The problem with piles of unread journals and books—okay, one of the problems—is that a little magazine like One Story tends to disappear. On the other hand, it’s a nice surprise when, upon moving a pile from one spot to another, watching it topple, a forgotten issue resurfaces. That’s what happened this weekend and so I finally got around to reading “The Samoan Assassin Calls It Quits” by Thomas Hopkins which came out a couple of months ago.
The story was fun, not quite serious (unless you’re prepared to believe that there are regular political assassinations in the U.S., that the guns-for-hire have agents, that one could check a duffel bag full of automatic weapons at the Boston Alumnae Club), but well done. It is the story of Daniel (Roger, the Samoan assassin, who is really from Tonga) and Sadie, whom he meets at a reception where he is supposed to assassinate the governor of a neighboring state on behalf of his clients, who might be secessionists. Sadie is a big girl with an overbearing mother and a graduate degree in film studies, which is a nice device that allows the author to let her constantly refer to films of various genres. The main joke of the story is that in order to flee the reception, Sadie suggests that Daniel (whom she knows at that point only as Roger) pretend to kidnap her, whereupon he is able to produce handcuffs from his duffle bag and off they go, and Sadie then discusses how Stockholm Syndrome is a “ridiculously common trope in kidnapping movies.”
As much as I enjoyed the story, I wondered as I read it why the author had jumbled the chronology as much as he did. I suppose one reason for the choice was to avoid the appearance of reader manipulation—a great deal is revealed in the first short section, a section that chronologically is really the end of the story. We then jump backwards, but not all the way backwards and don’t come to the point where they meet until page 11, by which point the reader might not really care anymore how they met, but is more interested in Sadie being handcuffed to the bed in the motel room with Daniel’s duffel of weapons stashed under the mattress. It might be fun to number the sections chronologically—there are 20—and read them in order. I’m sure the author had a reason for making the choice he did; I’m just sure what it was. Still, overall, it’s a good read.
Next up: Southwest Review