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old dude







Within three pages, Mary Robison develops the life of a married couple, Allison and Clark .  Although she limits the narrative to one day, she manages to reveal a remarkable amount of insight into their lives. It wasn’t until I finished the story in which I recognized the importance of Robison’s first sentence.

Allison STRUGGLED away from her white Renault, limping with the weight of the last of the pumpkins.”

She introduces the season and a character who is struggling, limping with weight. Her exhaustion is amplified and depressing, though Robison reveals this in a subtle manner that can easily be overlooked.

Clark was much older–seventy-eight to Allison’s thirty-five. They were married. They were both quite tall and looked something alike in their facial features. Allison wore a natural- hair wig. It was a thick blond hood around her face.”

The indication that Allison wears a wig is effortlessly dismissed considering the focus being held on the large age difference between the couple.  Instead of questioning the reason she needs a wig, they are being stereotyped because of the gap in age.

Allison went quickly through the day’s mail..and the worst thing, the funniest, an already opened, extremely unkind letter from Clark’s relations up North. “You’re an old fool,” Allison read, and, “You’re being cruelly deceived.” There was a gift check for Clark enclosed, but it was uncashable. signed, as it was, “Jesus H. Christ.”

Skillfully, Robison seems to be unfolding the complications of the story in which Clark’s family does not approve of his marriage, but this isn’t the true issue.


   Your jack-o’-lanterns are much, much better than mine,” Clark said to her.

“Like hell,” Allison said.

“Look at me,” Clark said, and Allison did.

She was holding a squishy bundle of newspapers. The papers reeked sweetly with the smell of pumpkin guts.

“Yours are far better,” he said.

“You’re wrong. You’ll see when they’re lit,” Allison said.”

Through this typical tradition of pumpkin carving, Robison exposes the authentically gentle and loving relationship they share. Robison’s artful diction makes the simple task feel romantic and important.

He wanted to get drunk with his wife once more. He wanted to tell her, from the greater perspective he had, that to own only a little talent, like his, was an awful, plaguing thing; that being only a little special meant you expected too much, most of the time, and like yourself too little. He wanted to assure her that she had missed nothing.”

Robison avoids explicitly discussing Allison’s death, but reveals the painful anticipation of it.  In the last scene, Clark considers his regrets, his suffering and self doubt.  Robison elegantly manages to create a deeply sad and complicated world of this marriage, while enticing sympathy from the reader.  The plot surprises and devastates, but does so subtly in the mundane task of one’s day.

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