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5.04.2009

Two Great Tales: "The Small Assassin" and "Catfish Gal Blues"

Bradbury on "The Small Assassin"


"...I remember the day and the hour I was born. I remember being circumcised on the second day after my birth...I remember the doctor. I remember the scalpel.
I wrote the story "The Small Assassin" twenty-six years later."

-Ray Bradbury, "Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle" (1980).

Bradbury's "The Small Assassin" is one of the great achievements in short horror fiction. One of these days, I'll post my dream anthology in this space. This little creeper would be a huge candidate for that leadoff spot, by the way. Very few stories are able to get beneath a reader's skin as quickly and thoroughly as Bradbury's tale of a methodical, scheming infant, seemingly enraged at its sudden entry into a cruel and cold world.

The tale works on a number of levels. The gender commentary on the nature of parental perception is keen; there is a heart-breaking scene when our male protagonist comes home to an utterly quiet home--his lovely wife broken at the bottom of the stairs. In that passage, the phrasing is crushing. Bradbury's always been able to do that with that lyrical style of his; he can melt your heart before tearing it from your chest.

I also love the slow awakening of the rational skeptic (both the father and the doctor) as they open themselves up to the possibility of a miracle child who plots murder in the dark shadows of the crib.

I'd also recommend Nancy A Collins's interesting little folk narrative, "Catfish Gal Blues." A tale short and sweet (found in 999--the book on the right of the screen there), Collins nails the cultural texture of the poverty-stricken Southern Low Country, and those catfish gals--well, they're something else. Makes me think twice about dangling my dogs over the muddy Florida waters, let me tell you...

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