Accident At The Sugarbeet by Tom Drury, 1992
The magic trick:
Prioritizing characterization and tone over plot
“Accident At The Sugarbeet” creates its own wonderful, little, self-enclosed universe. It reminds me of my favorite TV shows in that way. Often I won’t care about the particulars of an episode. I just enjoy spending time in that world, visiting with those characters. This story has the same feel. Things do happen in the story. There is a plot. We have budding romance, even a death. But Drury never dwells on the plot points. He focuses the reader’s attention more on conversations, language and characters than on plot points.
The result is another neat trick I typically associate with television (the British “Office” springs to mind): there is a sense of sadness that quietly hangs over the whole thing. Because we never stop to consider too heavily the emotions, we’re left with just a background feeling of the loneliness in the town.
And that’s quite a trick on Drury’s part.
“Anyway my son Johnny was watching the place for me while I was gone, and when I asked him, he said as far as he had noticed the horses were not walking backward. I said, you mean to stand there and tell me if a horse was walking backward you would’nt notice it? He said he might not.
“Well the boy has personal problems and that’s no secret. As I always tell him, Johnny you missed the boat. I say, Johnny, see that little speck on the horizon? That right there is the boat, which you missed.”
What do you think about this story? As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.