>Issue No. 21 of Lunch Hour Stories is “Three Blocks from the Sun Door” by David McCaul.
The plot is fairly basic: Heather and Kip are tourists (she’s Canadian, he’s American, they met in Florence) in Madrid; they’re both about to head home and seem tired of the backpacking scene (I can relate), and in a discoteca they both have encounters with a loutish Spaniard, Yago. The encounter escalates into a classic climax, with a modest twist at the end. Although the story is simple, it’s told beautifully, with fine descriptions of the scene and and the people.
What is unusual here is the shifting point of view. We start in Yago’s point of view (which is interesting, because he’s a jerk even in his own mind), shift to Kip, then to Heather, back to Kip, then Yago, then Kip and Heather mixed, then Kip, Heather, Yago and finally Heather. I enjoyed these different persepectives on the scene but I think the shifts cause the story to lose focus. Because we end with Heather’s thoughts, the story feels like it really is hers and I wonder if it wouldn’t be stronger if it were told entirely from her point of view. It would be a different story, of course, because we’d lose Yago and Kip’s observations unless they came out in dialogue, but I think I could live with that.
Another noticeable feature here is the amount of Spanish, not all of which belongs, I think. The dialogue in Spanish is fine, of course, but I’m not convinced that either the Candian or the American, who aren’t fluent in Spanish, would have had their thoughts infiltrated by so much Spanish after being in the country a short time. And so it feels like the author intruding, attempting to make the scene more . . . Spanish.
Having said that, the story creates some memorable characters. Heather is complex and self-contradictory, wanting Kip to take action but then judging him for the action that he takes. She’s self-confident and self-doubting at the same time: “Yes, she was a young woman traveling alone, but common sense and intuition had served her just fine, except, of course, in those instances when it hadn’t.” And then we get a list of the tight spots she’s found herself in. Kip, on the other hand, is shy and trying to take uncharacteristic direct action, which is a great way to make a character stand out. He tries and of course things don’t quite go as he plans. That makes the story zing. And Yago, the Spanish jerk, he’s also not quite as macho as he thinks he is, and when the girl Jimena wants him to take action to defend her honor, he can’t be bothered. These are great touches.
In the end, despite my complaint about focus, it’s an enjoyable story. A good read.