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The Terminal City

Pine Ridge Reservation, SD

Lillian O’Connor’s life was over. She had accepted that her life had ended years ago, as Lillian Sovonowsky, on her eighteenth birthday, which spent almost entirely alone, was the day she discovered her insignificance. That’s the problem we face when we finally become adults. We wait so desperately for it to come that we don’t prepare ourselves for the realities. Adulthood is not an age, or blessing of extended rights and more authority. For Lillian, adulthood was defined by the sudden understanding that the effort it takes to survive, is not worth or lack of purpose. As children, we are guaranteed a support system. Having a purpose is unimportant in relation to Barney sing-a-longs and free baths. Adulthood means we are no long ignorant children, but adults, with the responsibility to support our own life, and justify why we should. So sure, Lillian O’Connor proclaimed her life to have ended years ago, but the demolition of her childhood is a resurrection.They landed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on a bitter Wednesday afternoon in 2026. Without looking down, Lillian walked carefully down the wobbly metal steps of the small airplane, stopping only at the sound of her black patent-leather heels hitting the flatness of the prairie. Before her, she was surprised to see an airport standing in front of a bleak, never-ending horizon. She was even more surprised to see a multitude of workers. All were struggling from task to task as though petrified by the bitter air.“What a waste of perfectly rare money,” Max, the main assistant afforded to Lillian by the company, didn’t believe in the funding of public transportation, nor did he support the expense of flying. When he did business, he preferred to be in the comfort of an office, looking in from the outside. He stood on the metal steps, disgusted that twenty-three years had only brought him to this grey prairie. Rationality was foreign to his generation. Continue Reading »

Nate was one of those kids who went to school without a lunch because his mum forgot to go to the grocery store that week. They weren’t really poor or anything, but sometimes it sorta seemed like it, the way his eyes widened when kids would talk about their summer holiday trips and whatnot. I thought he was a real wierdo, not eating nothing at school and then walking home and filling his pockets with candy and junk from the little place on the corner that sold everything from fishing line to barbecue chips in a bag as big as your pillow. I thought he might be nicking the junk but when I tailed him one day he pulled a little plastic card from his pants pocket and bought the whole lot of shit he’d carried to the counter. I caught up with him as he was dragging the lot home and I tried getting the kid to talk a bit cocky about what he’d been doing like all my eighth grade buddies would do when they’d snuck out of their houses at night to fetch the reject bottles of wine from the dumpster behind the grocer’s. I thought it was pretty cool that he’d nicked his mum’s card like that and that he probably had a whole stash of goods up in his room. I figured maybe with me being a year older than him and hanging out with the badass crowd and all, he’d practically fall over himself to show me his stuff.

As hard as I tried to pick at him, Nate wouldn’t talk. He was every bit the wierdo I thought he was before I knew he was jacking his mum’s card. I finally shoved him a bit, like “what the hell, you think I don’t know you’re nicking your mum’s credit card to buy your gay little toys and junk every day? ‘Cause I do, and I’ll tell Miss Marckin, and she’ll rat you out to your mum before tomorrow! She’ll go ‘ring ring!’ your wierd little snot Nate has been stealing from you.” I thought that was pretty smart, the blackmail bit, but Nate just looked sort of surprised with those damn baby eyes and turned and kept on walking. About five steps later he tuned back to me and went, “do you want to see what I’m making?” just like that! I don’t know that I had ever heard the kid talk before, it was so shallow and empty, like some breeze blowing through a cobwebby old cave by the South Town Lagoon.

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Coming Home

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Forever and ever.


“Amen,” I whispered while everyone around us said it out loud. I kept my head bowed, unable to pick my gaze up from the freshly mowed grass we stood on. I could feel the eyes of everyone behind us staring, but I kept my head down. I told myself that it all had been a dream and if I looked up, I’d realize it wasn’t. I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks when the bagpipes began to play. I had begun to believe it wasn’t a dream after all. My gaze shot toward my older brother, Junior, who stood beside me. His eyes were locked straight ahead at what I was too afraid to recognize. His face was emotionless. Streams of liquid pain began to pour down his cheeks as his eyes slowly shifted in the direction of our mother. I looked over to see her reaching out and taking the folded American flag from Lt. Colonel Reaves. She held the flag in both hands, then slowly brought it up to her chest and held it as though it was all she had left in this world. Her cries were all I could hear even with the trumpets now playing. I noticed my mother fall to her knees, and my brother running over to hold her up. I heard the guns go off when the fighter jets flew over-head, and finally, I looked at was in front of me. I watched them slowly lower my father’s casket in the hallow grounds of Arlington Cemetery. Reality woke me up.

