‘Second-Hand Man’ by Rita Dove

Dove, Rita 1985

Second-Hand Man by Rita Dove, 1985

The magic trick:

Subverting the original premise with a twist ending 

There is something of O. Henry to this one. It’s not quite a twist ending, but things turn out to be not as they first seemed. The twist to the twist? Turns out things not being as they first seemed is not a problem at all. And that’s quite a trick on Dove’s part.

The selection:

Then she saw James. He’d just come up from Tennessee, working his way up on the riverboats. Folks said his best friend had been lynched down there and he turned his back on the town and said he was never coming back. Well, when she saw this cute little man in a straw hat and a twelve-string guitar under his arm, she got a little flustered. Her girlfriends whispered around to find out who he was, but she acted like she didn’t even see him.

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