The Short Story Initiative for October
"Toward Evening, somewhere in the middle of the Delta, he slowed down to pick up two hitch-hikers".
One of my several reading projects is The Collected Short Stories of Eudora Welty. I intend to read all of them, maybe it will take a month or maybe years, and post on some of them. For me personally it is too time consuming to post on all of the stories. I was originally not planning to post on "The Hitch-Hikers" until I realized it was a perfect Southern Gothic style crime story which would allow me to participate in Nancy's event. (You can find some background information on Welty in my prior posts on her work)
One of the words of received wisdom in the American South is "never pick up hitch-hikers". ( "Hitch-Hiker" is American slang for a person who solicits a ride from a stranger by standing on the side of the road with their thumb stuck out.). Hitch-Hikers were considered to likely be escaped convicts and such and female hitch-hikers were looked upon as likely prostitutes. These parental warnings did not always sink in as we learn in this great story.
Tom Harris, a thirty year old travelling salesman (travelling salesmen are big in the short stories of the American South) picks up two men by the side of the road, one with a guitar case. The car is crowded in the back with his supplies so they all have to sit in the front seat. The one with the guitar starts to sing. They begin to talk. Mississippi in the late 1930s was in the midst of a horrible economic time so tramps were common. They stop to get some food, the tramps are his company, and he buys them some lunch and beer when they stop at a roadside place, also a brothel. The guitar player begins to sing. There is a huge amount in this story. I think I can tell the conclusion without spoiling the story but if you do not want to know the end stop here.
The tramp that does not have the guitar murders the one that does by bashing his head in with the guitar case. He reveals they had intended to steal the car also. The killing was motivated by feeling that one tramp thought because he had a guitar he was better than the other. The biggest quandary at the end of the story is who will get the guitar now that the owner is dead and the other man is headed for prison or a death sentence.
Please share with us your favorite Welty story and consider joining in for The Short Story Initiative for October, focusing on Crime stories.
The Reading Life