The Red Man

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“Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” The red man told girl. There was a boy sitting a few feet away from her, strumming his guitar. The red man waved a brown, paper bag in her face, brushing the frayed bushel of her hair, an array of oil and dirt. Her back outlined the gray wall behind her, her hands squished under her butt. A fresh stench of a cheese burger invaded her nose from the bag. The street they were on was flooded with cloaked pedestrians, each passing the three without a glance. One of them accidentally kicked the can of coins lying next to her outstretched legs, spilling them onto her torn jeans.

A stone water fountain stood across the street from them. The red man dumped the bag on her lap and ran to the fountain, dodging the walking masses. He pressed the fountain button a good ten times, smiling widely as the water sprouted in and out from the hole. Laughing, he clapped his hands and jumped up and down. The rhythm matched the beat of the guitar’s soft strumming.

The girl caressed the tips of the bag before she tore it open. She pulled out a double-double. Bits of onion slipped out and landed on her jeans. She chewed and swallowed softly.

The red man ran back and knelt down besides her. He asked, “You like?”

“Go away.” Drawing her knees up to her chin, she spat the burger pieces at his face and buried her face between her legs. Sobbing softly, “I want to go home.”

The boy stopped strumming his guitar, leaving it on the ground, and crawled to her, pushing the man away and wrapping his arms around the girl. He whispered, “The day is brilliant. Mice are all around, chewing my shoes. I grab one of them and bite its head off.”

Scratching his head with his finger, the red man stood up and stared down at the boy and girl. He walked over to the guitar and picked it up. He strummed random notes.

“I stole from…the… the b-b-basket, the b-basket,” the girl hiccupped. “God never f-f-forgave me.”

“We’re going to buy some corn, sweet, sweet corn.” The boy patted and smoothed out her hair.

“I’m not hungry.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“What am I going to do?”

“I’ll take care of you.”

The red man slammed the guitar on the ground, pieces of wood flying onto the boy and girl. He yelled aloud, “GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU!” He adjusted his red tie before, he took up the guitar’s fingerboard and smacked both of the boy and the girl in the head. They slumped down into unconsciousness. A couple of strings, still attached on the fingerboard, vibrated for a few seconds before snapping.

Critical Memo:

In “The Red Man”, I imitated Don DeLillo’s craft of the third person objective point-of-view from “The Runner” to create a similar distant lens of viewing the characters’ interactions with one another. Through the imitation of the third person point-of-view, the resulted distance between the characters serves as a wall that bars the street miscreants from connecting emotionally when they attempt to, ironically revealing the brokenness and abandonment within the characters.

In the beginning of “The Runner”, DeLillo sets up the physical environment immediately, positioning the runner on a path of exploring and observing the environment around him. The third person point-of-view here distances the reader from the runner’s personal thoughts with stoic descriptions of his surrounding: “The runner took the turn slowly, watching ducks collect near the footbridge where a girl was scattering bread…He was young and knew he could go harder” (DeLillo 47). The runner appears detached from his environment and the people and things he observe in his environment, only focusing on his running task. His lack of emotional response to his environment reflects a division between his own self and the environment. The thought of knowing that he “could go harder,” however, does reflect determination within himself to push on regardless of his environment. In the beginning of “The Red Man”, I use the third person point-of-view to immediately highlight the red man’s interactions with a character: “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” The red man told girl. There was a boy sitting a few feet away from her, strumming his guitar. The red man waved a brown, paper bag in her face.” The red man is not merely an observer like the runner; he is also embedded into his surrounding and actively steps into other characters’ lives through by shouting the first line of dialogue and giving a character a cheese burger—a sign of reaching out. The current presence of the boy with the guitar is more aligned with the runner, merely sitting on the sidelines and strumming by himself, seemingly detached from the girl and the red man. The reader does not know what the red man (nor the girl and the guitar boy) is thinking; he is an enigma, whereas DeLillo reveals subtle hints of interiority in the runner. I use the third person point-of-view here to draw characters physically close together without the interiority found in first person point-of-view, and, simultaneously, create emotional division among the three; how they are all related to each other is unclear. DeLillo uses his third person point-of-view to limitedly dive into subtle thoughts of one character, to frame the runner’s perspective of all the other characters in his surroundings.

DeLillo furthers the runner’s interiority further into the story when the runner is talking directly to another character. When the woman accuses him, “Then you don’t know,” the runner “was surprised by the sharpness in her voice. He ran in place, unprepared and dripping feeling heat rise from his chest” (53). When encountering conflict here, the runner does emotionally feel something in response to another character but he quickly reverts back a distant physical state, separating himself from the woman. In “The Red Man”, the red man also deals with conflict by resorting to physical: “he took up guitar’s fingerboard and smacked both of the boy and the girl in the head.” Through the lens of third person point-of-view here, the character’s distant, yet violent, interiority is highlighted in surface actions and not revealed thoughts. Though the reader may not know why the red man hits the boy and girl, his violent action reveals a strange anger that has been subtly festering within himself.

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