Summary Of Several Short Stories

.Teen sniper is an interesting science fiction. Unlike most sci-fi’s it doesn’t incorporate really out of the ordinary concepts, other than a robot that actually has feelings. Instead, the author portrays a cold and hard society where everyone is desensitized to the violence that has become the norm. There is a sense that happiness may be achieved. However, one must look beyond what they have been led to believe, trust in their intuition and believe in the emotions of empathy, beauty, love and the existence of good amongst a repressed society. It calls us to challenge our views and look beyond what our own society would have us believe. The author even uses name brands in order to emphasize the point: Team Adidas, HP, BMW, IKEA etc; are all big corporations that hold our capital and therefore control us by telling us that it is things that will make us happy. Then Blackbird is introduced to Seema – and the cold hard facts of society no longer make sense. The first sign that his defences are going down is when he uses his real name: Tim. Seema represents passion and empathy; she reveals what is wrong with the system – and its injustices. Seema challenges the misconceptions of society and reveals the beauty of truth.

Teen Sniper is an interesting story where the character is fully developed; yet, we recognize an insecure awkward teenage boy. It doesn’t rest well that a teen is a sniper – why isn’t he in school and why are guns just the average everyday attire? Why is violence treated with such casualness? I think the author does a good job of describing both the character and his role. The language and facts surrounding the language and physics of guns and arsenal is believable; however, the story abruptly changes with the introduction of Seema. The story goes from action and sci-fi to a love story? It really is a bizarre twist that is actually hard to follow. The point is well put: there is too much violence in our society, it is taken too lightly – and this is the kind of society we can expect if a change isn’t made. Also, big corporations do have a lot of power and control over our society by telling us what we need. In reality, what we do need is to get back to being ok with what we have and realizing the full importance of relationship. However, although the author does make a point, it is hard to understand or follow because the author doesn’t tie the two different story lines aren’t tied together very well. It is almost as if, rather than being a short story with a beginning, middle and end, it seems as if two chapters were pulled out of a short novel, put together and was named a short story. Maybe if the story ended the way it began, the teen on a sniper job and walking away from it, or recognizing Seema as the person he’s to kill, knowing that there is no just reason and choosing to save her, might be a better ending – one that fits with the theme from the beginning.

Tapka was an easy read. It had a lot of good descriptions and gave a good sense of what the narrator, as a Russian immigrant, must be experiencing and feeling. I enjoyed the dynamics between the mother and the Nahumovskys. Also, I think that using a dog to symbolize Russia and everything that they loved about Russia was perceptive. It was a way to fully grasp the Mother’s desire to fully immerse herself with the new land, language and culture, and thus her total distaste for the dog. It also allows us to understand the Nahumovskys’ acceptance of a new land and a new language, but their lasting tenderness towards the land they once called home. On another level, the dog also represents innocence and the death of innocence. In this case, the dog gives the children unconditional love, and their childish innocence allows them to completely love Tapka in return. However, the loss of their innocence results with them betraying the Tapka’s love and spilling her innocent blood. Once again, the author reveals strong symbolism for the innocence for the love of Russia and for the loss of innocence and the pain that the new country, a harsh country, produces.

Although I enjoyed the symbolism in the story, I did think it was too predictable. Also, I thought the introduction, though useful, was drawn out too long and I was a little bored and kept wondering when something was going to happen. As a matter of fact, even though I was reading, I admit I glazed over and wasn’t really absorbing what I was reading; so, when Tapka was finally introduced I didn’t even notice until a couple paragraphs in – in which case I had to go back and read the whole thing over. Finally, in the end, I must admit that it took the class review for me to really understand and even somewhat appreciate the ending.

Travis B.

It seems to me that this is a pretty predictable and basic short story. It contains all the main ingredients: characters, setting and plot. There’s also a beginning, middle, and an ending. There’s a guy, Chet Moran who had polio during a time when no one was supposed to get polio anymore. Right from the start we have a character that is singled out, the odds are against him, and needs to prove himself to the world, or at least to his mother and to himself personally. The main conflict? A girl of course. So, the question is does he get the girl? Does he beat all the odds and win the heart of the fair maiden in a woollen skirt that drives a yellow Datsun? Well, that would just be too predictable now wouldn’t it? So, no, he doesn’t.

