Posted in Short Stories

Paul Horgan: The Devil in the Desert (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 30)

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The snake hesitated before answering. A gleam of admiration went through its expression, and it marveled frankly for a moment at the astuteness of Father Louis.

“I must say, even if we are enemies, you force me to admire and like you,” it said.

“Thank you,” said Father Louis. “Viewed abstractly, you have great and beautiful qualities of your own.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Oh, yes, I do. But I must add that they seem to me less important, in the end, than they do to you.”

“You can also be very rude, you know.”

A surreal, venom-induced dream including a delightful conversation between Father Louis and a rattle snake takes center stage in Paul Horgan’s “The Devil in the Desert”. Given the title, one doesn’t have to wonder who the rattle snake is – at least in the context of the dream.

Paul Horgan

Set in 1850’s Texas, Horgan describes the landscape beautifully and makes Father Louis a memorable character. Father Louis’s bi-annual trip to those members of his congregation who live too far out in the wilderness to come to him has given his life purpose for three decades. Many around him understand that he is getting too old to travel the rugged terrain. Father Louis understands this, too. He just doesn’t want to hear it from anyone else. Of course, when the message comes in the form of a rattle snake, he kind of has to listen.

Just like the desert, the story has its beautiful moments and frightening moments. Into which category does the priest’s dream fall? I’ll let readers make up their own mind.

I read this story when I selected the Ten of Diamonds for Week 30 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. It’s included in my copy of The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

Posted in Short Stories

Paul Horgan: The Peach Stone (Deal Me In 2016 – Week 38)

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I don’t think I’ve read a short story in which an author has managed so well to tell it from multiple points of view as Paul Horgan’s “The Peach Stone”. The story consists of a four hour car ride from Roswell, New Mexico to the small town of Weed, Texas. The car ride is the result of a tragedy occuring in the lives of the four people traveling.

It’s difficult to remember that nobody in the car is actually talking for the majority of the trip. Because we read the thoughts of the married couple, their young son and his teacher and because these thoughts are not necessarily in rigid order, it seems like the car should be a buzz with chatter. It’s also difficult to say who the protagonist would be in the story. It could very easily be any of them. While I was reading, I thought of the wife as the “main” protagonist but someone else reading the story could think that title should belong to one of the others.

Much of the riders’ thoughts revolve around the tragedy that’s forced them to make the trip. For varying reasons, they all are dealing with much guilt and anguish. While one of the travelers eventually “opens up” as they reach their destination, I wondered while I was reading whether redemption or resolution would be found.

Perhaps it was-

Jodey then felt that she had returned to them all; and he stopped seeing, and just remembered, what happened yesterday; and his love for his wife was confirmed as something he would never be able to measure for himself or prove to her in words.

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This story is included in my copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. I selected it to read by drawing the Ace of Clubs for Week 38 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project.  My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.