Red by Maile Meloy, 2002
The magic trick:
Using a personal story to make a comment about much bigger issues
“Red” suffers in the comparison game – being only my second-favorite Maile Meloy story with “red” in the title (the great “Red Turning Green” wins the prize), and being only my 21st-favorite Meloy family work involving war (see The Decemberists’ entire catalog).
But, it’s still a moving story. It’s World War II. England is bearing the brunt. The United States is late to the game. Like a brash, idiot guy who thinks he knows everything but knows he doesn’t and is scared and covers up his fear by playing a heroic caricature, which he can’t really pull off but is too committed to the role to notice.
And that’s quite a trick on Meloy’s part.
He’d meant to tell the girl about the movies he’d seen with the men in Ranger training, when they’d crawled around in the swamps without a girl in sight for days, then found themselves in a dark room with Lana Turner begging for love. He wanted to tell her about men’s desires – his own desire – and how little came in return for it sometimes. He thought, there in the rooming-house hallway, he had some important point to make, but now he didn’t know what the point was, and couldn’t find the words he meant to say.
As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.