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Print Length: 38 pages
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One thing I always love about a short story, in addition to being able to finish in one sitting, is the fact that the theme is always present and foremost in a reader's mind. This is so true of Johnston's wonderful short story that points out so vividly the consequences of poor choices.
Brent Stanford, a very important businessman, is on his way to his father-in-law's birthday party. Stanford's father-in-law is also the owner of the company where Stanford is the CEO, and said father-in-law has a very low opinion of Stanford. On a country road in North Carolina, Stanford gets stuck behind a farmer who is going way too slow, and his anxiety builds the longer he drives, unable to pass on the winding narrow road.
Thinking of all the ways his father-in-law can make his life more miserable if Stanford is late - something that is never tolerated in his wife's family - he finally attempts to pass the pickup. Certainly that chicken truck coming the other way is driving as slowly as this bumpkin.
Does he make it?
The rest of the story answers that question, and I don't want to give anything away by revealing what happens. In a cross between an O. Henry story and an episode of The Twilight Zone, Stanford meets that farmer he tried to pass, and what happens will keep you guessing until the very end.
Well done, Mr. Johnston