The Night Rhonda Ferguson Was Killed by Edward P. Jones, 1992
The magic trick:
Suggesting tragedy in the title, and then showing the depth of that tragedy in the story
We’re off to Washington, DC, this week, starting with Edward P. Jones.
And well, the title is a giveaway, right? Comedy, this is not.
So you start the story figuring it is going to be sad. When you meet Rhonda early in the story, your suspicions are confirmed: this story is sad.
You don’t fully realize just how sad it is, though, until you’ve lived with these characters for a dozen pages or so. Rhonda Ferguson isn’t simply a character. Her talent and personality and potential served as a beacon of hope for our protagonist. Rhonda was the way out.
So, in fact, the title isn’t really a giveaway. It only hints at the depths of tragedy here.
And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.
“I paid my money and didn’t even get a good seat,” Melanie said. She had turned the radio volume down, but she continued trying to get a clear station. “Yall better get all the lookin you can at Rhonda now, cause when she gets famous, you won’t be able to get within a hundred feet of her. She won’t even remember your name.”
“You don’t know what you talkin about, girl,” Cassandra said. “Rhonda’s gonna stay the same. I know her. You don’t even know her all that well.”
“They all change, and Rhonda’s gonna change the most. Move out to Georgetown or Chevy Chase, if she still livin round here, and be with all them white people.”
“Oh, fuck you, Melanie!” Cassandra said.
“Fuck you back, Cassandra. I gotta right to say what I think.”
“Not in my car, and now when you don’t know what you talkin about. And if you don’t like it, you can get out and walk your sorry ass back.”
Melanie became quiet.
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