‘Without Inspection’ by Edwidge Danticat

Without Inspection by Edwidge Danticat, 2018

The magic trick:

Balancing life’s accumulated memories, accomplishments, and concerns with a shocking sudden death

There is something about this story that recalls the Coen Brothers film No Country For Old Men. That something, to be more specific, is the way that sudden death cruelly disregards all the many points traveled to reach this end. It breaks your heart, really. We do so much. We need so many minor miracles just to survive 40 years, and then that’s it? We have a heart attack and die? Or in the case of the Coen Bros., Anton Chirgurh dominates a hundred confrontations just so he can get hit by a car randomly? Or in the case of this story, Arnold withstands 10 lifetimes’ worth of hardship and adversity just so he can fall off a construction girter?

Ah, it’s all too much. This story, in particular, highlights the challenges of an immigrant’s life. And beyond just the challenges of what can, at this point, become an important but cliched narrative, we see his loves – his human needs and joys.

For what?

The ending is callous and cruel.

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

The selection:

It took Arnold six and a half seconds to fall five hundred feet. During that time, an image of his son, Paris, flashed before his eyes: Paris, dressed in his red school-uniform shirt and khakis the day of his kindergarten graduation. That morning, Paris’s mother, Darline, had skipped around the apartment changing dresses, as if she were the one graduating. Closing his eyes tightly as the hot wind he was plunging through battered his face, Arnold saw Paris at the classroom ceremony. He saw himself, too, standing next to Darline, who had finally chosen a billowing sapphire-colored satin dress. He was in the one black suit he wore to everything, to weddings and to funerals.

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