Here we are in the last week of my personal permutation of the Deal Me In method of short-story reading (a la Jay at Bibliophilopolis). When I started this half-year project, I had no idea that I could actually make it to the end successfully. I am not known for my finishing power on long-term projects like this. However, I am happy to report that this time was different, and I am raring to go with a full-year version of Deal Me In -- my preparations (and a GIVEAWAY) can be found here, and I encourage you to check it out if you haven't already, and ENTER THE GIVEAWAY. The more the merrier!
So for week 26, I drew the 5 of diamonds, which led me to my last story from Growing Up in the South -- a classic story from one of the High Priestesses of the American Short Story, Flannery O'Connor.
Julian takes his mother downtown on the bus every Wednesday to attend a diet class at the Y. He doesn't do this willingly, however, and he actually turns out to be something of a martyr about it, which O'Connor expertly characterizes with the language and imagery she chooses:
She was almost ready to go, standing before the hall mirror, putting on her hat, while he, his hands behind him, appeared pinned to the door frame, waiting like Saint Sebastian for the arrows to begin piercing him.
Julian is one of those people who is "glad to be unhappy," and he makes sure everyone around him knows that he's unhappy, and that he is much more intelligent and sophisticated than everyone else. In the process, however, he ends up being quite the you-know-what. Yes, his mother is on the simple side, and a racist (although Julian is one as well, as it turns out, just in a different way) -- however, Julian seems to take a special pleasure in trying to humiliate his mother throughout the story.
In the story, Julian and his mother get on the bus and have interactions with a variety of people, including a well-dressed black man who gets on and whom Julian tries to engage in conversation, just to poke fun at his mother's uncomfortableness with the situation. Things come to a head (or converge???) when a large black woman and a small black boy get on the bus. Ironically, the woman is wearing a hideous hat that is identical to the one that Julian's mother is wearing. Things become more and more tense as Julian's mother tries to engage the little boy in a game of peek-a-boo, but the black woman will have none of this.
They all happen to get off at the same stop, and Julian knows what is going to happen next: his mother is going to give the little boy a nickel. She can't find a nickel, however, and offers him a penny. This provokes the black woman to lash out at Julian's mother and things pretty much spiral out of control at that point.
I've never thought her stories were that easy to understand, however -- I enjoy them but they do take some work. This was my first time reading "Everything That Rises Must Converge," and I don't think it's my favorite O'Connor story. That honor would probably go to "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," I think. But this story is well worth the read.
And with that, I will say farewell to Deal Me In (Lite) 2014. It has been fun seeing and commenting on all the stories that other participants have read, and I have enjoyed reading others' comments on my stories. Next year should be bigger and better -- and in my case, TWICE as good as this year!