‘Family’ by Jensen Beach

Incident and witness, probability, truth, the past, anecdote. In this story, a family bicker about the possibility of lightning striking twice, then sit down to lunch. During that lunch, storm clouds gather and there is a flash of lightning, after which:

“Someone said to look out the window and someone else did, where they saw that someone was now lying on the grass near the house in a wet heap of someone. Someone said, did it happen? Someone said that it had and someone else said that it hadn’t…”

You will notice the immediate conceit of this piece, which is that the family members, an incalculable number, are all referred to as ‘someone’. This happens throughout, and, along with the story’s uncertainty over the truth of the incident, causes a thorough destabilisation of the ideas of characterisation and action. We don’t even know if lightning has struck ‘someone’ in the past, or whether the action has happened now (for either the first time, or at all). The story interrogates the idea of the family story – usually dateless, like this. We all have a ‘someone’ in our families, if we have families, who experienced something unusual and unlikely – or, according to other members of the family, someone is just making things up, or these events happened in a completely different way. It’s clever and startling to see that sense of communal narrative stripped down and made anonymous and strange.

(Read online at necessary fiction.com)

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