Thursday, July 16, 2020

Last Night at the Fair, by M. Rickert

[F&SF]
★★★★☆ Deeply moving, reminiscent of Ray Bradbury.

(Uncanny Fantasy) An old woman remembers the last night of her childhood, when she and her future husband snuck out of the house to visit the fair on the last night. (2,467 words; Time: 08m)

Recommended By: 👍RHorton.r+1 👍STomaino+1 (Q&A)


"Last Night at the Fair," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 07-08|20, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.377 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Anne and Stanko have a magical evening at the fair. In the process, we see all sorts of evidence of the life-long devotion he’s going to have for her, culminating with him risking his own life (if we believe the lion was real) to escort her safely to her house before turning back to his own. Although she never says so directly, it’s clear that she misses him terribly. (Students of show-don’t-tell take note.)

It's worth taking a moment to think about why it was the last night of her childhood. Obviously it was right before she learned her mother was going to die, and that’s probably the main reason. But it’s also the first time she felt attracted to the boy who would one day be her husband. And the lion, I think, symbolizes death and pain. When she gets home safely, she thinks she’s evaded the lion, but it’s really inside waiting for her.

The story also takes place in the present, in which case it speaks of a very different kind of fair because tonight is her last night on Earth. This lion is coming for her, and she fears it deeply; it and the pain it brings. But when it arrives, it’s only Stanko. He takes her hand, and after that, there’s nothing but joy.

I’m not sure if this is really a plus, but not only did reading the story make me cry; writing the review made me cry all over again.

It reminds me of a story by (I think) Ray Bradbury, were an old man riding a bus to a fair thinks about his wife and the dog they had. By the time he gets to the fair, he doesn’t realize he’s in the afterlife until he meets his wife again. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s a tear-jerker too.

Con: As far as I can tell, other than the visions of death, the only speculative element in the story is that Ann Marie and Stanko didn’t have to pay to visit the fair.

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