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I’m becoming impressed with Graham Greene’s humor. Earlier, I read “The Branch of the Service” and it continues to be the funniest story I’ve read this year. For Week 16 of my Deal Me In 2014 project, the 10 of spades brought me to another one of Greene’s stories, “The End of the Party”, and it’s proven to be almost as comedic as the previous one although I would probably categorize the humor as “dark”, both literally and figuratively.
Francis and Peter Morton are pre-adolescent twin brothers who wake up on January 5th to realize that it’s time for a neighbor’s birthday party. While Peter isn’t exactly thrilled about going, Francis has already had terrifying dreams about the impending party. While some of the terrors include the usual – teenage girls, for example, his true fear comes from the knowledge that they will play a game after the sun goes down. All of the lights in the house will be turned off in order to play the dreaded “hide and seek in the dark”.
Francis attempts every excuse he can think of to miss the party, but they all fall through. Peter’s special bond as a twin lets him know exactly how Francis is feeling even if the exact words aren’t exchanged between the two. I thought Greene skillfully deals with this aspect of the brothers’ relationship in a manner that is realistic but also outside the ordinary. Their give and take with each other isn’t fantasy or science fiction, but its unique and special and one might even say it’s powerful: “Instinct told him he was near the wall, and, extending a hand, he laid fingers across his brother’s face. Francis did not cry out, but the leap of his own heart revealed to Peter a proportion of Francis’s terror.”
The resolution of Francis’ fear lends an understatement to the story’s title that is creepy – and hilarious.