Bullet In The Brain by Tobias Wolff, 1995
The magic trick:
Separating the story into two distinct yet seamlessly connected sections
What’s a story about a bank robbery doing as part of the SSMT baseball week? Those who are familiar with the story know the connection. I won’t ruin it for everyone else. I will say two things.
One: it’s very good, go read it.
Two: It’s remarkable for its structure. Sliced into two tight little sections, it appears to be about one thing during the first half, but really is about another in the second half. The first half puts our protagonist through the action of the story without telling us much about him. In the second half, the action of the story is complete, but now we get to know the protagonist after the fact. It’s this back-loaded backstory that becomes the heart of the story. It might sound kind of backwards, but it works exceedingly well. And that’s quite a trick on Wolff’s part.
Once in the brain, that is, the bullet came under the mediation of brain time, which gave Anders plenty of leisure to contemplate the scene that, in a phrase he would have abhorred, “passed before his eyes.”
It is worth noting what Ambers did not remember, given what he did remember.