Son receives folded flag at fathers funeral.


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Jeff and I were the only ones in the house the week after Mom died.  The cancer had been swift, giving us mingled feelings.  Our father had passed many years before, peacefully in his sleep on Thanksgiving.  We had sent my niece Jillian into the living room to pry him away from the game for lunch when he hadn’t responded to our good-humored and rowdy calls.  Thank goodness she had been only three.  She didn’t notice the ashen cheek, the awkward position to which his head had fallen, or the coffee mug that had slipped from his hand and stained the rug at the foot of his favorite easy chair with the ink stains on the arm from where he rested his pen while he did crosswords.  Anna had called for Jeff, Mom and me, then had picked up her daughter and carried her across the street to the Miller’s house so she could never fully understand what she had found, and so we hoped, never remember it.

Mom had been cremated, and the memorial was going to be that weekend.  We were the first to show up in Birmingham, Michigan, and we wanted one last look ourselves.  We wanted to find Mom hidden in the corners of sock drawers, and be able to linger over her slanted script in the cook book left by her bed without hearing the laughter of others stumbling upon memories of their own.  We wanted to be in the house one last time while it still smelled like her and it still felt like Mom’s house filled with Mom’s things, and not what used to belong to her. When others came to help, it was Anna who found the crusty, shriveled Shepard’s Pie molding in the oven.

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Brentwood Wife

I sat in the waiting room of the hospital watching as the doctor told a woman her husband didn’t make it through surgery. She started crying hysterically, hitting and kicking the chairs around her. She finally sat down on the pearly white floor with her head between her knees. Her breathing seemed to even out after a while.

I was still sitting on the hard chairs, still covered in blood from earlier that night. Everyone assumed I was in a wreck. I let them assume they were right. Nurses tried to get me to the ER but I told them I wasn’t hurt; just waiting.  My white v-neck cashmere sweater had dark crimson stains on only the front. The blue seersucker pants I still had on were speckled with blood. My hair was still in perfect blonde curls. I hadn’t bothered to wipe the blood from my face before coming into the hospital. I figured they were used to blood.

Doctors walked out in their red scrubs and white jackets talking to families. Sometimes they smiled, other times they just had blank looks, but they never looked sad. I bet it got easier the more they did it. Telling families their loved ones didn’t make it. After doing something everyday, over and over, it must just come natural.

Emily had called to tell me Stan had been taken to the hospital, but I already knew. She told me he was found in our house and he was shot earlier that night, three times in the chest. I wanted to tell her it was only twice, but I stopped myself. I was driving through the snow around downtown Nashville absentmindedly when she called. I made my way to the hospital eventually. I pulled out the mini bottle of vodka I kept in my purse. I could tell this was going to be a long, boring night. I was use to being alone, just waiting on Stan, never knowing what to expect.

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Fantasmas y Memorias

           As she drove down the A-44 towards Granada, Gabriela wished she’d brought a scarf. It was too beautiful a day to put up the hood of her convertible and she hated to cut off the view of Andalucía’s rippling hills, but the wind was tangling her hair all around her face. She’d forgotten how much she loved the patchwork sunflower fields and the sliver-green of the olive trees. She and Alejandro didn’t travel much within Spain. He preferred to take her with him on his business trips to Berlin or Rome or New York City while they left Nina with his mother. He was a city person born and raised. Gabriela understood that – to her the constant humming and chattering of the Madrid streets meant success. It meant she’d clawed her way from the solitude of the countryside and reached a place where the sounds of the real world weren’t muffled by poverty and superstition.

