Keeping it Short – Black Ice, by Cate Kennedy

“For everything poisonous there’s something else nearby to cure it, if you just look around.” -From Black Ice-

Cate Kennedy’s short story Black Ice was published on line at the New Yorker in September 2006. It is a quick read and written in accessible language. The story’s narrator, a young boy by the name of Billy,  disturbs the reader with his tale of rabbit trapping (he sells them to a neighbor as dog food). Billy’s father has an edge of violence about him and although we do not have details of the boy’s home life, the reader can assume he is raised with a firm and unforgiving hand. The tension in the story arises when a woman buys a vacant and crumbling home near Billy. She scoffs at the “local color” and wrinkles her nose in disgust at the idea of Billy’s rabbit hunting. And although their interactions are brief, the reader is left with a distinct feeling of unease regarding Billy and the woman’s differences in perspective.

Black Ice is a disturbing look at class conflict, as well as an environmental treatise of sorts. It uses nature as a symbolic and stark backdrop to human dissension. Billy is described in terms that equate him to the furry rabbits he quickly dispatches (“I made myself small as a rabbit and moved through them on my soft scrabbly claws.”) which makes his ultimate behavior something the reader sees as destined to happen.

I am glad I will be discussing this with a group of readers at 21st Fiction Yahoo group because I think there are deeper elements to the story I may be missing.

Rated 3.5/5.

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    • Anonymous on January 23, 2008 at 12:06

    I think you’ve put your finger on why I find short stories so difficult when you say that you think there may be elements that you’re missing. I always find them hard work rather than enjoyable. I know I ought to get over this but haven’t found a way as yet.

    • Anonymous on January 24, 2008 at 11:38

    I understand what you are saying – although it is not always the case for me. I think the really good short stories are the ones that concisely and clearly make their point. I don’t really enjoy stories which are so abstract as to leave you wondering whether or not you “got it.”

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