Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 875, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Bradley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bradley. Show all posts

03 November, 2014

David Bradley, "You Remember the Pin Mill"

The story is told in 2nd person POV speaking to the reader. Most of the story is told as backstory and in present tense. The narrator is driving to the Department of Corrections and launches into a series of memories all of which tell about his childhood, endearing stories with his grandfather and the guilt he feels for not protecting his mother from physical abuse by his father. The narrator is driving west in Pennsylvania to collect his father's ashes, which we don't learn until near the end of the story. Wonderfully written, the "you" viewpoint feels like 1st person in that the reader feels part of the story and in the shoes of the young boy as he learns life's lessons about respect, guilt, forgiveness, judgements, not settling, family and truth. But the overall theme, for me, is embodied in this, "...how he hoped that when you got to be a man you wouldn't always be rushing no place good for no good reason..." and also that in life, one has to take the sweet with the sour. A road can take you somewhere dangerous but can also save and deliver you anywhere you want to go.

The opening scene with "Whatever It Was" is eery and the "Goddamn Rambler" once like an assistant helping in an escape and then again delivering into something not so good. You get the sense of dread and fear yet hope and salvation. The whole story is told in the opening scene which just aren't sure of the specifics yet but we know there's been hurt involved, "Whatever It Was couldn't hurt her, even if it did awake."

Then we know that a youngster has been introduced to "Grandpa" who has "a kitchen with two stoves in it" and he comes to find out about the pin mill and its whistle that sounded like a "scream." A particularly touching sentence, "But then you felt your Grandpa's arm, holding you and turning you, and then magenta flowers were all that you could see." Earlier we see Grandpa putting on the flowered bib apron that had belonged to "Grandmother Godrester" (God Rest Her) before she'd died. Later we find out his last name is Hizzoner. Most, if not all of the time, the mother is referred to only as her.

Bradley does a nice job of revealing that the woman, "her cheek was like a plum about to burst,"  has been abused by her husband has the grandfather's one-sided phone conversation overheard by the child. They have a conversation about the "Goddamn Rambler" possibly not making the long drive, "It almost didn't, Daddy. Daddy, I almost didn't make it home." Oh my goodness. Not only did the car almost not make it but she almost didn't, was almost killed. All these things are memories of the person who is now driving to Department of Corrections.

The grandfather is kind and gentle and teaches the child with patience. The grandfather is majestic just as the stove he used was labeled Majestic. He encouraged the child to read and use the Lexicon. The grandfather was a retired judge and he taught the child about the history of Pennsylvania and the United States and even geology. I think the first time we're sure the child is male is "wishing you had whiskers too." He also teaches the boy that their people have the strength and tenacity of the Susquehanna River.

"You Remember the Pin Mill" is about 35 pages long in present tense even as most of the story is told  as backstory using the device of "you remember." The story is included in the O. Henry Prize Stories, 2014 and was first published in Narrative Magazine.