Short Bites: The Breakfast

A short story in Amparo Davila’s The Houseguest, “The Breakfast” is about a family having, as the title suggests, breakfast. It is a family of four: father, mother, brother, and sister. Only the sister, Carmen, is referred to by name, so you get the feeling that she’s going to be an important character. And right you are: Carmen arrives at the breakfast table dazed from an awful dream, which she recounts to the family.

Much of the story is dialogue between the family members. From their conversions, we find out that the family is middle to upper class—the father and the mother are attending a fancy dinner that weekend, and the brother studies at a (most likely) university. We also find out that there is a lot of political unrest and that the brother has been actively participating in student protests against the government.

In times of political unrest, reactions are often mixed: the father and the mother prefer to keep their heads down while the brother chooses to attend protests. However, in this type of setting, things are not black and white. While the brother believes in taking a stand against the government, the father and the mother know the dangers of doing so. Unsurprisingly, parents would sleep better at night knowing that their family is relatively safe. You can’t blame them for that.

I really enjoyed reading “The Breakfast.” Having breakfast with family is such a common thing to do that you feel almost at home as you read the story. You are in a safe space.

Short Bites: Three Wishes

I read a few stories Faerie Knitting: 14 Tales of Love and Magic, which is a compilation of fairy tales and knitting patterns, a collaboration by from cousins Alice Hoffman and Lisa Hoffman. The stories were heartwarming, which is fitting because when you think about knits, you think about warmth.

The tale I liked the most was “Three Wishes,” a story about a woman grieving her mother’s death. Her husband seeks out a wise old woman in the hope of curing the woman’s grief. That’s nice of him. So the story has a wise old lady, three wishes, and magic crystals, yet it’s not as over-the-top as one would think, maybe except for the tiny detail that it’s wintertime and the woman would definitely have died in the cold even if she was wearing her mother’s mittens.

Her mother’s mittens: they were a great source of warmth (and love and support). But the story is about moving on—she’s had her time to grieve, and now it’s time to appreciate her present and to hope for her future. Yes, she will move on, but she will live life stronger in memory of her mom and with the support of her husband.

Very heartwarming.

Short Bites: What It Means When a Crowd in a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him from His Vehicle and then Mutilates Him in the Dust

A short but intense read, “What It Means When a Crowd in a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him from His Vehicle and then Mutilates Him in the Dust” from Dave Eggers’ How We Are Hungry is about one man’s reaction upon learning about the very incident that is the title of the story.

Now, there is no indication this man actually knows the soldier, but the man is deeply affected by the occurrence—it feels personal. All we know is that when we have a fellow countryman perish at the hands of another nation on that nation’s soil, it is the greatest injustice of all time.

You know what, I’m am outraged as well. How dare anyone to anything to anyone anywhere?

To me, this story is an intricate piece because, despite its length, it is thought-provoking. I acknowledge the fear that warfare instills—it’s one that you can’t really shake off—but I also ask: why think less of violence in one’s own homeland? Doesn’t it bring up feelings of uneasiness when you realize I was just there—that could have been me? Here we have Dave Eggers, who is making us think about the reality we live in. Do we speak up, or do we simply move on?

Short Bites: The Epizootic

After reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Epizootic,” the second story in his posthumously published collection, While Mortals Sleep, I wanted to bring to light the hushed up epidemic that ravaged America a few decades ago: the epizootic. Of course, actions have since been taken to rid America of this disease, so let me tell you about it because I thought it was an interesting read.

Please be aware of the epizootic, a disease that drove down the age of mortality among American men from 68 to 47 years old. Family men, men with wives and children to support, were most prone to contracting this disease especially in times of financial crises.

The epizootic was a terminal illness, and it spread through thoughts and words. Unless one covered his eyes and ears and lived far removed from society, there seemed to be no escape. Research has shown that the epizootic cases were correlated to increased instances of crashing planes and falling from heights.

“Modern communications are wonderful, aren’t they?” he said. “Almost as wonderful as life insurance.”

Kurt Vonnegut, “The Epizootic” in While Mortals Sleep

Thankfully, fine print has aided in eradicating the epizootic epidemic. For good measure, I suggest reading “The Epizootic” for a first-hand account of the covered up epidemic. The hope is that all breadwinners, no longer limited to family men, do not ever have to succumb to this disease.

Short Bites: The Veldt

If I were to describe “The Veldt,” a short story in Ray Bradbury’s The Invisible Man, it would be “creepy.”

In this world, you can buy a house that’s practically alive. The house is at your service, and you never have to lift a finger. Gone are the days when you have to clean and maintain your house—it is programmed to be self-sufficient. It can even cook your meals that you might wonder: does the house have a mind of its own?

And then you have children spoiled like no other. These children are so used to getting everything that they want that you’re not sure how they would deal with adversity. Perhaps their behavior would be destructive? Well, whenever I read about mysterious children, I am reminded of horror movies, of children with eerily high-pitched voices and imperious auras. (Actually, I remembered Such Small Hands, which left me unsettled.)

At the end of the day, it all boils down to one question: are you really in control? If not, well, watch out.