Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Richard Bausch’s style is deliberately low-key and direct, using a vocabulary that is simple and even banal, to reflect the somewhat limited capacity for self-reflection and expression that characterizes both McRae and Belle Starr. Their conversations are filled with stereotyped phrases such as, “What I’m after is adventure” and “You want to hide out,” but the strain of McRae’s desperation is enhanced by the simplicity of phrasing. McRae uses every cliché he can think of because it dawns on him that she believes in clichés and possibly is one. He suggests that they hide out from the cops. Then he finds himself telling her his true story: “He was telling her everything, all the bad times he’d had: his father’s alcoholism, and growing up wanting to hit someone for the anger that was in him; the years of getting into trouble; the fighting and the kicking and what it had got him.” Belle Starr counters with her own painful story, which seems true and moving to him; they are each moved by the other’s stories, but words are not enough to save McRae. Belle Starr follows him into the desert night shooting calmly, determined to get her man, to complete the cliché.