3♠ 3♠ 3♠ 3♠ 3♠ 3♠ 3♠ 3♠
Ah, a stouthearted one, Mary! She had never given up hope of changing him, of making him over into the man she thought he ought to be. Time and again she almost had him. And there were long periods, of course, during which he had been worn down by the conflict, one spring when he himself said, when she had told all the neighbors, that he was too old now to go fishing anymore….But he had made a comeback. She had had to resort to stratagem. His lips curved in a smile, remembering the trick.
Something is a little tragic about one who is unable to share their passions with those to whom they are closest. Or to have someone close completely unable to understand. That’s the situation with Aleck Maury in Caroline Gordon’s short story “Old Red”. While visiting the family of his late wife along with his daughter and son-in-law, Maury reminisces about his marriage while longing for the great outdoors – fishing and hunting,that is, not simply a passion but a part of who he is.
His wife Mary felt Aleck could make something more of himself if he didn’t love fishing and hunting so much. The title comes from Maury remembering an elusive red fox that he could never quite catch. It’s very easy to say that the red fox represents that disillusionment with the American Dream about which so many post World War I authors wrote. However, the story’s introduction by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp refers to Aleck as a “thoroughly Southern pantheist”. His gods are the outdoors. While the unreachable American Dream may fall into this category, I think the fox represents more of a mystery that can’t be solved or a question that can’t be answered.
And unlike those around him, Aleck Maury is content with the mystery, content with no answers.
According to Wikipedia, Caroline Gordon and her husband occasionally entertained Ernest Hemingway in their Kentucky home. This story has a Hemingway-esque feel from a feminine point of view – which makes the story quite fascinating.
I read this story because I selected the Three of Spades in my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. It’s included in my copy of The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by the above mentioned Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.