHh-e1CdFW-dDkYSm-4BLjQP-ejtMHw-c61Nbs-eiX15R-eiX816-MeDo-FhSaQ-RK796-75rhgy-GmSec-acYEzC-cyskbW-czaG6G-cz7NAj-8LFvrp-75ri9C-3eYtEj-cEbZrQ
It's into the future and cures have been discovered for all sorts of the illnesses and death itself.  Edward Wehling is waiting in the hospital waiting room as he awaits his wife to give birth to triplets.  Few people had children nowadays as population controls restricted it and Edward by societal standards is also considered young at age fifty-six.  He notes the room's decoration and a man painting a mural of a garden.  The artist is displeased with it as it implies a perfect garden to which he seems dubious about.  A passing orderly remarks on the effort and the artist explains it and also how it is quite far from representing life.  Displeased with the artist's responses, the orderly tells him to call directory number for the Federal Bureau of Termination, the place one calls to end one's life.  The artist explains he would prefer to do it himself, as messy as it would be.  A woman approaches from the FBT's "Service Division" and notices the artist.  She asks about how her department is to be depicted and the artist continues to make light of the picture and its representation of the world.  Doctor Hitz comes out and begins chatting with the woman and tells her about the triplets that were just born.  She is excited about this asks if volunteers have been identified.  The doctor says that they had at least one but still needed two more.  When the woman asks about the father, the doctor says that it is Wehling, who is sitting there to both their surprise and ignorance.  Wehling is not particularly excited as he must determine which of his babies must live if he cannot find anybody to volunteer to die.  The doctor chastises him for his dark thoughts and Wehling assures him that he believes in the system but not when he must make such a harsh decision.  The discussion continues further as the doctor tries to justify the situation and Wehling finally pulls out a revolver and shoots the doctor, the woman, and himself, making room for the triplets to live in the world.  The artist watches this happen and attempts to pick up the gun but doesn't have the gall, so he calls the FBT and requests an appointment. 

Reflection

This is a regular theme for Vonnegut seen in other stories like The Big Trip Up Yonder.  In some ways, it reminds me a bit of Bradbury in how it entails a certain amount of judgment about where the future is headed.  It also has a bit of a hint of Harrison Bergeron in it's violent ending.  

Short Story #303 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #302: Varieties of Religious Experience by John Updike

Title:  Varieties of Religious Experience

Author:  John Updike

Summary

Painting of John Updike.  Source: https://flic.kr/p/6fRSKzDan Kellogg has a front-row seat to the destruction of the Twin Towers and in that moment, loses all of his faith in God, despite being a practicing Christian all his life.  As he stands in his daughter's apartment trying to reconcile the world, he is at a lost in trying to make sense of it, while his daughter does her best to deal with her two daughters that are grappling with what has happened.  While he busies himself with things around the apartment and outside, he still has trouble reconciling what he has witnessed and his utter loss of faith.  The story jumps to a week prior to the event and a man named Mohamed who is in Florida at a strip bar.  He contemplates his forthcoming actions in contrast ot the scenes around him.  He is mentally preparing for the forthcoming task of flying a plane into the towards.  His partner is with him but a bit distracted by everything around him and eventually causes some issues, enough for a bouncer to approach them.  Mohamed explains that they are pilots and tries to de-escalate the situation.  The story then moves to Jim Finch who works in one of the towers.  He answers a phone call from his wife who is reminding him of errands he must run on his way home but he is a bit distracted. He keeps trying to interrupt and she finally catches on that there is something wrong.  He explains that something has struck the building.  His wife begins to panic but he remains calm, asking her to go to the house window to see what can be seen from their house in New Jersey.  She continues to panic and Jim tries to comfort her as he says his good bye.  He also encourages her that if something happens to him that she should go on with her life.  The story jumps to Caroline who is on a flight with others.  She and others begin to recognize that something isn't quite right.  Someone appears and gets people's attention, telling them to stay in their seats to avoid harm.  The passengers become increasingly anxious with some calling their loved ones.  The tension rises as passengers plot and execute an attack on the hijackers and as the plane plummets to its destruction Caroline says her prayers.  The story returns to Dan well after the aftermath of 9/11, with his family and we see the impact on the different family members as a result.  The story ends with a conversation between him and his granddaughters about how much will change as a result of the attack.



