Short Story #241: Death-Drag by William Faulkner

Title:  Death-Drag

Author:  William Faulkner

Summary

Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Lewis-Sinclair-LOC.jpgUnexpectedly, a plane flies on a barely operational airfield in a small town.  Some of the locals come to check it out and find a tall and a short man who walks with a limp.  They make inquires about the town including if anyone else flies and they learn that a man named Warren does.  The flying men remove their goggles and helmets and the short man has a very distinct face--one that hints at tragedy.  A third man arrives who was not previously seen that is broad, heavy and inbetween the other two men's heights.  The men go into town and trying drum up some interest for an air-show that includes a death-drag, wherein a man jumps from a plane into a moving car and then is picked up again by the plain.  The men split up so that one can find a sponsor for the show and another can print up bills to place around town.  When asked about a license, the short man gets angry and says it's on the plane itself and they can go out to the airfield to see it for themselves.  The story then jumps briefly to after the plane has gone where Warren explains who the men were and that they did not have a license any more.  The tall man had lost his license several years prior when he had crashed a plane full of people, all who died.  Though the tall man wasn't actually responsible, he was the fall person for the incident.  The men travel from small town to small town doing this collection of stunts to make money but not so close to any place they might get caught.  Warren also explains that on one occasion, the short man had fallen a bit too far onto the car and broken his leg so he was a bit hesitant to do the stunt unless they received the right amount of money for it.  The story returns to the three men who return to the field and the short one is insistent on knowing how much money they got but the other two keep trying to avoid responding him.  As the stunt is happening, he insists on knowing but the tall man refuses to answer and tells him he needs to jump.  Because of the dynamics of the field and the hesitation of the short man, he ultimately jumps without thinking and lands on the barn in the field.  Afterward, Warren attempts to get them to stay and quit doing what they're doing, but they ignore him and take off.  In the end, they also discover that they had not paid for the car they had rented.

Reflection

The story was mediocre at best.  In all likelihood it was probably more exciting when it was first published focusing on the thrill and excitement of early flight.  But the characters are a bit stale (the short character has various stereotypical Jewish traits about him) that seems problematic and the plot just feels a bit convoluted.  

Short Story #241 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
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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