Peace On High by Rómulo Gallegos, 1962
The magic trick:
Casting the reader into the war between mother and son
Brutal story today. The key is the boy. We’re introduced to Felipe as a pitiful, sickly boy. Obviously, he’s an easy sympathy magnet. When he starts palling around with the stray dog? Your heart melts. So, it’s a strange thing when his mother and boyfriend start talking about him like he’s evil. Crisanto calls him the “devil’s own son.”
What to believe? There’s evidence on both sides. Certainly, the story gives us more reason to view Felipe as worthy of our sympathy and not our scorn. But there’s enough there on the flipside to make it uncomfortable.
And that’s quite a trick on Gallegos’s part.
Finally, the emptiness inside his head: the chatter of millions of crickets approaching, a crazy whirl of stars around his eyes. And last of all, a sudden, definitive silence that seems as if it will never come to an end…. And in the middle of all this, the obsessive vision of a man, the coalman, hugging his mother, as he himself lies in a corner of the hovel, shaking with the cold that precedes a fever….
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.