Short story: “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.”

by look i have opinions

“A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud,” also sometimes given as “A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud,” by Carson McCullers

Evidently this appeared in the November 1942 issue of Harper’s Bazaar; found online here

3,205 words

This is marvelous although I have to say it makes me a little uncomfortable. For one thing, I’m guessing nobody worried too much about child predators back in 1942.

For another thing, something about this story trips my “too easy” switch. The old man gets to deliver his speech beautifully, as though he’s speaking on behalf of the author. The story carefully undercuts his dignity by describing him as wild-eyed and weak and perhaps overly cautious, and by giving Leo’s and the boy’s reactions; but since Leo is a spiteful loser and the boy is just an innocent who fears being “laughed down and despised,” the old man comes off as wise and noble by comparison. Which makes the undercutting seem like an obvious ploy to get the reader to just listen to the speech and be moved by it.

The language and point of view and setting are very Hemingway, as is the atmosphere of masculine self-pity.