A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Twenty Nine – The Untold Lie

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 xx – The Untold Lie, by Sherwood Anderson

Read it online here:

The Untold Lie

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

—- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Today’s story is a chapter from Sherwood Anderson’s longer work – a short story cycle, Winesburg, Ohio.

It’s a tale of quiet desperation from two men – one that has earned it and one that hasn’t. There is an amazing scene early on – a flashback of sorts – of how the father of one of the two died.

When the train struck and killed him and his two horses a farmer and his wife who were driving home along a nearby road saw the accident. They said that old Windpeter stood upon the seat of his wagon, raving and swearing at the onrushing locomotive, and that he fairly screamed with delight when the team, maddened by his incessant slashing at them, rushed straight ahead to certain death. Boys like young George Willard and Seth Richmond will remember the incident quite vividly because, although everyone in our town said that the old man would go straight to hell and that the community was better off without him, they had a secret conviction that he knew what he was doing and admired his foolish courage. Most boys have seasons of wishing they could die gloriously instead of just being grocery clerks and going on with their humdrum lives.

Though the time, setting, and overall tone could not be more different, it reminds me somehow of Updike’s A&P – how easy it is to fall into habits and how little decisions can reverberate through time, to the end of life.

In the end, the story does not say who is right and who is wrong – it does not dare to take sides concerning what is the correct road taken. The title says it all – no matter what decision is made, no matter what advice is given – it will be… everything is lies.