Reflection

I'm rather fond of this story because it tries to connect and consider the challenges that such tragic events can do to people, depending on their context.  Belief is something that can be profoundly shaken or reinforced depending upon one's positionality to a particular event and I think Updike shows this well.  

Short Story #302 out of 365
Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #301: The Outage by John Updike

Title:  The Outage

Author:  John Updike

Summary

Painting of John Updike.  Source: https://flic.kr/p/6fRSKzA storm strikes the New England town that knocks out the power.  Brad decides to go into town and run some errands since he cannot work from home as usual.  His visit to the town center run into some problems since the power is out and many places cannot complete the transactions.  On his way home, he encounters a neighbor that he is not as familiar with, Lynne.  They chat about the storm and lack of electricity.  She explains that her husband is away and so she decides to walk about.  He invites her into the car and offers her a ride home.  When they get to the house, the burglar alarm is going off and Brad helps to turn it off.  While in the house, they continue to chat and he notices how much her house is like hs own.  She offers him some coffee but he asks for a drink of what she had been having.  The two move into an embrace.  They make their way upstairs, continuing to undress.  They enter the master bedroom that is filled with mementos from her marriage and family, while he notices his own house from the window.  The storm contrasts with their sexual expressions and just as they are go further, the electricity comes back on.  There is a clear break in the rhythm between the two and the two find themselves ashamed and he decides to leave.

Reflection

I like the title and the connection between the tryst and the idea of an "outage."  In some ways, it seems that the two generally don't do this but that this has created an unlikely opportunity to explore.  In this way, the power outage seems to represent a sharp disconnect in the relationships for both characters, but yet, not one that ends things permanently.  



Short Story #301 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #300: A Sense of Shelter by John Updike





Title:  A Sense of Shelter 

Author:  John Updike

Summary

Painting of John Updike.  Source: https://flic.kr/p/6fRSKzWilliam sits in class on a snowy day, contemplating his place in high school now that he was a senior, though still an outsider.  The center of his thoughts is telling Mary Landis of his love for her since childhood when she beat him in a race and Mary came back to give him his schoolbag after he ran away.  He makes his way through the day, going to classes and even lunch with classmates (though not really friends).  At lunch, William thinks about his chances with Mary now that she is a bit more socially isolated than in years past since they were seniors and she had spent previous years hanging with older students.  He makes his way through classes after lunch and then begins working on the school newspaper after school.  He manages his departure from the school at the same time that Mary is leaving, so they begin to chat.  He is frustrated by his stutter but continues chatting with her and praising her in their conversation.  Their conversation delves into feelings about the school and the future.  He finally tells her that he's always loved her and she seems to bat the comment aside.  He insists but finds himself confounded by her reaction.  He pushes forward and asks her to marry him and she says that he really doesn't and that he's going to be somebody.  He attempts to kiss her but she moves aside and then goes outside.  William wonders why she won't marry him and she says that they don't even know each other.  When asked what he knows about her, all he can say is that she's not a virgin, another mistake.  The conversation descends from there and William goes back inside, heartbroken and feeling empty inside.

Reflection

It's a story many of us can relate to, for sure.  Boy likes girl,  Boy pursues girl.  Boy totally botches opportunity because boy doesn't really want the girl for the right reasons.  Sounds about right for many of our relationships in high school or life for that matter.  

