(The Matchbooks Are Symbolic)


MATCHBOOKS | Kathleen Brenock

New World Writing

⇒This story has a lot of symbolism, but it’s natural symbolism, casually placed– not the sort of significance that hits you over the head like a frying pan. This is a story about a woman who’s having an affair with a guy named Vince, who drives a truck, who meets her at various out-of-the-way motels. The protagonist is having an affair and her husband David may or may not know about it. They’re estranged, following the tragic death of their young son. She makes it more than a little obvious that she is having an affair, placing souvenirs from her trysts (motel matchbooks) in a glass dish on the dining room table. The affair in question doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue until the end of the story.

This is a story about probability. The narrator works in the actuary field, calculating risk, defining her life according to the near-certainty that comes from the math of mortality. This tone of certainty, of calm probability, runs through most of this story.

Naturally, since this is a work of fiction and it’s basically how things work in fiction, her comforting (?) world of probabilities is challenged more than once by the random, the aberrant. Both men in her life do unexpected things. Again, this is something that happens naturally, without all those narrative signposts indicating “something significant and unexpected is about to happen!”

I guess that’s what I particularly like about this flash piece: its natural progression, its smooth narrative trajectory. With some stories, one can imagine that the writer is charting her/his plot structure on graph paper, calculating, deliberating, forcing the conflict of the story to reach a planned-for crescendo. Here, that is not the case: the story effortlessly guides itself along.

Read the story at New World Writing.

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