‘Accident Brief’ by Karen Russell

Accident Brief by Karen Russell, 2006

The magic trick:

Masterfully blending pathos, humor, setting, and suspense

Awesome early Karen Russell story today on the SSMT website. Might be my favorite of hers.

This is a story where Russell aims at four key things and connects on each: family life pathos, humor, dramatic setting, suspense.

Emphasis on the last one there.

This story is legitimately suspenseful. It’s a rescue story, first and foremost. So with all those other things established – family drama, setting, and jokes – you can settle into the edge-of-your-seat nature of the plot, while actually caring about what happens.

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

The selection:

Steve #2 hands us an ice axe and a sack lunch. My ice axe is crusted with triangles of rust or blood. My sack lunch is salami. The ice pilots start to load up the planes. Steve #3 does a head count and frowns down at the manifest.

“Franz Josef? There are some names missing on the manifest.”

A whispered conference. Brows furrow in our direction. Franz smiles at us, and I catch a whiff of conspiracy.

“Mr. Gibson, Mr. Oamaru, Mr. Brauser, there’s been an, ah, error of logistics. You boys don’t mind waiting for an extra plane? Very sure? Most certain? Well.”

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