Short Story #300 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #299: The Swimmer by John Cheever

Title:  The Swimmer

Author:  John Cheever

Summary

Photo of John Cheever.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Johncheever.jpgNeddy Merrill is spending his midsummer Sunday with a group of friends poolside, enjoying the day.  People are recovering from the previous night's drinking and he is contemplating returning home.  He slowly realizes that if he plans it right he could easily swim his way home by a mixture of cutting through backyards and swimming through the pools of people he knows.  It would be several miles of travel but he rather liked the idea and decides to pursue it.  He sets off in the current pool and then makes his way into the next yard.  He has it largely mapped in his head and finds his way easily from yard to yard.  At times, he encounters friends whom he briefly chats with before jumping into the pool and swimming across.  Many are happy to see him and offer him a drink so as he goes along, he begins to feel more and more fatigued.  While this is happening, the clouds are gathering and a storm is imminent. When the storm does hit, he finds shelter in a neighbor's gazebo before moving forward.  The second half of his journey, he encounters increasing confusion as he seems to forget what has happened to certain people and others raise questions about things that he no longer remembers.  He continues to run into obstacles such as the highway he must cross in just his bathing suit and empty pools.   He encounters his mistress whom he had clearly mistreated but doesn't seem to care. As he hones in closer to his home, his energy is all but gone and he can barely make it across the pools.  When he arrives at home, he finds there is no one there to answer his knock and no lights on.  When he looks in the window, he finds the house is empty.


Reflection

I rather liked the story's structure and pace.  At first, I was confused as to what he was actually doing but once I understood he was swimming across pools, it made more sense (after all, I certainly tried to do similar things with going through backyards, growing up).  The parallels of his journey with that of life are pretty clear and I like how Cheever juxtaposes his progress in distance with a loss of energy and stature.  


Short Story #299 out of 365
Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #298: Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

Title:  Everything That Rises Must Converge

Author:  Flannery O’Connor

Summary

Photo of Flannery O'Connor.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Flannery-O'Connor_1947.jpgJulian is taking his mother to the YMCA for her weekly class to help her reduce her blood pressure.  His mother supports him now that he has graduated college and can't seem to get his writing career started.  As they get ready, the two bicker about the hat that the mother is wearing and this eventually rolls into a discussion about lineage and how they descended from great men who owned plantations and slaves and now they live in less desirable conditions.  The conversation slips further into discussing race wherein Julian condemns his mother for her racist beliefs.  Julian continues to feel self-righteous in his evolved beliefs and looks for ways to annoy his mother.  When they are at the bus-stop, he takes off his tie.  Once on the bus, they converse with others about the heat and there is more tension that develops between Julian and his mother.  Enough so that when an African American gets on the bus, he decides to sit next to him to spite his mother.  He proceeds to try to interact with the man but the man is not interested.  Julian's mind continues to scheme and plot about ways to annoy and anger his mother.  An African American woman and her child get aboard and Julian hopes for another confrontation, but instead of the mother, the child sits with his mother.  His mother considers all children precious and so he loses hope about a confrontation.  However, he does realize the woman has the same hat that his mother does and he hopes that this will frazzle her sensibilities.  When it comes time to get off the bus, the mother decides to offer a nickel to the boy, which Julian tries to discourage.  She doesn't listen and the mother of the boy slaps her to the ground in anger.  No sooner does the woman and child leave than Julian is telling his mother that she got what she deserved.  The mother stops and decides to walk home.  Julian protests but she just walks home with no emotion.  After a while, she collapses and immediately, Julian is sent into fear about his mother's possible death.


Reflection

Such a great story that engages the nuances of racism in white culture.  Julian's attempt at proving his welcoming of other races is damning and something that still happens today when people claim to be welcoming to outsider groups.  There's a bit of the "I can't be racist, because I have friends that are minorities," argument but in Julian's case, it's theoretical at best and tokenism at worse--seeking out minorities just to rattle his mother.  It's a great example of how racism is so pernicious.



Short Story #298 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.   