But then Señor Martinez, who ran the Hotel de los Reyes in the old part of Loja, had called her. The feeling that she’d swallowed a small, cold stone returned as Gabriela remembered him explaining the situation. She’d been loading the dishwasher after dinner, but as he told her about Rosa’s latest delusion over speakerphone, she’d gripped the granite countertop so hard the red lacquer on her nails began to crumple at the tips. Alejandro had come down from tucking Nina into bed just as she was hanging up, and she knew she must have looked awful because he had sat her down at the table with a glass of red wine and finished the kitchen work himself.

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Prudence struggled with the lock on the back door of the abandoned Trinity Middle School for Unfortunate Cases. The place had been closed after a public slaughter in a series of angry articles surfaced in the local newspaper. I read them, but I can’t quite recall exactly what they had said. I vaguely remember one of the last articles stating Trinity being “an institution promising nothing but failure for an already hopeless set of children.” Prudence had been one of those hopeless children, while I attended a “public, but prosperous school thank you very much.” I listened in on my mother explaining the school to one of her well-to-do colleagues. They had met after sharing a bad joke about gardening and their husbands’ fishing trips over the copy machine at their work. Prudence hated office conversation, office attire, and as I’ve concluded office lifestyle as a whole. So, naturally, I hated it too.

“Fuck.” Prudence made one last frustrated tug at the chains binding the back entrance of the school before it finally fell to the cement below. I watched as she flashed a championed smirk back at me and slid through the door as if a welcome mat with her own name plastered across it lay at our feet. I, more on the edge about fucking with the authorities and sneaking into a school, panned around the empty parking lot and football field behind us before slipping in myself.

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It has only been a week since I got home from college and my family is already falling apart. Just last night Sam, my older brother, stormed out of the house because of some little thing my father said. I was in my room at the time so I didn’t hear everything, but from what I could figure out it was something about my brother always being a slacker and a burden on the family. Sam has always been hot-headed ever since I could remember. It has gotten worse over the last year since I have been getting close to finishing school. Sam failed out of college and has been kicked out of job after job for his temper ever since. Then the fighting between my father and Sam started. I could escape it at college, but at home it was harder to ignore.

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From her realistic characters to her unforeseeable endings,  Lee Smith is a master at everything intriguing. The very first paragraph is full of interesting information about the story, and tactics by the writer. The story is very conversational which I especially appreciate considering its written in third person. I also like how she tells us from the very beginning what is going to happen, “It was this day, August 25, nearing sunset, cocktail time in kite weather, when Mrs. Darcy received her first vision.”

One thing that is very distinctive and cool about Lee Smith’s writing is that she includes excessive amount of detail in a way that makes the reader feel they are necessary. For example, pg. 276 “These girls took after their father; they had his long, thin hands.” When I initially read this section of the story I thought to myself that Lee Smith put that little factoid as a foreshadowing  detail, so I didn’t try to over think it. I’m not sure if that is the perfect way to describe what I mean, however, generally, in her stories, and this one particularly, there are many poetic and beautiful details and phrases that are necessary only because they’re pretty. Pg. 282 “The water was so clear you couldn’t tell it was there sometimes.”

Continuing on with that sentence actually… “She could feel the sun, already hot on her shoulders, and nothing seemed worth the effort it took.” I really really like that sentence because it sets a tone for the story and for specifically Ginny. I love how, even in such a short page-span, Lee Smith has created such a distinctive portrait of each one of the characters. Not only that, but those who are unnecessary are treated as such. For example, Maria’s daughters who are neither named nor described as anything other than tan, leggy, and from Richmond.

I think that the reason the characters are developed so fully is because they are so distinctively described and differentiated. The second we meet Trixie for example, we know how she speaks; this is reiterated by each and every sentence she has action in. Even if those sentences are trailing one another. pg. 283 “Trixie looking at her mother, grew more and more annoyed. Trixie remembered her mother’s careful makeup….” I’m sure that every other does this in stories where there are a lot of characters, but I just seemed to be particularly drawn to it in this story. Maybe its because they all have such creative names.

On page 286 when Mrs. Darcy got in the water, I was sure that she had died! I thought that this carried on well into the next section of the story without immediately giving it away that there wasn’t some sort of doom, or mourning going on. Just an intriguing curiosity hanging over you. That is another cool move.

