‘Who, Me A Bum?’ by Luisa Valenzuela

Who, Me A Bum? by Luisa Valenzuela, 1975

The magic trick:

A narrator who describes his day to the reader as it happens

Some stories are self-consciously stories. “Once upon a time there lived a…” would be a classic example.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, we find “Who, Me A Bum?” It’s a present-tense, stream of consciousness rant from our narrator. Stream of consciousness probably isn’t quite apt. It definitely tells a story. The plot develops from start to finish. It’s just that it would seem that the narrator doesn’t know what is going to happen next, so maybe reporting-live-from-the-scene is a better description.

Calling it a rant really isn’t fair either. He’s emotional and angry, but it isn’t a rant in the sense that he’s flying off the handle. He’s just a little perturbed.

However you want to describe it, the story doesn’t employ traditional storytelling methods. It’s a narrator talking to the reader, describing a day in his life as the events happen. And that’s quite a trick on Valenzuela’s part.

The selection:

There’s a great ruckus in the station and, remembering the old saying that there’s much to be gained from confusion, I take advantage of it to slip in free through the entrance for those with commuter tickets. Nobody says a word to me, they’re all yelling and running around.

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