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #297: Wunderkind by Carson McCullers





Title:  Wunderkind 

Author:  Carson McCullers

Summary

Photo of Carson McCullers.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Carsonmccullers.jpgBienchen arrives early at her piano instruction when her instructor, Bilderbach makes note of her early arrival.  The other instructor Mr. Lafkowitz enters the room and greets Bienchen.  He asks her how she is doing and she admits to doing bad.  Before Lafkowitze can make a suggestion, Bilderbach encourages the start of the session.  Before starting Lafkowitz makes mention of a boy named Heime being featured in a magazine, Musical Corner and is being invited to a play in the Beethoven Concerto.  Bienchen sees this and reflects on how much practice she had put into her playing in just that day.  She remembers how she was considered a wunderkind like Heime at a young age and both of them now--of similar age, though she is slightly old--are in different places with their music.  Her first performance is impressive to the instructors in her ability to play from memory but they insist that if she is to do something, the playing needs both mind and heart.  Determine to live up to the title of wunderkind, she sets hard to practicing as much as she can, including lessons twice a week.  Over the years of training, she would occasionally spend Saturday night at Bilderback's home with him and his wife.  While Bilderbach trained her, Lafkowitz worked with Heime over the same time.  During this time though, it was clear that Heime solely focused on his playing to the exclusion of all else, whereas Bienchen had to focus on her normal routines.  Much of their divergence came from a concert they were a part of and the artificial differences (he appeared younger and thus was perceived differently than she) and the music selection that was chosen.  While Bilderbach recommended another set that would better illustrate her skill, she insisted on another set that was also agreeable to Lafkowitz and Heime.  Well after the concert, Bilderbach has her play the piece he wanted her too and he is pleased with it but Lafkowitz rudely comments on her playing, which angers Bilderbach.  Still later, it is apparent that both Bilderbachs dote on Bienchen as a daughter-they-never had.  This swirl of backstory and context, help to show Bienchen's own realization that while Heime is excelling, she is beginning to slip.  Less and less is she successful and she can tell she no longer has the appeal of a wunderkind, now that she is closer to adulthood.  However, this afternoon, Bilderbach wants her to start anew and forget everything else.  He introduces new music and is attempting a fresh start. The attempt is filled with guidance and directions from Bilderbach.  She no sooner finishes it than she realizes how little she can work the piano in a passionate manner. He insists that she plays another song that she knows quite well in a particular manner and though she tries and struggles through, she finds it impossible.  Finally, she gives up and leaves the house as quickly as possible.

Reflection

It's a tale about coming to terms with one's own limited abilities, especially after years of being told that one is exceptional.  There is a sadness to that realization for many of us as we come to terms with such limitations (and the overall implied mortality).  

Short Story #297 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #296: Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

Title:  Lamb to the Slaughter 

Author:  Roald Dahl

Summary

Photo of Roald Dahl: Source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Roald_Dahl.jpg
Mary Maloney was a dedicated and loving wife, six months pregnant with her first child.  One evening, she waits for her husband, a police office, to come home and happily greets him.  His tone and body language is removed.  She attempts to help and serve him but he demands that she sits down.  He then shares news with her that indicates he is leaving (possibly with another woman).  Mary is stunned by this and attempts to disengage with it.  She decides to get dinner and goes downstairs to check the freezer where she finds a leg of lamb.  She brings it up and he sees it and begins to scold her because he's going to go out.  In a single motion, Mary bashes his head in with the frozen leg of lamb and he falls flat.  She realizes what she did and her mind quickly clears.  She puts the rack into the oven and then heads down to the market, where she talks to the grocer about making a special meal for her husband.  When she comes back home, she sees her husband's body and feels new pain and sorrow for the lose.  She calls the police to let them know.  The police begin to explore the house and ask her questions.  They send people out to the market to find out about her visit.  They discuss the details of the case and largely seem to disregard her as a suspect.  As the evening goes on and the police are present, Mary insists that they enjoy her leg of lamb that she had cooked since they are all working hard to find her husband's killer.  As the men eat the lamb, they remark that the murder weapon had to be a blunt object that's right under their noses.  


