‘New Year’s Night’ by Henry Lawson

Lawson, Henry 1900

New Year’s Night by Henry Lawson, 1900

The magic trick:

Turning a hard man soft

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2016. It’s going to be a great year.

Here at the SSMT site, you’ll notice a few changes. We’ll be featuring fewer stories a week, down from five to three. Look for new story tricks Monday, Tuesday and Thursday each week. Of course, if it happens to be a themed week – it’s Tobias Wolff Week here soon, for instance – you’ll get the regular, five-day weekday lineup. Cutting back a few each month will allow me to add other kinds of content this year. I hesitate to make promises I can’t keep, but let’s just say I’m cautiously optimistic about my ability to follow through.

Now then.. on to the first story trick of 2016.

We start the year in Australia. “New Year’s Night” is a short short story and it relies on a simple trick. It starts with a hard man, Johnny Mears, in a hard scene, Dead Man’s Gap. Through a simple plot, and the memory of his wedding anniversary, the hard man is softened. Simple but effective. Works every time. And that’s quite a trick on Lawson’s part.

The selection:

They sat close together on the long stool by the table, shy and awkward at first; and she clung to him at opening of thunder, and they started apart guiltily when the first great drops sounded like footsteps on the gravel outside, just as they’d done one night-time before — twenty years before.

If it was dark before, it was black now. The edge of the awful storm-cloud rushed up and under the original darkness like the best “drop” black-brushed over the cheap “lamp” variety, turning it grey by contrast. The deluge lasted only a quarter of an hour; but it cleared the night, and did its work. There was hail before it, too — big as emu eggs, the boys said — that lay feet deep in the old diggers’ holes on Pipeclay for days afterwards — weeks some said.


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