Review: “Signs Unseen” by J. P. Moynahan

3 of 5 stars.

Included in Chronology published by Curiosity Quills Press, this short story shines a light on a shameful era in American history following World War II. A northerner from Maine, Captain Bradley Jesome, decides to retire south after the passing of his wife since his son’s family has settled in Tampa, Florida. The captain, a fishing man since his Navy days in the war, decides to purchase a small tackle shop, service station, and dock in the Florida panhandle with his savings. While he clearly is not ready for full retirement, he also is fully unprepared for the culture clash that he finds himself at odds with.

The Captain knows men are biased and bigoted. He acknowledges his own continued distrust of anything and anyone German, French, or communist. It doesn’t help that his tenant at the service station is of French descent. He is also aware of anti-Semitism, but he apparently had a good Jewish friend in Maine so he easily stands above these notions. What Captain Jesome is unprepared for is the segregationist South and Jim Crow laws. For weeks, he is somehow unaware of the “Whites Only” and “Blacks Serviced in the Rear” signs all over his new properties. When he is made aware of them, he takes them down and burns them as he considers them a Communist infringement on his Capitalist right to conduct commerce with whomever he chooses. He quickly finds himself at odds with the Ku Klux Klan and the local law. Feeling trapped, he leans into his military experience and prepares to bunker down.

The tale is a mix of nice moments and overly convenient moments, but stays brief since there is really nowhere for the story to go. The subject matter is interesting, however, and deserves a deeper exploration with a bit more realism to compel a bit more story.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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