‘We’re On TV In The Universe’ by Stephanie Vaughn

We’re On TV In The Universe by Stephanie Vaughn, 1990

The magic trick:

Turning accident into contrivance

Man, this is a strange little story. It’s a silly, comedic, downright goofy plot – woman brings chicken as gift for a veterinarian’s birthday, crashes car into a cop car on the way and makes friends with a young juggler on the side of the road – that takes a dramatic turn at the end. When a storyteller says or writes: “A confession now” to set up such a dramatic turn, the hair on the back of your neck should rightly bristle. Oh Lord, you think, here we go. What now?

And yet Vaughn’s narrator pulls off this trick without pretension. If anything, the confession saps all pretense from the story. She flips the story on its head. She strips away the notion of zany coincidence. Gone is the “Can you believe this happened?” comedy. In its place we’re left with a startling sense of contrivance and a profound sense of loneliness. And that’s quite a trick on Vaughn’s part.

The selection:

“Anybody hurt? Anybody injured?”

“I don’t think so,” Officer Cook said. “Get off the road,” he said, and slammed his door.

Just then I leaned against the car so that I could prop my elbows on the roof, and my belt buckle broke into “Stars And Stripes Forever.” The TV man turned and took me in for the first time and then noticed the juggler, who by then was throwing five snowballs into the air and was all concentration.


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