Now, I’m no expert, so I can’t really determine whether all of the good things in this story were done intentionally or not, but either way, I think this story is really interesting and I can really appreciate the art behind it.

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“Into the Gorge” is no less heartbreaking than the other stories in Rash’s Burning Bright.  This story takes an interesting turn right from the beginning when the main character is described as a supplement to the character described in the opening paragraph. It is Jesse’s aunt who is described rather than Jesse himself. This is an interesting tactic as it immediately makes the reader attached to the aunt, only to tear her away just as soon.

Ron Rash seems to have cultivated his own way to break a reader’s heart. His direct writing is equally as intense at is it easy to understand. It is the subtle things that have that effect. For example, on page 134 towards the middle it says “His great-aunt never looked up…” emphasizing the fact that the woman related to the land in the story is his “great-aunt” and not just any body. Rash could have just as easily written “she” as a replacement, yet consciously chose not to.

I noted in this story, that it is very descriptive, yet not as matter-of-fact as the other Rash stories. It may seem a little unfair to compare the stories in this anthology to one another but it is very helpful to see which situations the author chose to react certain ways in, as far as format and strategy go, and why. Choosing to be less open about the subject of the story forces the reader to dig a little deeper. That is another decision that the author had to make when writing the story, whether or not the content was worthy of depth, or for pure story-telling value.

On pages 136 and 137 there are a few interesting things going on that caught my eye. First of all, the very first sentence, “Till I’m seventy, Jesse figured, giving himself two more years,” was an interesting way to directly inform the reader how old Jesse is. It was also intriguing to me that quotes or some other sort of distinctive punctuation wasn’t used to emphasize his thought or speech. This was also down towards the bottom of the page where it says, “Led the son of a bitch right to it, he told himself…”

Also on page 137, I learned a lesson. To stop thinking that the narrator and the main character are seeing from the same point of view. I get easily confused by weird statements like, “Jesse saw boot prints from three days earlier,” and immediately wonder…how would he know they were from three days earlier? causing me to distrust the narrator. I have come to realize, however, that the narrator can tell us the boot prints were three days old with out Jesse having known it at all. I think that is a very important thing for me to have a realized and am glad I made note of it the first time I read through. (With loads of question marks and arrows, naturally.)

Generally, Rash has effectively broken my heart yet again, without leaving me running towards the nearest cliff. Its fascinating how peacefully he can conclude the most heart-wrenching stories.

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Dangerous Laughter

Dangerous Laughter‘s opening paragraph gave me the impression that I would be reading not an anecdote about laughing parlors, but some philosophical record of a teenager who figured almost everything out over the course of this one “perilous summer.” This beginning was ominous and a bit melodramatic in it’s mention of an innocent spell of playtime going sour because of the boredom so often prescribed with teenage years. But, instead of being thrown off by Millhauser’s sometimes analytical material thrown (skillfully) in between plot and anecdotal material, I actually admired it; my favorite of those statements being “We were bored, we were restless, we longed to be seized by any whim or passion and follow it to the farthest reaches of our natures. (75)”

Even hamsters join in on laughing parties!

These laughing parlors are actually quite hilarious (literally and in context) even when things go dark toward the end with Clara’s death. I’m sure of it that Millhauser’s intention with this story was not just to sell some outlandishly strange story about these bored teenagers striking a revolution against the mundane with laughter, but to create a metaphor. Throughout the length of the story, I connected it with institutionalization, feminism, religion, and innocence, but the metaphor that seemed to fit best with this story was that of science. The laughing parlors are built on the one of the very things that should come naturally to any human being. These kids made a science out of laughter; throwing their heads back, twitching their feet, losing most if not all connection with their bodies, and doing it all over again to a more extreme degree for the next meeting (or so they all hoped). The way they all became so addicted to their fits of laughter reminded me of Fight Club and The Virgin Suicides.

