Short Story #236: Sucker by Carson McCullers

Title:  Sucker

Author:  Carson McCullers


Photo of Carson McCullers.  Source:
Pete has had to share his room with Sucker years, but largely was ok with it because his cousin Sucker always did what he was told, so sharing his room, even his bed didn't really matter.  He explains that Sucker's undying admiration causes him to despise Sucker a lot.  He explains how he has learned this lesson.  He fell pretty hard for Maybelle, acted towards her as Sucker did towards Pete.  But things have changed now and Pete explains how those things are have changed.  Sometime in the fall, Maybelle had started to become more friendly with Pete.  She's be nice to him and ask to copy his homework.  This friendliness spurs on Pete's arousal but during this time, Sucker wants to know that Pete really does care for him.  This also seems to comfort Pete to have his affection answered and for Sucker to be wanting his attention. Eventually, Pete even gives attention and care to Sucker and tries to be nicer to him.  Over some weeks, he is friendly to Sucker and even received a lot of attention from Maybelle.  He eventually took them both out to the movies and felt mighty proud to bring them both to the theater.  However, sometime after this, Maybelle largely quits hanging around with Pete. As Pete increasingly worried about Maybelle, he paid no attention to Sucker.  She finally confronts Pete and tells him she doesn't care about him any more.  Pete spends a few days devastated.  During a raging dream about strangling Maybelle, Sucker wakes Pete to ask if he's ok.  Pete proceeds to curse out Sucker and to insult and deride him for everything kind and gentle about the boy.  Sucker changes quickly after this.  He stops harrassing Pete and begins to hang out with a gang.  He's now bigger and stronger than Pete, having arrived at puberty and is the real owner of the bedroom.  


There's much about this story that resonates with my own experience as a youth.  There were definitely times when I sacrificed genuine friendships for romantic connections, often with people I probably had no business (or self-respect) in going after.  That's a central piece of many people's childhoods who are not necessarily on the top of the social hierarchy but not necessarily at the bottom.  I think that's what McCullers shows well here is that strange navigation that we all must go through in our adolescence and how that can for good or bad shape us for the rest of our lives.

Short Story #236 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/28/2014
Source:  The short story can be found 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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