‘Principal Alpaca’ by Richard Leise

Principal Alpaca by Richard Leise, 2019

The magic trick:

Combination heavy-handed/hands-off

In a very short story – less than 1,000 words – Leise gives us character (backstory about the interim principal), plot (a particularly nasty phone call the principal has to make today), and symbolism (a fly reminiscent of Katherine Mansfield or Breaking Bad, depending on your tastes).

The rest is up to you.

He respects the reader enough to make you do the analysis, interpretation, synthesis, if you want to figure out what it all means. He’s not going to spell it out for you.

It’s a really cool approach. The elements themselves are fairly dramatic, maybe even potentially heavy-handed. But the hands-off writer’s touch puts the scale perfectly in balance, resulting in a powerful story that takes five minutes to read and five days to sort through.

And that’s quite a trick on Leise’s part.

The selection:

Having recently celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday, he assesses his present position. He finds that he is satisfied, proud of his accomplishments. Lesser men would have created excuses. Weaker individuals would have hidden in their parents’ basements. He likes to think of himself as methodical. Scrupulous.

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