I’m not sure what to really think of this story. My first time through, I didn’t particularly like it. It didn’t really strike me, it was too, normal? And, not going to lie, it kind of annoyed me that he could ride green horses and get crushed by them, but couldn’t even reach out, or talk to the girl. So, he drove all that way just to lose her. Then he takes a leak, memorizes her phone number, and then throws it away. Why was that necessary? However, after reading it again, I realized that the author does do a good job of giving us details that draw out our sympathies for Chet. We want him to succeed and we want him to get the girl. I enjoyed some of the imagery and some of the descriptions. I thought the dialogue was well done and it moved the story along. There are a few paragraphs where the author allows us to know a bit of each character’s history, which added depth to them. In the end, I was still annoyed that Chet backed out and lost his determination. But, even though it was basic and predictable, it drew me in. So, I guess it works.

The Balm of Gilead Tree

First, the title, is it a biblical reference? In a way I believe that it is, at least that’s what it conjures up in my mind. Something calm and soothing, it has medicinal properties, and it is a symbol of a promise to come. With that kind of reference, I was expecting a story of something entirely different. Instead of something to do with compassion, healing and the hope of something better, the author presents a situation where people go crazy pretending to help out, but really just end up robbing the dead and knocking each other out for their greed of cold cash. Or is the need, the desire and the greed for cash the balm, the hope, and the promise of something better? If so, is it really a soothing balm? I would say it creates more chaos and divides people rather than giving a sense of peace and community.

Then again, here’s a war vet that has a dream and a tough time ahead of him to achieve that dream. So, when presented with the opportunity, it really isn’t all that surprising that he wants a piece of the pie. I think the author does a good job of making the protagonist a guy that we can empathise with. We’re given a bit of his history, we’re told his present circumstances, and we’re introduced to his hopes and dreams that include a girl. I think a girl is always a drawing factor. Maybe we’re all romantics at heart. Anyways, it also helps that he doesn’t start out money crazed; he starts out genuinely wanting to help, but then reasons why it’s perfectly justified to help himself to the money. To be honest, it’s a pretty realistic and understandable situation.

One thing I enjoyed about this piece is the constant dialogue. It moves the piece and adds more dimension to it. I also enjoyed some of the vivid descriptions. In the end, what is the Balm of Gilead? It soothed him and helped to clear his mind. So, was it a promise that if he was able to persevere his dreams would be attained? Or was it a false sense of peace? I don’t know, and we’re not told. We’re left to wonder; although there is a strong suspicion that he doesn’t make it. I think it all depends on what the Balm of Gilead really represents, and I’m just not sure.

The Knife Thrower

To be honest, I don’t really get the point of this story. Maybe it’s obvious but not to me. However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t like enjoy reading it. For instance I was able to appreciate the P.O.V, the use of past tense, foreshadowing and the beautiful imagery used to portray both the scene and the mood.

I found the use of 1st person plural an interesting and collective view that drew me right into the story. Also, it allowed me to see the sequence of events from their perspective, as if my empathy was being directly appealed to. The use of past tense also facilitated my experience as an active participant; combined with the P.O.V., it was almost as if I was a member in a jury and was being told the details un such a way that I was able to understand that they really didn’t mean for anything to go wrong.

The author also includes foreshadowing that hints at the mystery, the intrigue, the risqué, and the danger to the act. For instance, piercing a beautiful, delicate and innocent butterfly against a dark partition board, its wings still beating helplessly, was morbidly foreboding. Maybe it’s because it’s so small and harmless that the needless death of a butterfly by the violent throw of a knife strikes me. Plus, the fact that Hensch is so dark, silent, unemotional and hard gives me a good idea of what is to come and what he’s capable of. More than just blood will be shed.

