Showing posts from July, 2014

Short Story #211: Two Military Executionsby Ambrose Bierce

Title: Two Military ExecutionsAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummary It's the earlier years of the Civil War and soldiers are still acclimating to what war means for a generation of them have never known war.  Private Bennett Greene strikes at Lieutenant William Dudley, who quickly reacts and has him thrown in prison.  He is promptly charged and court-marshaled and will be shot in the morning.  Dudley visits him in the prison wherein Greene begs forgiveness and Dudley agrees that he did not want to see Greene executed but because he too did not know the best course of action, also overreacted.  Greene is shot in the morning.  A few weeks later during roll call, a sergeant performing the act forgets to have struck Greene from the record.  He calls for Greene and there is a response called.  Dudley demands to have his named called again.  As Dudley tries to find the person calling out Greene, a shot is fired and Dudley is hit.  He dies.  

ReflectionTypical Bierce with some sense of cosmic just…

Short Story #210: A Revolt of the Gods by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Revolt of the Gods Author: Ambrose BierceSummaryA husband who collects dead dogs grows increasingly frustrated with his wife, who sells cat-food and beats up the cleric who married them.  Upon this act, the city grows resentful and people refuse to give him dead dogs; allowing them to rot throughout the city.  This destabilizes his income and also invokes the rage of the wife, for though she loathes the husband, she is still dependent upon that income.  She stops selling cat-food which caused the cats in the town to become angry and worried the citizenry since the cats were part of their spiritual believes.  Eventually, the starving cats and dead dogs rise up to do battle and the humans themselves join in and the city descends into chaos and destruction.  The narrator explains this is where he received a pivotal education to be a Chief of Misrule in America today.   ReflectionAnother quirky and strange tale but one that has precursor elements of Lovecraft, Del Tuermo, or other…

Short Story #209: An Imperfect Conflagrationby Ambrose Bierce

Title: An Imperfect ConflagrationAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryThe narrator explains that murdering his father has left a lasting impression on him, even now, years later.  He didn't want to murder his father but he found he had no choice.  They were working together on a burglary opportunity and things were going well.  They managed to split everything down the middle without any problems until the narrator realized that his father had in fact tried to hit a precious music box from the mix of stolen items.  The father was quite fond of music and really wanted to keep this as opposed to split it.  When the narrator calls him out on this act, the father acquieces but finally challenges the son the cut in half such a precious item.  Instead, the narrator kills his father with an ax.  Just after this happens, his mother enters and he is forced to kill her as well.  He seeks help from local friends on what to do and the sheriff recommends that he puts them into a bookshelf and burns th…

Short Story #208:The Holy Terror by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Holy TerrorAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryJefferson Doman arrives at Hurdy-Gurdy, an abandoned mining site and sets up his claim upon a grave in the abandoned cemetery.  He has come here after hearing from an old friend that this is where the friend had buried his treasure.  The grave is of a local woman named Scarry who was supposedly horribly marked in some way.  Doman, himself, had set out years ago to make his fortune in order to return and claim his love, Mary.  However, over the years, Mary had renounced their love fro she had gotten into various trouble and in the course of it been physically marred.  She sent him a picture revealing the deformity.  This is itself did not dissuade Doman but made him more vigilant to return to her someday.  He finished digging up the grave in the late night and thus had the pleasure of playing with dead things in the dark. As he stands up the casket, he realizes that it was put in face down, so when he stands it up in the hole he has du…

Short Story #207: The Story of a Conscience by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Story of a Conscience Author: Ambrose BierceSummaryCaptain Parrol Hartroy happens to be at a checkpoint with a soldier when a civilian happens to pass through.  The soldier checks the papers and waves him by but shortly after, Hartroy sets off after the person and catches up with him, point a gun and telling him to surrender.  Hartroy tells the man that he knows the man to be Dramer Brune, a spy for the Confederacy.  Brune admits it and says that he will go quietly.  The next morning, Hartroy confronts Brune explaining that Hartroy knew who he was because years back, Hartroy was ordered after a long day to watch Brune over night after Brune had been previously captured.  Hartroy had fallen asleep and Brune had done no harm--either escaping or reporting on Hartroy.  In this way, Brune had saved his life.  Challenged by this Hartroy ponders what to do but as the camp begins its morning routine, he is interrupted by other soldiers and must sent Brune to his death.  While Brune…