Millhauser crafted the story in a way where everything had its proper place, which made the story make sense. Sure, there were some surprises like Clara’s death and the kids becoming less interested in laughing and more in board games, but they don’t spark confusion. Millhauser seems to capture all the “right” details and all the “right” scenes to successfully evince these characters and their stories. In my own writing, I pay attention to detail like describing the setting or a character’s clothing, but Millhauser does well in both that and his seemingly innate attention to plot and what is needed in storytelling and what is extraneous and unnecessary. I seem to go off on tangents when I am writing, like “She was sad, but she loved that bookcase laced in renaissance etchings of angels made from antique cedarwood.”

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The title reads as though it were spread across the front page of the National Enquirer. I was absolutely thrilled with this story; the stream of conscious was on point, the pacing was effective, and the complications that this boy faces feel very real. We never get his name, and although he repeats that he is not Elvis, we get a sense that he doesn’t quite believe this or perhaps he has used this reasoning in attempt to convince himself. There is definitely a connection between the narrator and his ‘tattoo’, and his mother. The fact that his mother has treated it, and therefore him, with shame, is downright childish. His mother continues to act irresponsibly and it is only when the narrator finally confronts her that she is forced to see the effects of her destructive nature.

I really wanted to take this point in the story another way, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intended this way. I felt that with Tina, the narrator had realized that strangers to his ‘tattoo’ wouldn’t think anything odd about it, because he was sixteen years old and would no longer be perceived as a child subject to the whims of an Elvis crazed mother. I wanted him to awaken and loosen up and get the girl and feel confident because the ‘tattoo’ wasn’t a big deal, but that is exactly what didn’t happen. He ran away from Tina, I thought he was terrified that he couldn’t explain it and frustrated because he wanted to and she didn’t even notice.

The second thing  I wanted to happen was some good old fashioned incest, which I think is implied in the story. At the end of the story, there is certainly tension between the mother and son, and I feel as though it is explicitly sexual. Could it be that the special power of the ‘tattoo’ is that somehow the spirit of Elvis is brought out in the boy and the connection between Elvis and the mother still remains? Possible, since the boy seems to know a strange amount about Elvis, and speaks as if he personally knew Elvis. “Most of them along here were black folks and Elvis had a special feel for them. They taught him his music. He always said that” (47). We are left wondering what happens after Butler leaves us with “its just mama and me and I have to lean against the door to keep from falling down” (52). Is it incest? or perhaps the spirit of Elvis saving her, stopping her actions. I am left to ponder on this one.

<–(Bondville Miniature Village, Sewerby, Great Britain)

One of the things I noticed about “Miniature Man” was the way in which she begins the story. We are immediately greeted with a concise explanation of how we have gotten to this moment at which the story begins, and we become increasingly attentive to the smooth but quickly rolling rhythm of the narrative. Repetition is used throughout the story to create the feeling that a great deal of time has passed, and to drive home the idea that fifteen years seemed to have slipped through everyone’s grasp, and nothing significant happened in that time. (cited examples are italicized)

For fifteen years, Gregario Aruna worked among us, building his museum of miniatures here in our village of Monterojo, high in the Sierra de las Marinas, and in all that time, no one was allowed in the door of his museum. Fifteen years is a long time to work at something that no one is allowed to see, you will admit. Not even his mother and father had been inside the building, and naturally over the years there had grown a suspicion that Gregario’s museum was destined to be a failure. It is difficult, after all, to believe in something you have never seen that presents you all the time with a locked door, and paper over the windows, and a secretive host” (27).

The word “years” is used in three of the four sentences making up this first paragraph, and the final sentence is broken up with commas, giving the impression a distance is present between the “you” and the “secretive host”–there, too, the “secretive host” was a surprise to me before I realized the distance present between the narrative character and Gregario.  We only find out after this initial establishment of distance that the narrator is Dr. Xavia who, eleven pages later, turns out to be an uncle-like relation because he is Gregario’s mother’s cousin. The reticence to divulge this information is evident; Dr. Xavia mentions his relationship to their family only after introducing the scene where he is at breakfast with Gregario’s  parents, Carlos and Celeste, when Gregario walks in as a secondary character, as if a guest in his own home, despite the presence of Dr. Xavia, the actual guest.

