Consolation by Richard Bausch, 1990
The magic trick:
A well-choreographed resolution full of grace
We’re off to Pennsylvania this week.
Today’s story is set in a nondescript suburban motel just outside Philadelphia.
Can you believe it was nearly eight years ago that we featured Bausch’s story, “The Fireman’s Wife,” on the SSMT site? And here we are finally getting around to its linked sister story, “Consolation.”
Different characters, same disaster. Both stories feature women dealing with the aftermath of a fatal warehouse fire in Illinois. In “Consolation,” Milly has come to Pennsylvania with her newborn baby to visit her dead husband’s parents.
The third act of this story is truly masterful. The story assembles seven people (six adults and the baby) and two parallel plotlines and finds heart, humor and grace in one beautiful scene.
Not sure what Bausch was doing to fine-tune his brain so well that month in the late 80s when he wrote these, but “The Fireman’s Wife” and “Consolation” are probably his best work and two of the best stories you’ll ever read.
And that’s quite a trick on Bausch’s part.
The visit hasn’t gone well. Things have been strained and awkward. Milly is exhausted and discouraged, so her sister has worked everything out, making arrangements for the evening, preserving those few hours in the day for the two of them and the baby. In a way, the baby’s the problem: Milly would never have suspected that her husband’s parents would react so peevishly, with such annoyance, to their only grandson – the only grandchild they will ever have.
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