Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tallent’s gift is to illuminate character by accumulating unexpected, even lyric detail. One can see Rafer’s Rain Cats working in the fields not as tools but as quiet revelations of beauty: The sprinklers throw off “a thin, prismatic spume, or entire moving rainbows no bigger than birds’ wings.” Sissy, riding her bike along the lonely farm roads, finds a hail of grasshoppers pattering against her legs: “When the wings flick open, oval dapples form glaring eyes precise down to the honey iris and darker pupil.” Alone in the grasslands she sees a windmill, and its motion without apparent wind serves as a model of her status, alone, seemingly static, but moving within the world of her fantasy, her imagined life in far-off Los Angeles. “Though there seems to be no wind, the windmill blades keep turning, and blades of shadow switch with light on Sissy’s face.”

The flutter of light and then dark on Sissy underscores the dark and light side of her life—the few pleasant times with her father, perhaps shooting at glass bottles, and then the overwhelming emptiness of her life, the shadow cast by her missing mother. Her father once said, “We’re in this together,” referring to the unspoken flight of Sissy’s mother away from her father, and the phrase offers her a temporary refuge but also a feeling of oppression, a sense of marking time. Sissy wants to break out of this sense of being placed in an empty space, and her thoughts of flight,...

(The entire section is 412 words.)