‘Peyo Mercé: English Teacher’ by Abelardo Díaz Alfaro

Peyo Mercé: English Teacher by Abelardo Díaz Alfaro, 1947

The magic trick:

Focusing on an outstanding central conflict

Sometimes a story’s success hinges very simply on the quality of central conflict.

As an example, “Peyo Mercé” delivers an excellent conflict and doesn’t stray far from illustrating it. The titular teacher in Puerto Rico has been charged by his principal to teach his students English. He’s appalled by the suggestion and reacts accordingly.

And that’s quite a trick on Díaz Alfaro’s part.

The selection:

The indignation that the supervisor’s letter had stirred up in him diminished as all his children began to fill the room. He loved them because they were his own kind and because for each of them he envisioned a destiny as dark as the night becomes just before a storm. Good morning, Don Peyo, they said, and with a light movement of the head approached the benched nailed to the tabletops. Peyo did not like to be addressed as mister. “I’m a hick from La Cuchilla and I feel honored to be so. That mister thing tastes to me just like Kresto and ‘chewing-gaw’ and the other stuff they sell us now. I bear within me the stain of the plantain and can turn whichever way, just like the bushleaf.”

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