Finally, it is the use of imagery that really conveys the atmosphere, the suspense, and the tension of the whole evening. The imagery is both beautiful and dark. It adds to the mystique, and the danger of the unknown. At the same time, the imagery is so well done that it conveys images that that invoke my emotions. So, by the end, I too am guilty of my morbid fascination and curiosity of how Hensch will present his grand finale.

Dispatch

At first glance, the title means nothing. But, after reading the story, and going back to the title, it is far more meaningful than originally thought. It calls to mind an emergency, a fatal accident where the RCMP is called. And really, that is exactly what is going on, but at two different levels: the fatal accident of Charolette, and at a much deeper level, the major crisis that this marriage is going through. Recognizing this underlying message, the second reading was much more interesting.

The striking characteristic of this piece was the use of the 2nd person. It immediately grabs the reader’s attention by using “you.” Also it’s a very impactful way of bringing the reader onto the same level as the protagonist, which allows the reader to personally connect with her. Readers understand her train of thoughts, and how muddled they are. Mostly though, the reader feels what the protag is going through.

However, although there is that intimacy with the protag, there’s a restlessness of wanting to know more, or to experience more action and interaction. For instance, readers are told of the husband, and being in 2nd P.O.V., it’s as if he’s right there and can be seen and felt. But, there’s hardly any interaction with him, and when there is, the protag talks, not him. In fact, he doesn’t actually talk to the reader until the very end. Even then it’s very short dialogue, and then the reader is told what he says rather than hearing it. This is extremely annoying, and due to the lack of dialogue to move the piece forward, it drags the piece down. As a result, it’s a rather dry read.

No Great Mischief

This is probably one of the soundest pieces of writing I have ever read. True, I’m no major critic; however, from the very beginning and right to the end, it was an incredible reading experience. Not once did I question what was happening due to lack of details, nor was I restless for the piece to be finished. It was such a smooth reading; it almost seemed as if every sentence was purposefully written just so, full of intent, with the exact amount of information and detail expressed. And, I’ve been told the author did work one sentence at a time until he was perfectly satisfied, and it shows.

There is so much to this piece that it’s actually hard to write on it, except to give it a glowing report. For instance, MacLeod fills the piece with so many great descriptions, his vocabulary is precise, conveying exactly what he means to, and it’s incredible. He includes some moments of foreshadow, lines of similes and metaphors. MacLeod not only conjures up an exact image in your mind, but he is actually allows you to feel what is transpiring, and actively participate in the experience yourself. And, even though it is a heartfelt and emotional piece, there are moments of humour that gives some breathing time. There’s also some dialogue, which breaks up the tension and depth of the protag’s thoughts. Plus, it adds another dimension while moving the story along. It also allows a connection with the other characters, particularly with Calum, the protag’s brother. It adds life and plays a role in revealing Calum’s thoughts. I’m amazed at how MacLeod was able to bring these characters to life, at least in the mind they become breathing talking people with thoughts, emotions, problems and etcetera. It was a pleasure to read.

The Southern Thruway

Let’s begin with the title shall we?

The Southern Thruway. A road, a highway, that’s all it is. What happens on a highway? Nothing, it gets driven by thousands every day, and no one knows anyone, there’s hardly even a second glance. That’s why the quote underneath the title is appropriate; it gives a hint of what is to come.

Now let’s talk about the beginning paragraph. It’s full of descriptions and details, which explicitly relate the tension in the air, the frustration, and the exhaustion of being stuck in traffic. However, this is a very long opening paragraph. Even though it is well written, it risks the chance of overwhelming, or boring, the reader before the story even goes anywhere. In a way it’s almost as bad as actually being stuck in a traffic jam.

I suppose I could give a complete summary of this story, but not much happens and it would take awhile to dissect piece by piece. However, it is a beautifully written piece. There are some amazing imageries. For instance, describing the sunset as, “an avalanche of orange jelly.” These kinds of details draw the reader in and portray the emotion, or mood. I suppose it gives some history to the characters as well. But, it takes a long time to get through this story. And, some sentences go on, and on, and on – almost to the point of taking up an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, this tends to lose impact and the reader’s interest. Usually, it’s not recommended as a good thing to test the patience of your readers.