Short Story #206: The Affair at Coulter's Notch by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Affair at Coulter's NotchAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryThe Federal army is positioned in such a way that it can attack an already retreating group of Confederate soldiers.  The General, upon hearing of the brave Captain Coulter decides that he would make the obvious choice to arm a gun station that is in a vulnerable position (taking up about 12 of the Confederate gun stations).  Coulter is shown the notch he is to take and asked if he is ready to take it.  Coulter asks to clarify that he is to fire upon the house and shows reluctance in assuming his duties but does go forward.  The general withdraws and watches the battle play out, continually waiting for the gun notch to become undone.  Despite the odds, the gun continues to shoot.  While observing the battle, an aide attempts to explain Coulter's background and how he was originally from the South and somehow sent back into the region in which he originally came from.  The General barely listens but continues to w…

Short Story #205: The Famous Gilson Bequest by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Famous Gilson BequestAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryGilson is known for being quite the rogue where he lives.  He was kicked out of New Jerusalem and set up shop in Mammon Hill just as  gold rush ensued.  However, despite his antics, he was making a go of trying to be a better person but was caught or at least accused of horse stealing and the community conspired to execute him.  While awaiting his death, he wrote a will in which he delegated Mr. Brentshaw to serve as the executor and to keep whatever remained after distributing the will.  The will called for people for people who could prove they had been wronged by Gilson to submit a request within five years of his execution to be appropriately compensated from a vast fortune that Gilson had but no one knew about.  The news of this gets out and soon many people are making claim to it and Brentshaw must work ceaselessly to address all the claims in order for him to get compensated as the will indicates.  Five years later, h…

Short Story #204: The Other Lodgers by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Other LodgersAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryA colonel explains to his companion that if he must travel to Atlanta, he must make sure not to stay at the Breathitt Hotel.  He relates his experience there.  The hotel was is horrible condition as if it were abandoned.  When he checked into the room, the clerk took him to his room and left him a candle but did nothing else.  In the middle of the night, he awakes and finds that the floor is entirely covered in bodies, all of which are dead.  The man makes his way out of the room and goes to the clerk.  He demands an explanation but the clerk is silent.  The clerk eventually disappears and a man enters.  The man explains that the hotel has been abandoned for a long time and that the building was used as a hospital for a while.  The room that he was in was where they placed the dead bodies.  The clerk that the colonel saw had only died a few weeks prior.   ReflectionNot entirely impressed with the story but I found the interaction of …

Short Story #203: The Man with Two Lives by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Man with Two LivesAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryDavid Duck was travelling between camps at night in an area where tensions were high between soldiers and Indians.  He believed he found a reasonable place to hide for a while and sleep but he is awoke by and chased away by gunshots from Indians.  Eventually, they chase him into a corner and he holes up for several days but lack of food, water, and sleep lead him into one final attack.  He awakes later and makes his way back to camp and checks in with the doctor.  The doctor is confused by his appearance and whom he claims to be since the doctor had buried David Duck some time prior.  Duck is unable to explain this and the major puts him in holding.  Duck eventually escapes but continually returns to the spot where he might have died.

ReflectionThe story is mildly amusing as it is told through the eyes of Duck but it doesn't have a lot of substance to it since it is over nearly before it begins.  A tale such as this could ha…

Short Story #202: A Resumed Identity by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Resumed IdentityAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryA man stands overlooking a field in the early morning trying to see everything there is despite the poor light.  Soon, he sees a large battalion of soldiers making their way down the road but for some strange reason, he cannot hear them at all.  He attributes this to some strange element of the winds and proceeds to run off and warn his battalion.  As he moves away, he looks back and sees nothing but continues to seek out his battalion.  Along the road, he encounters a doctor whom through conversation realizes that the man is quite confused since the war had ended years ago.  The man is confused by this and flees.  He eventually finds his way through the woods and finds a marking that identifies the sight of the battle and the buried bodies of his comrades.  It has been raining and near one of the graves, the puddle is filled enough that he can see his reflection.  He crawls into the grave and dies again. ReflectionLike Chickamauga,…

