Review: “In the Porches of My Ears” by Norman Prentiss

5 of 5 stars.

It is the rare story that can pull off a paradigm shift in such a way as to reconfigure every subpoint in the prior plot. Life of Pi and M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense worked. Whereas, much of the rest of Shyamalan’s portfolio falls short despite his best efforts. Prentiss’ double-tale, with a title lifted from Hamlet, embeds subtly if not uneasily before achieving a devastating paradigm shift with the second tale calling every detail of the first into question.

In the first story, the narrator and his wife Helen go to the movies. He prefers dramas, but she chose a romantic comedy and their seats in the full theater. Much to his dismay, he realizes that the couple in front of him will disrupt his movie experience as the wife explains the entire movie to her blind husband. The narrator accepts his annoyance and learns to enjoy the woman’s commentary. But then during the expected happy ending with happy music, the wife lies to her blind husband about the onscreen goings on:

“They say they are in love,” she whispers, “but they don’t mean it. He reaches out to hug her–” and on the screen they are hugging, “but she pulls away. It is too little, too late.” . . .

The actress laughed onscreen, a clear display of relief and joy, and the woman said: “She’s bitter. It is a dry, empty laugh. Her face is full of scorn.”

The blind husband openly cries, distraught by the turn of events. After the movie, the narrator finds the blind man while they wait for their wives who are in the restroom. He says to him, “The movie didn’t end the way she described it to you. The couple was happy at the end. Still in love.” In response, the blind man returns only dismissive scorn.

The second tale is not of a movie-going experience but rather one of Helen talking her husband into a month-long cruise and world tour documented by a new digital camera she gave him. Despite his nature, he highly enjoys the spontaneous sojourn only to be brought down to earth upon getting home and finding out that Helen knew she had inoperable bladder cancer . . .

This short story was included in the anthology The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 edited by Paula Guran. It is highly recommended.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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