The Sound Of Summer Running by Ray Bradbury, 1957
The magic trick:
Writing a protagonist who embodies the passion and optimism of a childhood summertime
Really, this is a couple chapters from the novel, Dandelion Wine, but reconstructed as a standalone story, it works just fine. Douglas Spalding, the protagonist, is like so many other Bradbury characters – he’s frustrated waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to his point of view. In this case the frustration stems from pure joy. He is so excited about the summer and, specifically, new gym shoes, he reverses roles with the shoe store owner – selling him on how great the shoes are. It’s all a bunch of classic Bradbury nostalgia for an idealized youth in small-town America. But, cheesy as that may be, it’s a nice trip. And that’s quite a trick on Bradbury’s part.
“Please!” Douglas held out his hand. “Mr. Sanderson, now could you kind of
rock back and forth a little, sponge around, bounce kind of, while I tell you the rest? It’s this: I give you my money, you give me the shoes, I owe you a dollar. But, Mr. Sanderson, but—soon as I get those shoes on, you know what happens?”
“Bang! I deliver your packages, pick up packages, bring you coffee, burn your trash, run to the post office, telegraph office, library! You’ll see twelve of me in and out, in and out, every minute. Feel those shoes, Mr. Sanderson, feel how fast they’d take me? All those springs inside? Feel all the running inside? Feel how they kind of grab hold and can’t let you alone and don’t like you just standing there? Feel how quick I’d be doing the things you’d rather not bother with? You stay in the nice cool store while I’m jumping all around town! But it’s not me really, it’s the shoes. They’re going like mad down alleys, cutting corners, and back! There they go!”
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