In his book on writing The Lie That Tells a Truth, John Dufresne argues that, “Every character has a public self and a private self and a self that he doesn’t even know about.” As I moved through the five stories in Kirsten Clodfelter’s fiction chapbook Casualties, the tension between those three selves manifested again and again. Clodfelter’s characters are forced, often through societal expectations, to present one image of themselves, but their internal lives – known and unknown to them – push against that social standard.
“I don’t think it’s safe to stay here, mom.”
“What’s wrong this time, Sean?” she said, playing along.
“Well, the entrance is split level so the windows can be broken into almost at ground-level. That also means that if we stayed on the second floor, we wouldn’t be up nearly high enough off the ground. Look mom, this is Canada. People here can’t even carry guns. How on Earth would we defend ourselves? With the car jack in the trunk?”
“Guns are no good,” piped in my brother, “bullets are limited and all. Maybe the car jack would be the best bet.”
“Unless you both want pay for wherever we sleep tonight, I suggest that staying here is just a risk that we’re going to have to take,” she said with a smile.
My brother and I looked at each other, sighed and slouched out of the car.