A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Twenty Eight – The Destructors

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 eight – The Destructors, by Graham Greene

Read it online here:

The Destructors

I looked up, read, and used today’s story The Destructors by Graham Greene for one reason… it’s mentioned in Donnie Darko. What better reason can there be?

There would be headlines in the papers. Even the grown-up gangs who ran the betting at the all-in wrestling and the barrow-boys would hear with respect of how Old Misery’s house had been destroyed. Driven by the pure, simple, and altruistic ambition of fame for the gang, Blackie came back to where T. stood in the shadow of Misery’s wall.

T. was giving his orders with decision: It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons, now in his fifteenth year crystallized with the pain of puberty.

The first important thing to think about in this story is that it isn’t called “The Destroyers” but “The Destructors.”

Read through modern eyes, the actions of the gang are horrible and wasteful. But think about the area around Old Misery’s house – it was destroyed by the blitz. These young boys are raised in the quick aftermath of destruction – and are given an opportunity to do one better than the random violence of war.

And then, in the most haunting part of the story, there’s another passage that reminds me of a modern pop-fiction film reference. The boys come across Old Misery’s life savings, but they don’t steal anything, they burn. Like The Joker in The Dark Knight – they just want to watch the world burn.

“We aren’t thieves,” T. said. “Nobody’s going to steal anything from this house. I kept these for you and me—a celebration.” He knelt down on the floor and counted them out—there were seventy in all. “We’ll burn them,” he said, “one by one,” and taking it in turns they held a note upward and lit the top corner, so that the flame burnt slowly toward their fingers. The gray ash floated above them and fell on their heads like age. “I’d like to see Old Misery’s face when we are through,” T. said.

“You hate him a lot?” Blackie asked.

“Of course I don’t hate him,” T. said. “There’d be no fun if I hated him.” The last burning note illuminated his brooding face. “All this hate and love,” he said, “it’s soft, it’s hooey. There’s only things, Blackie,” and he looked round the room crowded with the unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things. “I’ll race you home, Blackie,” he said