Short Story Highlight of the Week 6/8/20

Every week I attempt to highlight a wonderful short story I read somewhere off-site. As a recent subscriber of the unique Barrelhouse, this week I can’t help but recommend “Sousathon,” by Tom Weller.

“Sousathon” is a story told through the lens of an event. Like the main character of the story, the tale itself grows in scope and eventually seems to swallow the emotions, thoughts, dreams, and even the fears of everyone involved.

The event: a public high school 24 hour “Sousathon,” a corny, ill-considered, but ultimately well-intentioned event to raise money by having a marching band (including its twirlers) to do their thing for an entire day.

I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic as I read “Sousathon,” harkening back to my own high school, with its 24 hour relay and 24-hour battle of the bands events. Mine was a large, uninviting school with thousands of students scurrying like ants as their dreams were made or unmade based upon whether they had yet learned to stroke the ego of the teachers and administrators. And although I was never in the marching band, I was an unpracticed cello player in the orchestra, often finding myself hidden behind curtains and advised to “air-bow” at the big performances.

In the world of “Sousathon,” the “cool kids,” are the “Leys,” five girls who perform the twirling for the event. One of them, Caley, has a fear of dropping a baton and her darkest secret is that she doesn’t want to twirl anymore. As Weller writes, “The problem with perfection is there’s no wiggle room.”

Although the faculty advisors have made sure the band itself will only have to perform in three song sets, their faith in the twirlers is such that they are expected to twirl for the full twenty-four hours. Something that seems borderline impossible, even for fit high schoolers.

The students overestimate the importance of the event itself; the crowd of mostly parents is bored out of their minds, but attempting to be supportive. And Caley, who received a C- in her English Lit., class on Transcendentalism (because she couldn’t find a Walden movie) is starting to consider the “Over-Soul.” That’s right, she has indeed been spinning for too long.

Will Ralph Waldo Emerson himself appear to save the day? I can’t give away the ending. But I do highly recommend that you subscribe to Barrelhouse and give “Sousathon” a close read. This short story has an interesting and lively plot, a strong sense of humor, and incredible narrative style.

And make sure you come back to Oscilloscope Lit on June 15, 2020 for our first issue, which we will publish online for free. Moving forward we will be switching to a print/digital subscription model.