The Keyhole Eye by John Stewart Carter, 1962
The magic trick:
Spanning the story’s arc to cover 40-50 years
Obviously, a novel is better suited than a short story for detailing a man’s life from birth to death. More pages, more space. Still, many short stories manage the trick, and “The Keyhole Eye” is one of them. The story’s most poignant moments thrive on the compare-contrast of generations through the relationship between an uncle and his nephew. The story opens with the narrator (the nephew) as a child and ends with him at 50. Such a scale allows the reader to see the familial relationships change and grow and weaken. And that’s quite a trick on Carter’s part.
“’Bout time you got up kid, huh? Today’s the wedding day.” My gaze went past the reflection into the mirror, and he looked very happy there. I smiled and stretched, drawing my eyes back into myself. “You sure look comfortable.”
“I am,” I said through my yawn.
I shook my head and found him again in the mirror. “You looked so comfortable, so damned asleep when I came in – rough night, kid, rough night – ” (I lost his eyes then when he began to fuss with his cuff links) “that I just went to your bed, and that’s where I slept.”
Inside of me warm, wet, sudden tears began. I can still feel them flood my heart; so I know and knew what they were. But of course I didn’t cry them then and I don’t now. They just exist in me and always have. I hope I have them in some poems somewhere. I hope I have them here. Anyway, we never looked at each other, ever again.