A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 3 – The Ambush, by Donna Tartt

M41 Walker Bulldog
Liberty Park
Plano, Texas

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. 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 – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 3 – The Ambush, by Donna Tartt

Read it online here:

The Ambush, by Donna Tartt

“Oh my God!” he said. “Stay with me, Hank! You can’t die, you son of a bitch!”

I grimaced and tossed my head from side to side in agony as Tim – in a desperate effort to revive me – pounded on my chest. I was impressed by his profanity, but even more impressed that he had taken the Lord’s name in vain on my behalf.

Far away, from the back porch, Tim’s grandmother called out to us in a thin, irritating voice: “Do you all want lemonade?”

—-Donna Tartt, The Ambush

A while back I read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and liked it more than I anticipated. The Goldfinch is on my list of books to read – a long list that is, unfortunately, growing rather than shrinking.

Maybe before I die.

Today’s story, The Ambush, is a spectacularly well written tale of childhood and war. The descriptions are all too precise and knowing for a child of eight (the narrator) and you know it is being told from a point far in the future. That the memories are so strong and accurate shows how important the events are to the character, the author, and the reader.

It is a story of the time, a time gone, but of a time I remember. It’s a story of the death of a friend’s father and of the death of a certain kind of life we used to live.

This is something that the novel does better than any other art form: reproducing the inner life and the inner experience of another person, particularly extreme forms of consciousness like grief, dreams, drunkenness, spiritual revelations, even insanity. Unlike movies, where we’re always onlookers, in novels we have the experience of being someone else: knowing another person’s soul from the inside. No other art form does that. And I like dealing with particularly intense inner experiences because I think that in many ways, this is what the novel does best.
—-Donna Tartt