Posted by Theresa J. Beckhusen
Written by Zachary Lee
Adam Lefton’s short story “Horrible Things Happen” is a wonderfully dark but difficult read. There is no issue with plot or character, not even an issue with the word choice. What makes this a difficult read is Lefton’s head-on approach to what it means to suffer, and the effects that come from suffering. The first thing that strikes the reader is the size of the story. The story itself barely fills two paragraphs, but sends shivers down the readers’ spine by breaking down walls. Once those walls are down, Lefton turns what we know about suffering upside down with the precision of a surgeon. Lefton’s writing style is quick and to the point, and refuses to let go of readers until the very end.
The main plot of the story is rather straightforward. There’s a fascination with turning suffering into fame and teaching suffering to teenagers. The theme of the story is dissected to the most basic building blocks, and then built into a beautiful nightmare. Throughout the story Lefton talks about issues with funding with collegiate studies, the religious idea that we are born suffering, and what happens to those who see and understand their suffering. I particularly love the way he plays with the idea that the Midwest is a vacuum of suffering, and then juxtaposes that with the irony that most of the graduates move to the heavily influential coastal areas.
One of the major things I enjoyed about reading “Horrible Things Happen” is Lefton’s ability to bypass any defense the reader has and attacks their emotional core directly at the source. As seen with:
“For these students, the horrible things that happened to them were too obvious to miss, too visceral. They’d cried or wanted to cry or taught themselves not to cry at some point in their lives.”
Near the end of the piece, Lefton challenges the idea that through suffering we grow, by writing: “Only the rare and talented pupil arrives on campus cognizant of his or her suffering.” By the end of the story Lefton has the reader on the edge of their seat and throws in the most powerful sentence in the entire story: “The feeling has been described as close to a nightmare.”
Overall, this story left me numb and left me questioning what it means to suffer. This story was a wonderful rollercoaster ride that every reader should struggle with.
Zachary Lee is a Vouched Books Indy intern and senior Creative Writing student at the University of Indianapolis. He hopes to attend an MFA program after graduation. He can be reached on Twitter @_Zach_Lee.