Love, Death, And The Ladies’ Drill Team by Jessamyn West, 1951
The magic trick:
Beginning with Emily judging the town; then having the townspeople judge the town
Yesterday’s Jessamyn West feature, “The Mysteries Of Life,” dealt in different perspectives on critique, and, guess what, so does today’s story.
The story begins with Emily Cooper imagining her new neighbors in town and judging them harshly. Then those neighbors – the drill team – arrives for practice and proceeds to judge everyone else in town even more harshly. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows? And that’s quite a trick on West’s part.
It was the same with Opal Tetford and Lacey Phillips, who arrived next. Mrs. Tetford’s husband was an official in the local Bank of America, while Mrs. Philips’s husband owned and operated a big grain ranch out on the edge of town. Knowing this, Emily thought Mrs. Tetford’s soft opulence was suited to the protection of vaults and burglar alarms, while Mrs. Philips’s rawboned frame was right in its austerity for a background of endless barley fields and rolling, cactus-covered hills.
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