I love this weird story.  I love it all the more because I’ve followed the cycle of stories to this point so that I have a whole Mississippi town in my head as background to Eugene MacLain in San Francisco.

 

Eugene hits his wife.  That part I don’t love.  I’m not a fan of violence.  Yet this is the kind of violence that makes you stop and stare.  It seems at first to have happened for no reason at all.  She does something perfectly innocent and unobtrusive, and he hits her.  Then he just gets up and leaves.

 

The rest of the day is spent in a dream-like fog as he follows a Spanish musician around San Francisco.  There’s no conversation between the two men, as presumably they don’t speak the same language, but they do hang out together all day. 

 

Meanwhile the real story unfolds in the thought processes of Eugene as he dwells on this fact that he has hit his wife.  He doesn’t know why he’s done it, but somehow it is easier to feel sympathy for him than for his twin brother because he is aware that he’s done wrong.  He doesn’t exactly express remorse, but he does express surprise and awareness at what he’s done.

 

He also has issues.  Not that issues excuse him, but he and his wife have lost a child.  He has clearly not dealt with this loss.  He does not know why he hits his wife, and at the same time he does not know why his child has died.  Both questions repeatedly run through his mind.  These are mysteries to him, both intertwined with the mystery of the music and musician. 

 

Somehow that all adds up to an emotionally intense story despite the fact that it is about a man who has no real clue what he’s feeling or why.

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