The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.
Today’s story, for day twenty seven – The Boarded Window, by Ambrose Bierce
Read it online here:
Ambrose Bierce… I guess you can say is a witty writer. Born in a log cabin – like the one in today’s story – all his life he was a sardonic observer of society and the human condition. I know him from the story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and his odd and bitter lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary. He published extensive fiction and journalism – always at the center of controversy because of his biting satire. Although the details are fuzzy – he died, probably in front of a firing squad, in Mexico while following Pancho Villa and his army.
Today’s selection is a typical tale – the language is a bit stilted and old – but there is surprising complexity in the way it is told. For example, take a close look at how the narration jumps around in time and how different sources are used – without changing the point of view. It gives a subtle indication of an unreliable narrator and the impression that everything is not quite what it seems.
The little log house, with its chimney of sticks, its roof of warping clapboards weighted with traversing poles and its “chinking” of clay, had a single door and, directly opposite, a window. The latter, however, was boarded up–nobody could remember a time when it was not. And none knew why it was so closed; certainly not because of the occupant’s dislike of light and air, for on those rare occasions when a hunter had passed that lonely spot the recluse had commonly been seen sunning himself on his doorstep if heaven had provided sunshine for his need. I fancy there are few persons living today who ever knew the secret of that window, but I am one, as you shall see.
And then, at the end, the twist ending. Not too surprising, nothing you don’t see… but that doesn’t lessen the impact, does it.