Friday, June 15, 2007

Things With the Same Name, by Nini Kiriki Hoffman

Things With the Same Name
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Lone Star Stories: Issue 21

My name was Charlie, which might have been my biggest problem. I died in one of those storms people called the Storm of the Century.
So begins Nina Kiriki Hoffman's story Things With the Same Name. Two sentences and we know that Charlie's name is a problem and that Charlie is dead. We also know that Charlie, being dead, is still narrating. From the first two sentences we know that something out of the ordinary is happening in Hoffman's story, but Hoffman follows up these two sentences with the ordinary. Charlie had a big fight with his mother, so he walked out into a Colorado snowstorm without a hat, coat, or gloves. A woman picks him up on the side of the road, but then leaves him isolated on the side of the road miles away because he told her his name.

This is when Charlie dies. This is when the story truly begins. This is where Charlie has a story to tell.

Finally I lay down on the snow beside the road. By that point I couldn't feel much of anything. It was like going to sleep, only colder.

When I woke up, the snow had made a blanket over me, covering my face, even. I sat up. Suddenly I was looking at that snowy sky above, but there was no feel or sound of snow moving off me. I looked down and saw that everything of me from the waist down was still under the snow.
Charlie described what it is like to discover being dead and it is the dead Charlie which is far more interesting than the living Charlie. Nina Kiriki Hoffman, after introducing the reader to a dead protagonist, has written a quiet story where the reader has to listen a little bit closer to the story. Nothing loud or flashy occurs, but the story is insistent that we keep reading. That we want to keep reading is to the credit of Hoffman.

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