‘Night Calls’ by Lisa Fugard

Night Calls by Lisa Fugard, 1995

The magic trick:

Setting up its memorable image early in the story

“Night Calls” established its central image early, and, recognizing a good get, doesn’t stray far the rest of the way. We have an aging, lonely widower who struggles to communicate his feelings. It’s a guaranteed heartbreaker then to see him connect with the rare, red-breasted heron. The story twists and turns but never lets that connection out of it sights.

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

The selection:

At breakfast the next morning my father told me that a hyena had gotten the best of us, had finally broken into the heron’s pen, because the bird had disappeared. Under the blue gum tree we examined a huge hole in the fence. “Yes, I think so, Dad,” I said, and nodded in agreement as we watched King and Blitz sniff inside the pen. He seemed lighter and chatted with me about school as I helped him dismantle the fence. “Hyena,” he had said with such authority. He told me that now he might even be able to come to the end-of-the-year recital at my school. That night I made fried bananas and ice cream for dessert, and we listened to a radio play together. At ten, just before he switched off the generator, I looked in the mirror and thought, I have his eyes.

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