Day Twenty-Nine: "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank"

The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

But why should this man who has recently risen from the dead resolve himself into something we can comprehend? It is the 1920s in rural America and a man has died: this we can understand. But at the funeral, when the lanky arms begin to raise, followed almost awkwardly by a body fumbling its way out of the casket, we should certainly know better than to expect that this revivified man can now be anything like simple. In the story we are given clues: an altered personality, an odd work ethic, the air of the supernatural hanging, unsurprisingly, around this miracle man, and we can reasonably draw the conclusion that what we see is not what existed before, or what we could have ever expected to exist. And so we are left to seek out a motive, or a set of goals: what does this new man want? And when we return somewhat empty from this quest, what right do we have to be surprised when the story ends ragged and uninterpreted? Here the Other presents itself as it always does to our senses: the roses wilt, the match lights itself, and the door of the fence is swung shut through an agency we cannot even begin to know.

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