Impulse by Conrad Aiken, 1934
The magic trick:
Setting up a fall from grace without the grace
This is a cool little Boston story. It sort of seems like the same template that Hitchcock would soon make famous: everyday guy suddenly ripped from normalcy and plunged into the extraordinary. But it’s not quite like that. Michael, our everyday guy, thinks it’s like that. He thinks he’s a pretty good guy generally speaking and can’t for the life him believe how unfair his new situation is.
But we, the reader, know better. The story gives us the clues.
We see from the start that he’s flawed. We see, even as he doesn’t, that this one stray impulse isn’t the first wrong move he’s made today. It’s one in a long series. And that’s quite a trick on Aiken’s part.
Michael was astounded at this appalling turn of events, but his brain still worked. Perhaps if he were to put it to this fellow as man to man, when they got outside? As he was thinking this, he was firmly conducted through a back door into a dark alley at the rear of the store. It had stopped snowing. A cold wind was blowing. But the world, which had looked so beautiful fifteen minutes before, had now lost its charm. They walked together down the alley in six inches of powdery snow, the detective holding Michael’s arm with affectionate firmness.
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