Sea Oak

To begin with I’m not sure where this story takes place. “Sea Oak” sounds pleasing, but then there are pilots taking off their shirts and waiting tables. So, is the protag at a fundraiser, like a fireman’s calendar, or is he at a sleazy joint like Hooters? Turns out he works at Hooters, only it’s called “Joysticks.” It’s a degrading, stressful, dead end job. So, I’m left wondering, who is this guy? Where is he from? Why does he put up with this job?

The second scene answers all these questions. He lives in Sea Oak, which is the only nice thing about it, the name I mean. In reality it is a dive. It’s where people end up who have nothing and could still lose everything – like a child getting caught in between crossfire. The protag’s mom has abandoned him and his sister for her boyfriend. So, they live with their Aunt. Neither his sister nor cousin has graduated, but they both have kids. In the end, there’s just a lot of detail that creates more questions.

Then, the aunt dies. There’s a boring scene describing her death and what happens after. I barely want to continue. But, her grave is robbed. This is where the story gets interesting; the Aunt comes back a zombie. All the gory details describing the “new” crude Aunt Bernie, give a new dimension and fascination to the plot of the story. It’s weird, it’s twisted, and it works because it keeps the story moving. The best part is that we learn more about the protag.

Finally, we see the protag change from passive to proactive and making changes to improve his life. And, not just for him, but for his family.

The Princess and the Plumber

I enjoyed the first page of this story. It was well written, it’s simple and it takes something old and creates something new. The added details are interesting and gives it a style all of its own. Also, it reads really smoothly and has no problems engaging the reader right from the start. I actually really liked the addition of the little girl with flowing curls who was in a nightmare with the world speeding by; it really caught my interest and I was curious to see how she would tie in. However, that’s as much as enthusiasm as I had for this story.

Pretty much, with the introduction of the snarky frog, the story began to fall apart. I couldn’t tie the pieces together and questions weren’t being answered. I became annoyed and cynical fairly quickly. The author lost my attention and gained my frustration. Even after a day of pondering this piece, I still don’t understand.

Sharks

To start with I like the title. It’s simple and it conjures up an image right away. I am expecting it to be a metaphor: fear, ruthlessness, a killer instinct, razor sharp, or something. I didn’t think the whole story would really be about sharks. It’s not really, it does have to do with the idea of irrational fear, but it sure does focus on sharks.

Anyways, I really liked this story. It was interesting and had witty dialogue. It has a style all of its own that I’ve never encountered. It was fun and informal, more intimate. I liked how it mimicked a dialogue between two friends: going over the trivial but juicy details of information with a smooth transition into the deep ingrained fear. Also, the run on dialogue helps to keep the story moving and allows me to be an active participant, and an entertained one at that.

I think this piece was creative, stepped outside the normal structure of a short story, and was a great example of what I can do with a story once I know the basics. It’s like a painter: you need to know the rules before you can break them.

Black

The first line was a hook line for sure. It seems to hold a promise of a good story to tell, an explanation to come, and it is intriguing. Then it’s followed by dialogue that introduces the main characters, Morris and Suzy. This dialogue also moves the story along by giving me something to think about. It creates questions that I want to be answered. So, I continue to read.

The next scene takes us directly to Suzy and Morris. Suzy becomes more dynamic through her description and dialogue. Then I discover that Suzy is only 5 and Morris is 43. So, then I wonder how are they connected? More questions arise and still no answers, so I read on. I enjoy learning about Suzy, her fair complexion and her distaste for dresses. The dialogue between Suzy and Morris is entertaining and, once again, moves the piece along. I also enjoyed the references to colour in Suzy’s childhood. However, still more questions arise and no answers.

The story continues and finally I learn some answers. But, I still can’t make the connections, and even more questions arise. This is followed by many little scenes that occur and read through snippets of Suzy’s life. But, I am no longer entertained. Although many questions are answered, there are many that aren’t, and I feel as if I’m told the answers, rather than shown. The dialogue fell and I read on simply because I wanted the so what? to be answered. It wasn’t. This story felt too incomplete and bare for me to connect and enjoy. I wouldn’t read her work based on this story.