My Top 101 Films Part 4 (of 10)

I skipped posting last week because i was busy, but I am back herein with the next selections in my top 101 films.  Here's the running list of previous entries:
Films 1-10Films 11-20Films 21-30
Fat Girl (2001) There's something I about French films that I love.  They often has some surreal element to them or have some element that runs over the viewer like a ton bricks.  Fat Girl is no different in this regard.  It's a film about the female body, the uses, presentation of, and understanding of it along with how one navigates through a world when one's female body is not the socially-acceptable norm.  The film follows two sisters and how their different bodies (one considered attractive and the other not) leads to different outcomes in their experiences with their parents, with society, and with each other.  However, be warned that this is a hard movie to watch particularly the end of it.  One cannot watch it without feeling uncomfortable, which is probably why I appreciat…

Short Story #201: A Lady from Red Horse by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Lady from Red HorseAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryThe story is a series of correspondence from Mary Jane to her friend Irene.  She explains that she has found a man that is amazingly beautiful and compelling where she is currently staying and she finds herself almost incapable of pursuing him.  Meanwhile, a childhood friend, Raynor, has appeared and is causing trouble.  Mary Anne explains that Raynor and she were part of a trio as kids and that the third had died a while aback.  Additionally, since she had come into fortune, it was often a strain (but one she tried to overcome) to continue their friendship.  As the beautiful stranger continues to court her, she doesn't know what to make of it until finally, the lover reveals that he is the childhood friend and in fact, he had not died but was just wounded.   Reflection It's a bit of stretch to put this into the horror tales as it feels more like a romance than it does horror.  It's only the chance that the childhood …

Short Story #200: The Suitable Surroundings by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Suitable SurroundingsAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryA boy lost in the woods at night stumbles upon the old abandoned Breede house where he sees a light emanating from the a window.  He slowly approaches the window and looks in to see a man staring at the window with a candle in front of him on a table.  The boy believes the man might be dead and starts to move, but the supposed deadman reels back in fear and blows out the candle.  The boy runs home.  The story moves to earlier in the day when a writer named Colston rebuffs an acquaintance named Marsh for reading Colston's story in the wrong conditions.  Colston insists that if Marsh is to read his ghost story, he should read it in the right atmosphere, not on a trolley car in the morning as Marsh had been doing.  Colston is clearly offended and accuses Marsh of not being brave enough to read it in the right setting.  Marsh takes him up on this challenge and Colston hands him another story he has on him to read in Breede&#…

Short Story #199: An Adventure in Brownville by Ambrose Bierce

Title: An Adventure in BrownvilleAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryThe story begins with the narrator explaining how he resides in Brownville, which is a vacation spot but one of the last resort.  He teaches at the school there but regularly encounters visitors.  While walking a path in the woods one day, he hears a man and woman talking and the woman saying that she believes the man will kill her.  Silence ensues and the narrator looks to locate the people he has been listening to but it is night now.  Finally, he sees their bodies in the dark and goes to the woman's rescue and they disappear.  The next day, he discovers there are a pair of sisters that staying at the hotel, the older one who sounds exactly like the woman he had heard.  They are chaperoned by a man who also sounds like the man the narrator heard.  Almost a month passes and the older sister is found dead in her room with her sister.  The report is heart trouble but the sister initially accuses the chaperon.  At this po…

Short Story #198: A Baffled Ambuscade by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Baffled AmbuscadeAuthor: Ambrose BierceSummaryIn an area where Confederate and Federal troops have camps fairly close to each other, there are regular encounters and small battles between the two.  On one night, a squadron of Federal troops was making its way down a dark road.  When they come to the three sentries they sent ahead to only find out that there's two of them, the major inquires about the missing cavalry.  The two explain that the third went riding forward into the darkness.  The consensus is that he ran forward because he was scared.  The squadron continues to move forward but as the road gets darker, the major stops the squadron and goes on ahead.  Further down the road, he sees a dark figure and it's only moonlight that reveals it is the missing cavalryman.  The cavalry's horse is dead and he is standing still over it.  He signals to the major to return.  The major listens and waits for the cavalryman to return.  As morning breaks, the squadron move…