Elizabeth Bishop: The Farmer’s Children (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 45)

J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥

short stories century

But how could it be going to the moon when the moon was coming right down on the hill? No, moons; there was a whole row of them. No, those must be the disks of the harrow. No, the moon had split into a sheaf of moons, slipping off each other sideways, off and off and off and off.

Elizabeth Bishop’s story “The Farmer’s Children” contains sharp writing and sharp wit and starts out with a pleasant manner of story-telling. A farmer has two sons from a wife who has died and three daughters from his current wife. All five children appear to play well together innocently imagining ships and shipwrecks.

Things seem fine and fun until one of the boys realizes its “bread crumb” night and he starts to save bread crumbs at dinner. His stepmother tells them that its the night they have to go to the barn. Apparently this has happened before and they don’t think anything unusual – but the reader sees some kind of warning. Then on their way to the barn, they have to go through a cornfield leaving the bread crumbs as a trail.

For me, the cornfield becomes the truly ominous sign that things are not as fine and fun as they might appear to be. Walking through a cornfield at night never bodes well.

Many details are left out of the story. Details that might supply a reason for what happens. And I also have to leave out what little details are given because it would ruin the story for anyone who might enjoy some surprises and suspense.

But I would recommend “The Farmer’s Children”.

This story is included in The Best Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. I read it when I selected the Jack of Hearts for Week 45 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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