‘Shot of Short’ #49: One of Us by John Fante

Title: One of Us by John Fante
Date Read: 31 August 2009
Available Online?: YES (as one of the stories posted by Harper Perennial on their website Fifty-Two Stories, which promises a new (or classic) short story from their collection, posted every week throughout 2009).
Briefly: In the Toscana household telegrams are only received when there’s been a death in the family. This story opens with a uniformed boy at the door, who comes with the ominous greeting, “Telegram for Maria Toscana.”
Afterthoughts: Narrated in first-person from the perspective of a child, One of Us is an intense and memorable story. It amazes me how Fante can write so conservatively, with such a straightforward plot, yet still come up with such a profound piece of writing. What I love most about the story is how Fante so superbly explores the non-affecting impression that death has on a young mind. He expertly juxtaposes the tragic event that’s revealed in the story, with the s running around excitedly, as though it were just another day. It’s not often I award the full 5 out of 5 for a story, but this one is more than deserving of it.
Notable Quote: “My father walked with an important air to the door, and, like a man who had spent his whole life signing for telegrams, he signed for this one. We watched him tear open the yellow envelope so that the paper would separate enough for his heavy fingers to reach the message inside. He frowned at us and walked to the center of the living room, under the chandelier. He held the message high, almost over his head. Even jumping, we kids could not put our eyes upon it, and my little brother Tony, who was a shrimp and too little to read anyhow, climbed up the side of my father as if the man were a tree, and my father shook himself and Tony fell to the floor.”

Rating: ★★★★★

*Story read as part of my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).