The Fireman’s Wife by Richard Bausch, 1990
The magic trick:
Using a dramatic plot twist but not allowing it to dramatically affect the ending
I find it difficult to write about this without spoiling the ending, given that what I’m writing about is the ending. So, my apologies if I fail.
The plot twist we get about two-thirds of the way through the story is not particularly surprising, nor is the resulting situation it creates. What is surprising is the extent – or lack thereof – that the twist affects the ending.
I like that. The easy thing to do as a writer would be to carry the drama to its logical conclusion. Something crazy out of the ordinary begets crazy-out-of-the-ordinary results, right? Well, not really. Most times most people stay close to normal in their reactions, no matter how extraordinary the preceding action. This story reflects that well. The conclusion feels very honest. And that’s quite a trick on Bausch’s part.
Later, while he sleeps on the sofa, she wanders outside and walks down to the end of the driveway. The day is sunny and cool, with little cottony clouds – the kind of clear day that comes after a storm. She looks up and down the street. Nothing is moving. A few houses away someone has put up a flag, and it flutters in a stray breeze. This is the way it was, she remembers, when she first lived here – when she first stood on this sidewalk and marveled at how flat the land was, how far it stretched in all directions. Now she turns and makes her way back to the house, and then she finds herself in the garage. It’s almost as if she’s saying good-bye to everything, and as this thought occurs to her, she feels a little stir of sadness.