Last week’s column discussed the nature of perception, and the way in which Dan Reiter’s “Shifts” revealed how one mind might battle over the interpretation of the same event. In this week’s story, “Crash Sheep Plant” (Alice Blue Review 26), Emily Abrons juxtaposes a car crash with grazing sheep and plant life, and in doing so explores how context shapes the nature of a tragedy.
The title itself serves as a microcosm of how the rest of the story will work: through juxtaposition. Crash and sheep and plant are all common words that bring hundreds—maybe thousands—of possible associations into a reader’s mind. But a reader has probably never seen those words set next to each other before. The image they create is strange, perhaps a disparate collage, evoking confusion, maybe even anxiety. It’s the first sign that this story is going to defy some conventions in order to exploit others.
The title also reveals the organizational structure of the story. In the first section, dealing with the crash, Abrons gives us a detailed, matter-of-fact description of its aftermath.
“A small tour bus has collided head-on with a compact automobile…Seven of the original twelve passengers in the bus were dead within thirty eight seconds of the impact…the cause of the crash is unknown.”
While the victims remain anonymous—their names, their plights—Abrons provides lush descriptions of the wreckage itself, giving it life.