Some people seem to be strange atttractors. In Pride, by Mary Turzillo, Kevin is enlisted by Animals Our Brethren in an attack on a Frankenlab where they’re cloning dead animals. Never mind the image that rouses of a Contented Cow arising from a revenant hamburger, the ugly duckling cub he rescues somehow manages to survive his ministrations–and it turns out to be a saber-tooth cat.
Kevin doesn’t handle things very well. He names it Jonesy, only to find it’s female. He can barely scrape together the money to buy enough dog food, driving him to go dumpster diving. At one point, he leaves the cat in a crate on the front porch of the object of his affections, Sara.
Not a smart move. But once Kevin shows a bit of bravery with Jonesy, his relationship with Sara goes much better, almost too much better. It turns out there’s a price for that. You have to admire a story that avoids the easy happy ending. In fact, there’s a lot that just feels right. Taking in the cat and not being able to handle her leads to disaster. But he did it out of kindness, so he receives some small consolation.
The most interesting aspect is the way the story anticipates your reactions. A few pages after I was thinking, “This is the exotic pet story,” Kevin thinks about how she’s not just an exotic pet. Just when I was thinking, “He needs to find someone who can help him,” Dr. Hartley, the researcher from the lab, calls up. A few pages after I thought, “This is going to end badly,” it sure did.
This is a really cool trick to pull off. It gives the reader the feeling of conversing with the story, and it makes you feel smart. On the other hand, the story needs to fulfill the reader’s anticipations in surprising ways. How do you thread this needle? I suppose here is where your first readers’ questions and comments would be vital, if you want to make sure your story answers and addresses them appropriately. I think I will ask her about it.
A satisfying little story.
Tomorrow: More silliness.