Reflection

This was a fun story that reminded me to some degree of Shirley Jackson's What a Thought, but obviously with more motivation.  Overall, it was a rather dark story that I liked and have found like other tales of Dahl to have that dark and fascinating quality to them, just like his children's stories.  In some ways, I can see a bit of Roald Dahl in Neil Gaiman's work.  I also like the play on the title in contrast ot the use of lamb and the offices blindness. 

Short Story #296 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can find the full text of this short story at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #295: Beware of the Dog by Roald Dahl

Title:  Beware of the Dog

Author:  Roald Dahl

Summary

Photo of Roald Dahl: Source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Roald_Dahl.jpgPeter Williamson is trying to land his plane.  However, his leg is bleeding profusely and he's losing full control of his cognition.  As he flies through the skies in his plan, he believe everything is fine and normal, that he doesn't feel anything.  He's flying above the clouds and is therefore a bit unsure of whether he has made it to England or not or is over the Channel.  Unsure of his options, he bails out of the plane and next awakens in a hospital room.  It takes some time to orient himself to the situation and eventually, a nurse comes in to check on him, telling him he is a lucky fellow.  Peter notices that the doctor is a military doctor, who is optimistic about Peter's situation.  After they leave, Peter swears he hears a JU-88 German airplane flying about which has a very distinct sound in contrast to the British plans.  When he asks the nurse, she shrugs it off and insists it's British planes.  Later, he hears another aircraft that he cannot seem to match and begins to wonder about his sanity.  The next day while cleaning his wounded leg, she makes a comment about the soap and hard water in Brighton (where they are located).  Peter has been to Brighton before and realizes something is wrong because the area generally has soft water.  The pieces of information swirl in Peter's head throughout the following night.  During the early morning, he decides to make the painful trek from his stationery bed to the window.  He manages through pain and discomfort to crawl and pull himself up to the window.  In examining his surroundings, he sees signs in French that indicate he is not in Brighton.  He manages to get back to his bed without anyone realizing what he had done.  The nurse informs him that people from the air ministry would be coming to see him and Peter reflects on what his Intelligence Officer drilled into his brain if he was captured.  When the man arrives and begins to ask questions, Peter strictly responds with his name, rank, and serial number.   

Reflection

The story took two turns that I didn't expect.  Given how long the landing piece went, I had wondered if the whole story was going to be a dream or raise the question of whether he had lived or died.  However, when he landed and begin to notice different things, I thought this might be further proof, but that he was captured and now a prison did surprise me.  

Short Story #295 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can find the full text of this short story at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #294 The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

Title:  The Catbird Seat

Author:  James Thurber

Summary

Photo of James Thurber.  Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/James_Thurber_NYWTS.jpgMr. Martin has decided to plot the death of Mrs. Ulgine Barrows.  She is her boss's new assistant and has set to task for cleaning up and organizing the offices within the company.  She soon sets her eyes on Martin's office and he determines he must do something.  He has plotted out exactly how he will execute this and he moves forward with it, moving through the night, setting up his alibi and his approach.  He sets out at night and makes his way to Barrows' home, doing his best not to encounter anyone or be seen.  He finally arrives at his apartment and she greets him at the door.  Before she can welcome him in, he charges in.  He frantically searches the apartment for something to kill her with and she is unclear about why he is acting so strange.  He eventually finds himself incapable of killing her but proceeds to smoke and drink and be disagreeable towards her--all of which is utterly out of character for Martin as far as everyone knows.  He then divulges a plan to kill their mutual boss because he says he believes their boss is an idiot.  Barrow warns Martin about his language and demanor but he insists that he will do it, in part because of his heroin habit.  He leaves her and returns home.  The next day, he goes to work acting as normal as always when Mrs. Barrows enters and goes right to the president to report him.  The president comes to his office to confront him, disbelieving Barrows' tale.  Martin puts on an act of not having any recollection of the night before.  The president sides with him, having known him for twenty years and that's when Barrow busts into the room yelling at Martin, which only reaffirms the president's view.  SHe is escorted away and Martin is left smiling at saving his office. 

