‘Cryptology’ by Leonard Michaels

Michaels, Leonard 2003

Cryptology by Leonard Michaels, 2003

The magic trick:

Setting up a bedroom farce at the center of the story

Michaels’ last story and one of his funniest. I think there is probably a serious subtext in here, but I’d rather just focus on the laughs. The story’s central scene – when Nachman turns up in Helen Farris’ bedroom while she is showering with her husband – is basically a bedroom farce. It is laugh-out-loud funny.

Write a character into a confusing and stressful situation. Then write that situation into some kind of worst case. Comedy! And that’s quite a trick on Michaels’s part.

The selection:

The open suitcase on the bed was large and old-fashioned, made of yellow leather like a beautiful Gladstone, with straps and metal corners. What he saw in the suitcase told him that Helen and Benjamin were packing for a trip. How nice. They did things together—travelled, showered, bickered, and said vile things about people who had never done them any harm. Their conjugal solidarity was daunting.


What do you think about this story? As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

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