‘Concerning The Bodyguard’ by Donald Barthelme

Barthelme, Donald 1978

Concerning The Bodyguard by Donald Barthelme, 1978

The magic trick:

Constructing an entire story using only questions

This might be the easiest magic trick ever posted on the website. The whole dang story is questions. Yet there is actually a narrative. Of course, most of them are rhetorical questions, so that makes it a little easier. Still you try writing a whole story using only questions. Good luck. And that’s quite a trick on Barthelme’s part.

The selection:

Is the bodyguard tired of waking in his small room on the Calle Caspe, smoking a Royale Filtre, then getting out of bed and throwing wide the curtains to discover, again, eight people standing at the bus stop across the street in postures of depression? Is there on the wall of the bodyguard’s small room a poster showing Bruce Lee in a white robe with his feet positioned in such-and-such a way, his fingers outstretched in such-and-such a way? Is there a rosary made of apple beads hanging from a nail? Is there a mirror whose edges have begun to craze and flake, and are there small blurrish Polaroids stuck along the left edge of the mirror, Polaroids of a woman in a dark-blue scarf and two lean children in red pants? Is there a pair of dark-blue trousers plus a long-sleeved white shirt (worn once already) hanging in the dark-brown wardrobe? Is there a color foldout of a naked young woman torn from the magazine VIR taped inside the wardrobe door? Is there a bottle of Long John Scotch atop the cheese-colored mini-refrigerator? Two-burner hotplate? Dull-green ceramic pot on the windowsill containing an unhealthy plant? A copy of Explication du Tai Chi, by Bruce Tegner? Does the bodyguard read the newspaper of his principal’s party? Is he persuaded by what he reads there? Does the bodyguard know which of the great blocs his country aligned itself with during the Second World War? During the First World War? Does the bodyguard know which countries are the preeminent trading partners of his own country, at the present time?


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