Reflection

A fun tale that is apparently the inspiration for a film called The Battle of the Sexes with Peter Sellers.  It was a fun story with hints of a mystery that become largely amusing in the end.  The endgame seemed to be clear once he decided he couldn't kill her but rather make her look a fool instead.  

Short Story #294 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full short story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #293: The Jockey by Carson McCullers

Title:  The Jockey

Author:  Carson McCullers

Summary

Photo of Carson McCullers.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Carsonmccullers.jpgAfter a big race, a jockey named Bitsy stands to the side in a dining room watching the room.  He keeps his eyes on one table that includes his trainer, a bookie, and the horse's owner.   He is clearly marked by his experiences.  The trainer spots him and the owner insists on inviting him over, even though the bookie believes the jockey's crazy. They talk about how his friend, another jockey, got seriously hurt on the track. Eventually, Bitsy comes over.  His demeanor is reluctant and angry.  He's purposely manner-less to the others.  The trainer keeps trying to rail him in and keep him behaved. His defiant position takes a turn to talking about his friend whom he explains that he just found out that they removed the case (6 months since the accident) and that one of his legs is two inches shorter than the other.  To this, his trainer delivers a line of faux empathy that enrages the jockey.  He decides to order more drinks though the trainer warns him about what it will do to him.  This doesn't stop him and he drinks a Manhattan.  While he's at the bar, the men continue to discuss Bitsy's actions and condemn them.  He returns to the table to bring up the discussion of his friend again, but the trainer tries to rail him in.  To this, he calls them Libertines and leaves.  They are largely speechless with his departure. 


Reflection

There's a great contrast between the meal and the tension of the conversation and Bitsy's presence.  Additionally, the intersection of the bookie, the owner, and the trainer represent a triumvirate of power that control not only the horses' lives but the jockeys as well. This seems damning in that though Bitsy is an adult, he is infantilized by his names (Bitsy and "kid") and how people talk down to him. 



Short Story #293 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can find the full text of this short story at this site.  


For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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Short Story #292: The Geranium by Flannery O'Connor

Title:  The Geranium

Author:  Flannery O'Connor

Summary

Photo of Flannery O'Connor.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Flannery-O'Connor_1947.jpgOld Dudley watches out the window of the apartment to the apartment across the alley where the occupants put a geranium out on the windowsill for much of the day  He disproves of this but it does give him something to look at and think about.  He is a bit resentful about living in an apartment with his daughter's family but in a moment of weakness, the decision was made for him to live with them and not by himself out in the country.  Old Dudley continues flashes back and forth between life in the apartment in New York and the more open life he lived Coa County, where he lived in a boarding house with women and did various things around the area with an African American man, Rabie, who often was subservient to Old Dudley.  Dudley looks fondly upon the experience and longs to return as he experiences within the city are largely overwhelming.  The movement of the city coupled with the mixture of people can at times scare him.  When an African American moves an apartment on the same floor, Dudley believes that he is a servant and says as much.  His daughter is annoyed with the resentment Dudley shows when she explains that the man lives next door and no one should have a problem with that.  Later, she asks him to go down to the third floor to get something for her.  He reluctantly agrees and makes his way there.  Along the way, he passes the apartment in question.  The door is open and he can see an African American woman in there, whom he chides in his mind for wearing glasses.  After he fetches the item, he slowly makes his way back up the stairs but as he does, he encounters the African American man that he was talking about.  Dudley has a flashback of his time with Rabie when they were hunting so when the man approaches, Dudley is aiming a pretend gun.  The man offers to help the largely silent Dudley up the stairs slowly.  The man is friendly and helpful, asking questions that the man barely answers.  He goes back into the apartment, still startled by the experience.  He returns to his chair and finds that he cannot contain the crying that he has been holding back at different times throughout his stay here.  The man from across the alley sees him at this point and asks him why he is crying.  Dudley asks where the geranium is and the man says it fell.  Dudley and the man bicker about being in the window, caring for the geranium and such until the man tells him to go get the plant if he cares so much about it.  Dudley doesn't have the strength to get the plant or respond to the man in the end.  



