A Butterfly On F Street by Edward P. Jones, 1992
The magic trick:
Showing how fundamentally good people can still cause pain
This is really nice quick five-page story.
A man has died recently. The two loves of his life – his ex-wife and the woman he left her for near the end of his life – happen to bump into each other while shopping in downtown D.C.
The story manages to do two things at once that would seem contradictory – outline the hurt and pain caused by this man’s decision to leave his wife; and sympathetically portray each character.
And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.
“Mildred,” the woman said, “I’m real sorry for your loss.”
Two months before, the woman turned over to Mildred’s son all the belongings of Mansfield Harper, including dozens of pictures of his family. “She didn’t say nothing much, Mama,” her son kept telling Mildred. Then he said, “She just said, ‘I’m real sorry for your loss.’”
The woman stood but a few feet away from her on the median. Perhaps if she had said something else, Mildred might have walked away. But she was surprised by the note of sincerity in the woman’s words. “Thank you,” Mildred said.
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