‘The Mourners’ by Bernard Malamud

The Mourners by Bernard Malamud, 1955

The magic trick:

Changing the fundamental nature of the story’s conflict at the very end

Great story today.

It’s Kessler vs. the world for most of the story. A landlord wants to evict him, and the two engage in what amounts to a bizarre staring contest. No one blinks. That’s not what winds up determining the ending of this story, though. The conclusion will throw you for a loop. At least it threw me. The landlord has a moment of epiphany and it changes the entire nature of the conflict. And that’s quite a trick on Malamud’s part.

The selection:

On the morning of the first of December, Ignace found in his letter box a soiled folded paper containing Kessler’s twenty-five dollars. He showed it to Gruber that evening when the landlord came to collect the rent money. Gruber, after a minute of absently contemplating the money, frowned disgustedly.

“I thought I told you to give notice.”

“Yes, Mr. Gruber,” Ignace agreed. “I gave him.”

“That’s a helluva chutzpah,” said Gruber. “Gimme the keys.”


As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s