Both stories did not disappoint, especially the first one. With a title like Springtime a la Carte, which is about as unromantic as a lone street post on a dark alley, I did not expect it to be a short romantic story, not when it started with “It was a day in March”. But then again, that should have been my warning already. It almost sounded like the trite “Once upon a time...”, a starting sentence heavily discouraged in my college writing lessons. Amusingly enough, O. Henry discourages the same thing right on the second paragraph of the story. Left eyebrow raised, I wondered if the story is a sugar-coated piece on writing tips.
It turned out to be a story on why Sarah, a struggling New York City girl who makes a living as a freelance typist, is crying on a piece of a menu card she is working on for a restaurant. The conflict sounds simple enough and yet O. Henry manages to stretch the story gracefully to more than six pages, infusing details on what happened to Sarah the previous summer (although O. Henry strongly advises--another writing tip!--to “never hark back thus” when writing your story for it is “bad art” and “cripples interest”). The period is springtime when dandelions are in bloom, but Sarah is sad because she has not heard anything for two weeks from Walter, her farmer boyfriend, after she moved into a new residence. The menu card she cried over and worked on somehow saves her relationship from becoming tragic. The ending is a satisfactorily happy one. A serendipitous end, if I may add.
The second story I’ve read, After Twenty Years, is much shorter at four pages. It tells of the pact of two friends who are due to meet at the same time and place where they have decided to meet again after they made their fortunes after 20 years. Bob went out of New York City to seek that fortune while Jimmy decided to stay in New York City. They found their fortunes alright but through different means--one good, the other bad. The story ended suddenly and quite painfully, which is a famous characteristic of O. Henry in his short stories. I guess the writer is simply telling us that 20 years is such a long time and no matter how good you started, you may still end up badly with the choices you’ve made.
Great simple stories. Have you read them? What other O. Henry’s short stories have you read? How do you feel when reading them? Have you tried reading any of his stories with a glass of champagne? ;-)
Here are my previous posts related to O. Henry:
O. Henry, a great American short story writer
The Cop and the Anthem, and Memoirs of a Yellow Dog--two short stories by O. Henry
- Nancy -
Join us for Short Stories on Wednesdays. The mechanics are very simple. For one, just link your post to this blog. I’m personally happy that many read short stories the past week and wrote about them in their blogs. You can see the interaction in last week’s post, “The Chorus Girl by Anton Chekhov”. I improved the Short Stories on Wednesdays page on Simple Clockwork. You might want to check it out and see if your blog name and link is there, right under participants.