Issue 160: Hilarious, in the Wrong Way

Our new issue of One Story was discovered and edited by long time reader and managing director of our Summer Writer’s Workshop, Michael Pollock, and so I am passing the introducing of this story into his capable hands. I hope everyone enjoys this foray into the dangerous world of Junior High School. -HT

Two doors down from the house I grew up in lived Frank. Frank was the one who always pushed me into the pool, the one who broke my nose while roughhousing. Frank was the first one to say “fuck.” We all grew up with a Frank. He was violent and scary and unpredictable and our childhood selves were constantly and inexplicably drawn to him. Theodore is the Frank of Stephen Ornes’s “Hilarious, in the Wrong Way.” We are told early on of his death then watch our narrator, Ben, come to terms with this news.

“Hilarious, in the Wrong Way” is a relatable story but also a grabbing one. The tone of the first person narration hooked me immediately when I was combing through One Story’s massive queue of unsolicited submissions. The story is told by the voice of an about-to-be-pubescent boy who is surrounded by late 80s gadgetry, and lakeside suburbia. As the news spreads through the halls of Ben’s junior high school, he tells us that, “An eighth grader whose name I didn’t know said Theodore shot himself twice but that seemed impossible. I had known for a while that eighth graders always talk about things they don’t know.” Ben’s once certain reality is shifting. Think of Ben’s struggle as a coming of age story come three years too soon. Oh and there is a Jet Ski.

Please read Stephen Ornes’s Q&A with us to find out how he images the rest of Ben’s life playing out.

1 thought on “Issue 160: Hilarious, in the Wrong Way

  1. I almost stopped reading at the first paragraph. The question mark in it comes at the end of a declarative sentence and there is a tense shift in the last sentence (is/was). I told myself to let it go, and I’m glad I did. “Hilarious…” is a wonderful story. The author explains in the Q&A section that he did a rewrite involving a tense and POV shift. He also said he learned from the “generous editors” that writers shouldn’t use questions. It leaves the reader with questions of confidence in the writer. Could it be that Stephen changed the question to a declaration without changing the punctuation? And why didn’t he do a search for the word ‘is’ after shifting tenses? Shouldn’t careful, rather than generous, editing find these sorts of problems? Have all my questions given you doubt about my confidence?

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