Friday, October 24, 2014

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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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

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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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, October 20, 2014

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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, October 17, 2014

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 afterwards.  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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Short Story #287: The Lost Decade by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Title:  The Lost Decade

Author:  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Summary

Photo of F Scott Fitzgerald. Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5c/F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921.jpgOrrison Brown works odd jobs at a newspaper.  One day, he is directed to take Louis Trimble out to lunch.  The editor explains that Trimble has been away for nearly a decade.  Brown is instructed to take him to 21.  Trimble attempts to decline the invitation but the editor insists.  Brown begins to inquire about Trimble's past.  He explains that he was last present when they had begun the Empire State Building.  Brown keeps trying to get him to reveal where he has been but Trimble doesn't give it away directly.  When asked if he's been out of civilization for a while, Trimble says he has in sense, which makes Brown wonder if he was in prison or an asylum.  They arrive at 21 and Trimble says he remembers when that name became famous.  He suggests they try some other place.  Brown continues to guess at Trimble's background and current needs.  Through the discussion, Trimble reveals that he went to Massachusetts Tech.  When asked what he wants to see the most, Trimble answers with mundane things.  Brown begins to piece it together and Trimble eventually reveals that he was the architect of the Armistead Building, erected in 1928.  The realization final comes that Trimble had spent the intervening years entirely drunk and now, sober, wants to see the world anew.  


Reflection

The story is a bit understated compared with his other tales that focus on the 1920s and 1930s.  But I think in some ways, it makes it more powerful.  We see the peak of Trimble's possibility in the Armistead Building but are much more focused on his aftermath as he tries to reclaim all the he has lost in the interim.  


Short Story #287 out of 365
Rating:  4 (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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Short Story #286: The Unknown Quantity by O. Henry

Title:  The Unknown Quantity

Author:  O. Henry

Summary

O Henry - Humorist.  Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/William_Sydney_Porter.jpgSeptimus Kinsolving captured the market on flour in New York and thus became insanely rich by increasing the price of bread.  After Kinsolving's death, his son, Dan is left with the fortune.  He goes to a good friend, Kenwitz who was a watchmaker and a socialist for advce.  He explains that he learned his father's fortune earned by nickel and diming already poor folk.  He now wants to make amends for this crime.  Kenwitz explains that it's impossible for him to do it.  Kenwitz directs him to charities, but Dan wants to give it directly back to the people who it was taken from.  Kenwitz slowly explains that it isn't that easy because the loss of income had exponential impact on people.  Too much damage had been wrought by his father's actions.  When Dan challenges him to point out examples, Kenwitz identifies how people had to close their shops and then lost their sanity or dropped further into turmoil.  However, Dan manages to push these instances to the side because the money would go to the insurance company or the government.  As final example, Kenwitz brings him into an apartment where a woman slaves away making clothes for chump change.  This woman too works there as a result of the bread price increase.  Kenwitz introduces Dan and the woman sends them from the apartment.  Dan thanks Kenwitz for what he's done but Kenwitz doesn't understand the thanks until two months later when he finds the woman dressed up and explaining that Dan married her. 

Reflection

The larger message of the story reminds me much of the poem/proverb, "For Want of Nail":

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail. 

So much of the impact of both good and bad actions are so often immeasurable, which only leads me to think we should do our best to do good acts because of their maximum impact.   Of course, that's easier said than done as the story points out, trying to do good can be equally challenging.   

Short Story #286 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.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.