Ever read a story and think, Hmm… I’m not… sure… I follow…
If you haven’t ever thought that, either you don’t read many stories or your comprehension level far surpasses mine.
Either way, “Light Show” is a fascinating, albeit opaque, short story. It follows the Grace Paley adage, “I don’t have a story until I have two stories.” After all, what is a narrative without a conflict, and what is a conflict without two (or more) contrasting elements crashing or bumping or at least grazing one another? Stories thrive on friction.
There are two (sort of three) different narrative threads woven together here: first, we have a biography of renowned inventor Nikola Tesla, which is braided with the second-person account of a protagonist (“you”) going to county jail. Additionally, we have a childhood memory of the you-character visiting Las Vegas and the Southwest with her step-father (the mother is mentally ill, absent).
How do accounts of a women’s prison and a memory of a Las Vegas vacation relate to a Tesla narrative? Hell if I know. The story is punctuated by narrative/conceptual disconnects that make it a challenging piece to interpret, but a rewarding story nonetheless (powerful images, clean, polished language). Although difficult-to-interpret stories like this one can be frustrating, they can also be rewarding. What I appreciate is that the story and its author show respect for the reader, not spoon-feeding us an easily digestible “message” but basically throwing some fragments at us and letting us have fun with the meaning, if there is one (of course there is… there must be…).
Side note: to my knowledge, we never find out why the you-protagonist goes to jail. Maybe why is beside the point.