Sometimes, when I read a short story in one of the latest literary journals, my mind wanders. I find myself appreciating the storyteller’s craft and control but the story itself leaves me cold. The characters seem enslaved by the story’s design and, as a result, unconvincing. Or the beautiful use of language overwhelms the narrative as a whole and takes away from the movement of the story. It may be that these types of stories just weren’t written for the likes of me. In any case, whenever this happens, I often go over to my bookshelves containing books I can truthfully say I cherish, and I open one at random. Today, I selected Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and read the short story, “A Train is an Order of Occurrence Designed to Lead to Some Result.” The story begins:
“Broom, dustpan, sweep, trash can,” Samuel Builds-the-Fire chanted as he showered and shaved, combed his hair into braids. Samuel was a maid at a motel on Third Avenue.”
At least for me, in so few words, so much is said, and yet hidden, and I at once trust this voice. I trust it will reveal in good time what I need to know—what I must know. And by the story’s end, I do know this character and feel for him. Even though I’m no Indian/native american (well, I guess I’m partly, if that means anything), this tale nevertheless makes me experience for deep moments at a time the journey of one Indian – the journey of one human being. So I say, thank you, Sherman Alexie, for restoring my faith in the magic of storytelling.