‘Can-Can’ by Arturo Vivante


Can-Can by Arturo Vivante, 1972

The magic trick:

Breaking down a man’s marital and relationship problems into two short scenes

Yet another story about a man cheating on his wife and children. Yawn. Yuck. Etc.

This one does have a twist, though. The husband in question feels something like remorse. Except it’s not even remorse; it’s conflicted excitement. He has set up this rendezvous and then questioned whether or not he even wants it to happen.

Great. What am I even talking about? The whole point of this website is to figure out the how. I’m stalling, telling you the what.

Well, I guess the key to the story is the way Vivante boils it all down to two scenes. This is a very short story, so he gets points for being concise. We have the first key scene: the man leaving his house and seeing his wife in a positive light, dancing and smiling. Then we get a second scene: the man waiting at the café for his lover, questioning the entire operation.

That’s pretty much all you need to get the reader thinking. And that’s quite a trick on Vivante’s part.

The selection:

Waiting for her at the café, he surprised himself hoping that she wouldn’t come. The appointment was at three. It was now ten past. Well, she was often late. He looked at the clock, and at the picture window for her car. A car like hers, and yet not hers — no luggage rack on it. The smooth hardtop gave him a peculiar pleasure. Why? It was 3:15 now. Perhaps she wouldn’t come. No, if she was going to come at all, this was the most likely time for her to arrive. Twenty past. Ah, now there was some hope. Hope? How strange he should be hoping for her absence. Why had he made the appointment if he was hoping she would miss it? He didn’t know why, but simpler, simpler if she didn’t come. Because all he wanted now was to smoke that cigarette, drink that cup of coffee for the sake of them, and not to give himself something to do. And he wished he could go for a drive, free and easy, as he had said he would. But he waited, and at 3:30 she arrived. “I had almost given up hope,” he said.

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