Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Last Call

A short story by Richard Larson
Reviewed by Max A. Gordon

Setting: A bar, late night

Protagonist: unnamed

Narrator: 1st person

Tense: Present

The first line of this story, ‘“Bristol Palin is an alien,” says Chuck,”’ puts the reader directly into current-events America. But the narrator’s reaction to it, “and it’s not really that funny because it might actually be true. This might be some kind of invasion,” puts the reader on notice that s/he shouldn’t get too comfortable knowing what’s going on. The interaction between “Chuck” and the narrator, while the focus of the story, is dealt with through the interior monologue of the narrator, and is subsumed by what the narrator thinks of (and fantasizes about) Bristol Palin’s life, personal memories, and musings about life in general.

From fantasies about Bristol’s life and experience of love, the narrator segues into memories about “my own mother.” By this time, the reader has probably made the assumption that the overriding theme has to do with heterosexual relationships. That would be a mistake. For the narrator pictures “Mommy” being scared and crying while crossing a bridge, with “her five-year-old son… sitting behind her with… a picture book or a sketchpad and wondering what was so sad about bridges….” And though it took me awhile to put it all together, I finally realized that the “I” of the narrator is male.

While this puts an end to the validity of the assumption about heterosexuality being in play, homosexuality very nicely does not become the focus of the story. Rather, the reader is gently encouraged to examine what it means to be human and what the purpose of our time on this planet may be. To accomplish this, Bristol Palin, aliens, Chuck, and mother are all woven into the narration in an almost stream-of-consciousness style that is actually quite pleasant even though ultimately unrewarding--if by rewarding it is meant that answers are provided.

At ~2200 words, this is a particularly well-written story. Yes, it is challenging, both to our assumptions and our attention to detail, but I came away with the belief that this was the author’s intention. If you aren’t paying close attention (or willing to read it several times, as I had to), you will miss important things. That would, indeed, be a shame. The inkwell is full.

ePublisher: Eclectica Magazine Volume 13, No. 3, July/August, 2009
Format: I read this story online, with my browser.