There is a great deal of familial relationships explored in “Miniature Man,” and we come to feel irritation towards the mother, Celeste, and can sense the complicated tension between mother and son. I can hear her overbearing mothering tone in “cant you see he can’t do a thing for himself?…He’s like a baby again” (37). Carlos maintains a manly, but sympathetic relationship with Gregario, showing his support for his son by attempting to lessen Celeste’s unintentional blows. “He may be a baby, but he’s getting bald” Carlos says before kissing Gregario’s cheek. “Dont let her kill you with kindness” he whispers before leaving the room (38). We find out rather brusquely that Celeste would rather Gregario remain crippled and hand-less so that he cannot make models (allowing her to tend to his every need) than  him regain his health and be happy creating his art. When I realized how self centered Celeste was, I looked to the narrator, Dr. Xavia to close the distance between poor Gregario and his family.

Dr. Xavia seemed to be looking for the right thing to do as well,  but alone he possesses little confidence, which is where Patrick’s character comes into play. Patrick knows nothing of the culture, of the tradition, or the strained family relationships. All Patrick knows is how to use a different perspective– and that video camera, that way of seeing is what brings Gregario’s family closer to him. Suddenly the last fifteen years become important, because those seemingly lost years are documented in the faces and places depicted in the museum of miniatures. The distance between subject and object disappears as Dr. Xavia sees that “despite everything, all along we had been his inspiration,” (64).

I really enjoyed the voice throughout this story. He kept saying he wasn’t Elvis, but his life was very similar to Elvis’. In a way I think he was trying to convince himself that he wasn’t Elvis because he knew he had many similarities to Elvis. The voice of the story helped me better understand where this story was taking place. It was very easy to understand that they were poor and living in a very small home. I also enjoyed the vivid descriptions attached to traits of characters. For example, “She’s very small and her face is as sharp and fine as the little lines in Elvis’s ear and her hair is dark and thick and I want to lie beneath her and pull it around my face, and her eyes are a big surprise because they’re blue, a dar, flat blue like I’d think suede would be if it was blue.” (pg 44)

I’m still confused about the relationship between the boy and his mother. He loves her even though she is making him uncomfortable by having sex with men when he can hear. I don’t understand the end and what they both understand without saying anything. I felt like I understood their relationship until he takes off to go meet Tina.

Dangerous Laughter

This story was unsettling and heartbreaking.  It has to be one of the strangest coming of age stories I have read.  It’s clear that the kids describe loving adventures, but they never go on them, these desires for adventures mirror the desperate desire they have to be different, to be anything but ordinary, and to stand out.  They talk about the “we” which really gives it a sense of community, and while specific individuals are noted, it isn’t necessary to know everyone, since the group functions as a character on it’s own.  They are in that lost, grey area of adolescence, and they are looking for anything that will give them some kind of rush, and a sense of emotional fulfillment or engagement.  They are able to band together, and share something with each other that goes beyond a game of scrabble.  They even talk about a kind of sexual connection that could go with it.  They feel like they have a secret that is dangerous, but in reality it is harmless.  In their search for something to make them happy, they skip the step  where they actually find happiness, and go straight to the intense release of emotion, and the abandonment of themselves that comes with laughter.  It’s almost like exercising extreme control over yourself, in order to cause a situation in which you would ordinarily have no control.  It’s interesting, the two are contradictory.  Then we get to the part of the story where laughter is exchanged for crying, the same sort of abandonment of self control (although, by these children it is again forced) that comes from laughing, but for the opposite reason.  Is this a recognition of the fact that you can’t force happiness?  They decide to, instead, change to sadness since that is what they have a better access to.

He does an unbelievable job of slowing down the story for his descriptions.  So much care is taken in each one, it just floors me, and shows what a really good, well thought out, slow description can do for a story, it’s tone, and our understanding of character.

I really enjoyed this story after I got further into it. In the beginning I was very confused. At first I thought the story would be better not starting the way it did. I thought it might make more sense for the second part to open the story, but after finishing the whole story, I enjoy the way this story was started. What I most enjoyed about this story was the difference between Betsy Ann and Ralph. The life they were each born into is so different from one another. I like that Jones showed this comparison. Ralph’s mother tried for so long to have a child and she spoiled him because he was so special to her. Betsy Ann was very loved by her father, but he showed it in a very different way. At first I thought he would resent his daughter because his wife had died during childbirth, but that was obviously not the case.

