Encarnación Mendoza’s Christmas Eve by Juan Bosch, 1962
The magic trick:
Combining a violent realism with an ironic twist ending
Not a festive one today, folks. Sorry. The Christmas Eve setting is purely ironic here.
Encarnación is wanted for murder. He’s a fugitive. But it’s Christmas Eve. He’s risking it all to see his family for the holidays.
The twist ending recalls O. Henry. But whereas those O. Henry stories float along with an almost cartoonish effect, this story is frightfully realistic. It’s violent too. Almost brutal. Bosch spares us no detail – right on down to teeth shattered by bullets. It’s grisly. So the when that ironic twist at the end hits, you’re not feeling light. You’re feeling the weight of a cruel, cruel world.
And that’s quite a trick on Bosch’s part.
With the clear eye of a fugitive, Encarnación Mendoza made out the profile of a tree twenty paces away, reason enough to believe the night was beginning to wane. By his calculations, he had traveled correctly; where he would start to go wrong was in making conclusions based on this observation. For as day approached he usually found a place to hide, and now he wondered if it would be better to pass through the hills to his right or through the sugarcane fields to his left. To his misfortune, he chose the cane fields. An hour and a half later the sun of the 24th illuminated the countryside and lightly warmed Encarnación Mendoza, who lay facedown on stalks of cane.
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