Reflection

There are some interesting contrasts in this story between the old ways and the new and the pace of life and mindsets.  Old Dudley (Old Dud) seems appropriately named in terms of how he reacts to his world.  At times, the reader feels bad for but also condemns his actions and thoughts. 



Short Story #292 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can find the full text of this short story at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Short Story #291: The Raid by John Steinbeck

Title:  The Raid

Author:  John Steinbeck

Summary

John Steinbeck Sketch - Image source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5054/5509984031_1e3d7293a2_z.jpgDick and Root arrive to town at night.  Dick is older and more experience, while Root is a bit nervous.  They make their way throw town, discussing the plans for the evening.  Root is nervous for the evening's even while Dick tries to reassure him that it will be fine.  They decide that Root will start off talking and Dick will follow up.  The discussion makes clear that they are there to help establish a union or organized labor for the town and that they have put flyers to invite people.  Root is also worried that police and anti-union people will arrive and do violence.  Dick affirms that they are not to run away when it gets violent but to hold their ground.  By staying, they will make their point.  As they arrive at the meeting place, it is utterly abandoned which makes Root increasingly nervous and wondering when they should give up. They begin to set up the space and feud a bit over how to do things such as get both lamps up and running.  While setting up, a man comes in and warns them that a raiding party is coming and they must get out of there.  Dick thanks the man and tells him he can go but that he and Root are staying. Root is scared by this and continues to talk to Dick about it.  He asks Dick to hold him back if Root runs.  Root doesn't believe he will run but he doesn't know because he is scared.  Some time later, the men show up and circle around the two.  Root begins to speak, saying that they are doing it for them.  This instigates the men and they begin to beat them.  Later, he awakes with Dick with injuries and broken bones.  Dick provides positive words to Root's sacrifice.  Root then goes to explain that when he was being beaten, it reminded him of the Biblical verse, "Forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing."  Dick tells him to lay off the religious content but Root wants to insist it is something different than religion that he is referring to. 

Reflection

The back and forth between Root and Dick was interesting, especially at the end.  Dick seems accepting of the role he has to play and does little to think about it whereas Root is constantly questioning it and in the end, seems to find something more in it than Dick does.  Root seems more deeply struck by their work (pun intended) and that seems to go clearly with his initial fear and anxiety.  

Short Story #291 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can find the full text of this short story at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Short Story #290: The Fire and the Cloud by Zora Neale Hurston

Title:  The Fire and the Cloud

Author:  Zora Neale Hurston

Summary

Photo of Zora Neale Hurston.  Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Zora_Neale_Hurston_(1938).jpgMoses is upon Mount Nebo, sitting upon his grave and looking upon his people who have traveled to Canaan.  A lizard strikes up a conversation with him.  It has been thirteen days since he has been buried.  The lizard is impressed with his "nest" and wonders what Moses' female will think of it but Moses explains he is alone.  The lizard doesn't entirely understand this, but when he goes to further inquire, Moses's head is in the clouds.  The lizard goes back to his home and sleeps.  He comes back and sees Moses returns, so he begins talking.  The lizard notes that Moses has some kind of power because he can summon flies for the lizard to eat when he is hungry.  The lizard asks where he comes from and he points to the plains of Moab.  He explains that he is alone because he has been chosen by God to lead but he has never been able to understand why he was called.  Upon hearing all that he has done, the lizard believes that his people's love for him must be great.  However, Moses explains that love doesn't come from such service but if he has done well by his people, they shall create monuments.  The lizard asks if none of them love him and Moses says that Joshua might and that he shall follow in Moses' footsteps.  The lizard asks if his service has brought him joy and Moses says that at times it did--he has led a great people, but much of his strength has been lost as his great people sought to undermine him repeatedly.  Moses head goes into the clouds again and the lizard goes asleep.  The lizard returns and says that his people will triumph beyond the river Jordan and he will be celebrated as a "king of kings."  This doesn't impress Moses.  He worries about his lasting impression and whether they will follow his commandments.  He finally decides to retire to his tomb and leave his rod for Joshua.


