[Note: this is the 4th installment in my Year of the LitMag series. If you would like to contribute to the series, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.]
One Story #156 “The Quiet” by C. Joseph Jordan
By now, everyone knows about One Story, right? It’s a little magazine that comes out every few weeks and contains just one story. It’s a cool concept and it’s also available on Kindle. (As soon as my print subscription expires, I’ll switch to the Kindle version, I think.) Lunch Hour Stories tried the same thing a few years ago, but it didn’t last as long, and is now gone.
This story by C. Joseph Jordan is a nice read about a Vietnam vet who comes home to Oregon after two tours. It’s been a tumultuous few years for him—his father died while he was in Vietnam; he fell in love while on R&R in Sydney, Australia; he killed a Vietnamese kid with a knife. And now he’s finally home. But as we know from every war story we’ve ever heard or read, it’s not that easy, and Sergeant Adlai Malick has some demons and secrets he has to deal with. So, upon arrival at his mother’s house, where there is a big, noisy welcome home party waiting for him, he goes into the basement in search of quiet. (Be sure to check out the editor’s interview with the author.)
Although the story is thoroughly readable, and my sympathies are with Sergeant Malick throughout, even when I fear he’s going to explode, even when he behaves badly, it had a feeling of familiarity to it. Because haven’t we read this story before? Beginning with “A Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway and followed by countless others, we’ve seen the difficulty a soldier has in coming home from war. Malick is damaged by the war and he is going to have to find a way to cope, or not, but I don’t feel that the story takes us anywhere new. Am I asking too much? Isn’t it enough that I haven’t seen this particular veteran and his particular circumstances before? Maybe. Maybe we’re ready for a new take on this subject. I just wish it had been a little more surprising.