I like that their is dialog in this story because this is when I got to know the characters. The way they spoke and the things they said gave me a vivid image of each character.

This was not the first time that I have read this story, but it was the only time that I understood more of what was going on. When I first read this, I had a lot of trouble with how it was worded. It is written like it is in dialect, so in places it is worded a little funny. But when I relaxed and let it meld into the story, it helped define the story’s place a little more because I was able to put the boy in a slightly poorer community setting and think about what they would be concerned about at the time. It helped me disassociate from my own life and start to understand another life. Of course, it also mirrored Elvis’ early life because he came from a poorer section of the community.

Using this kind of speech is a style choice and when you use it you have a chance to alienate people. They will either get it or not get it. But if you use it right, it lets the story come to life better because it gives a certain voice to the characters. Butler uses long, meandering sentences that sound like a person is speaking. He also uses word choices that you wouldn’t hear in a story about some rich area. Words like “braying”, “whooping”, and “hollering” are the types of words that I am talking about.

Dangerous Laughter

This was one of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever read. While first reading I was expecting laughing club/laughing parlor to be a code for something bad or unacceptable these young teens were doing. I found it very ironic that Clara died from laughing because there are so many sayings about laughter being the best medicine and good for your health. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I think that’s one of the reasons I like the story so much. I never knew what was coming next.

I enjoyed the details through out the story. My favorite description is on page 80 when Millhauser describes Clara. “She was difficult to picture clearly– a little pale, her hair dark in some elusive shade between brown and black, her eyes hidden under lowered lids that sometimes opened suddenly to reveal large, startled irises. She wore trim knee-length skirts and solid-colored cotton blouses that looked neatly ironed.” I feel like I learn so much about her, not just what she looks like physically, but also something else that makes her who she is. I like that we only get the point of view of one person. I don’t find myself wanting to know what Clara was thinking. I felt like I got to know her character as well as I needed to through the descriptions and events happening with her.

The last time I read this story I was looking for elements of the fantastic. Since I had trained myself to do that, it was a little difficult rooting myself in the place of the story. With a little thinking I decided that this story, like most of Millhauser’s stories, are deeply rooted in the actual physical place in the story and with the tone of the story. The physical place for this story is a neighborhood of kids. A complete community of people that are looking for something new and different. Always searching for something next to do.

But, the place is much more than the purely physical place. I feel that the place in this story is rooted a lot in the tone of the story. The tone for this story always feels to me like something light, airy, and shimmery. More like a memory of an event than the actual event itself. The point of view helps this because he has a communal point of view. The readers are included with the characters and it is set in the past tense. This makes it persuasive as a communal memory. Something that somebody would bring up as a “hey, remember that time when…?”. The effect of this makes the story more persuasive.

Also, the fact that there is very little actual dialogue makes the story feel really immediate. More like someone is telling you the story and has to tell it to you right now. It draws you into the story. It also makes the story take on a slightly softer tone that lends itself to the light and airy effect of the story.


Being a big fan of American history made this story really enjoyable to read. It really shows how strong military wives have to be in order to keep their lifestyle the way they want it. Which is still seen today. I had a feeling that Lily was going to do something to the soldier when he approached the house. I guess the way the narrator explained her character and the way she thought made her come off as a very strong woman. Especially when she called the man out for his boots and how she remembers him.

When Lily leads the soldier into the room, I had no idea a needle could do so much damage and in such a quick amount of time. Which made for a suspenseful turning point. I don’t see how what she did is wrong, if anyone were to take it as such. When the man said that stealing her live stock was “for the cause” and she wasn’t in support for their specific cause, was really when she had every right to protect her property. Not to mention he basically threatens her husband while they were talking. In times of war, especially the Civil War, everyone gets involved. She did what she did to stop the confederates from having food and a horse to help their fight. A side that she disagreed with.

The end was interesting. I don’t know how I’d feel having a dead man on my property, but whats done is done. The fact that she named her son after Lincoln was a big moment. It ended the story really well and kind of stuck it to “the man”. The hope she showed of the war ending and how supportive people were of the cause that Lincoln began shined through in the end.

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