Reflection

This was a curious tale and not one of my favorites of Hurston.  I think I need to know more of Moses experience to better understand this tale. There's clear reluctance and disappointment in Moses but it seems hard to determine if it is directed at his people or at his God.  

Short Story #290 out of 365
Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can read the full short story at this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

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Short Story #289: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

Title:  Hills Like White Elephants

Author:  Ernest Hemingway

Summary

Picture of Ernest Hemingyway - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/ErnestHemingway.jpgAn American and his woman wait at a train station in Ebrol.  The man orders two beers for them, while they look out at the hills beyond the tracks.  The woman comments that they look like white elephants.  The man says he's never seen one and the woman agrees.  They look at a sign for a drink called the Anis del Toro.  They decide to order the drink.  When told it tastes like licorice, she makes a passing reference to longing for absinthe.  This gets the American to tell her to cut it out and insist they try to have a fine time.  She comments that all they do is look at things and try new drinks.  They continue to look at the hills.  Finally, the man tells her that it's a simple operation that they just let in air.  He assures her that he will be with her throughout.  He assures her things will go back to normal and he says that it's the only thing that has bothered them.  They both admit to knowing people who have had the surgery and are happy afterward.  The woman gives in but explains that she's doing it but she's doing it for him.  This concerns the American and he insists that she do it because she wants to.  The woman walks to the end of the station in response to this.  The man insists that they could have everything after the surgery but the woman says the world isn't theirs any more.  She insists that it isn't.  She asks to end the conversation but he keeps insisting that she understands that she do it for herself and that he does care for her.  She threatens to scream and the waitress comes by to say the train will arrive in five mines.  They go back and finish the beer.  He asks if she feels better and she says she feels fine. 

Reflection

Nothing is quite what it seems, which is to be expected with Hemingway.  This short glimpse into the lives of this couple gives us enough to know that they have little chance of survival in the long run and that she is uncertain about whether she will have the surgery (in all likelihood, an abortion) or not.  The tension and angst is palpable within the story as we are interrupted time and again by the peripheral elements like drinks, scenery, etc.  


Short Story #289 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can read the full short story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Short Story #288: The Hack Driver by Sinclair Lewis

Title:  The Hack Driver 

Author:  Sinclair Lewis

Summary

Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Lewis-Sinclair-LOC.jpgThe narrator after working his way through law school finds himself working in a law office that is sending him out to serve a summons, which he thinks is below him.  He travels out by train to New Mullion to find this person.  Upon arrival, he finds he needs to get around and find this person so he talks to the first person he encounters.  He says he is looking for Oliver Lutkins and hopes the man can help him.  The man, Bill Magnuson, says he saw him a brief while ago and that he would be happy to drive him around to find the man.  The narrator knows the man is trying to get some money out of him and he is ok with that so long as they find Lutkins.  Over the course of the next few hours, Bill brings the narrator all over town where they keep missing Lutkins by a briefer periods of times.  Eventually, Bill brings him to Lutkins mother who also spins a tale of frustration about her son.  The narrator returns to the office empty handed and is sent back to the town with the help of someone who actually knows Lutkins.  When they arrive in town, the narrator spots Bill with Lutkins' mother.  The narrator's partner explains that Bill is in fact Oliver Lutkins.  When the narrator serves the summons, Lutkins laughs and says that he was hoping they could go to a neighbor's for coffee since they were the only folks that missed him when he came by before. 

Reflection

It's an amusing tale that captures the views of traditional "city folk" and "country bumpkins."  The educated lawyer believing he is above his position gets schooled by the country fellow who is quicker and smarter.  It seemed pretty clear early on that Bill was Lutkins but that the narrator was too blind to see it.


Short Story #288 out of 365
Rating:  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can read the full short story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.