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Phill's Blog

What’s What in Regulars

People have been taking me to task about my short stories. I say on the 10 Minute Tales page that the free story will change from time to time. However, readers point out that Regulars has been up there for several months. OK, fair cop. I’ve been on the verge of replacing it a few times, but each time I’ve had a question or comment on it and so decided to leave it there for a bit longer.

These are some of the questions from readers, and my replies.

Q. Who exactly is the narrator of Regulars?

A. None of the characters in Regulars is named, so there are no clues there. Nevertheless, there are some facts that can be deduced. The narrator is youngish, certainly younger than the other characters. He or she is in the town (also unnamed) on a sort of pilgrimage. There is reference to a partner, Chris, whose home town it was and who always promised to take the narrator there. The narrator refers to the visit as ‘a last rite’, so is Chris dead?

Q. Is the narrator male or female?

A. This, too, is ambiguous. The partner who’s mentioned is called Chris, so could be either male or female. However, even if that was established it wouldn’t help nail the gender of the narrator. They are very interested in the wedding and they are dieting, which might suggest a female. However, the old woman takes a fancy to them, which might indicate that it’s a young man. Other male indicators are the interest in the car and an occasional brusqueness in the tone. It’s for the reader to decide.

Q. The old man joins in the conversation, so how can the cafe owner not be aware of him?

A. It’s true that the old man says quite a lot, but the only character to respond to him is the narrator. If you read the dialogues it’s clear that the cafe owner and the old woman, his wife, don’t react to him, and the reason for that is they don’t hear him.

Q. What’s the story about?

A. The main theme is coming together and parting. The three (or four) people in the cafe meet for the brief period of the story but disperse at the end. The narrator and Chris have been a couple but now no longer are. The old woman and her husband were married, but he has died. The characters watch a wedding, two people making a formal commitment to being together. Finally, the old man makes a poignant comment about parting and loss: ‘There’s only one thing you can be sure of … It’s that one day one of you will reach out for the other, and they won’t be there. That’s all. Till then you make the best of it you can.’

Thanks to those who sent me these (and other) questions. I’ll leave Regulars online until January 13th, then I’ll post a replacement.

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