Well, this lengthy story ends with the ultimate elbow trigger, it really does! — and I am just as much miraculously fazed as the young ‘orderly’ soldier himself in this famous story was fazed by the flash and flame and flare of anger in his body as well as mind, a fury with his Prussian Officer’s bruising treatment of him mind and body alike, that Officer Captain, who is tantamount to the same Captain, it seems, as the Captain in the Carson McCullers novel that I happened to review in detail very recently HERE as if I had been meant to do so! And I sense that the same more obviously inferred repressed homosexual desire there caused the over-proud Captain here to act in the way he acted against his orderly.
A story full of Lawrencian landscape as well as visionary or body-spiritual descriptions, mountains of snow sighted within extreme heat, mountains to which the orderly yearned to become part of himself after the crucial over-brimming of his own anger causing every single mentioned part of the Captain’s body, except ironically the elbow, to be crushed. And we are left with simple memories of a shepherd seen but not seeing us, and a raft on a river, a woodpecker with “erratic mice” designs on its wing, and a squirrel.
And inexplicably “A woman, full-skirted, a black cloth on her head for head dress, was passing like a block of shadow through the glistering green corn, into the full glare.” And the double mention of a pencil, once in the Captain’s hands spearing the orderly’s thumb, and the pencil behind the orderly’s ear that triggered the start of this battle between a man and his more worthy servant. Or not.
Simply soak yourself in my choice extracts below, leading to that finale of an elbow trigger…
“The captain was a tall man of about forty, grey at the temples. He had a handsome, finely-knit figure, and was one of the best horsemen in the West. His orderly, having to rub him down, admired the amazing riding-muscles of his loins.”
“…the look of a man who fights with life. His fair eyebrows stood bushy over light blue eyes that were always flashing with cold fire. He was a Prussian aristocrat, haughty and overbearing.”
“…a certain zest, such as wild animals have in free movement. And this irritated the officer more and more.”
“One day, as the orderly was smoothing out the table-cloth, the officer pinned down his thumb with a pencil, asking: ‘How did you come by that?’”
“He must go and take the coffee to the captain. He was too stunned to understand it. He only knew it was inevitable – inevitable, however long he lay inert.”
“It was as if he were disembowelled, made empty, like an empty shell. He felt himself as nothing, a shadow creeping under the sunshine.”
“The captain passed into the zone of the company’s atmosphere: a hot smell of men, of sweat, of leather. He knew it very well. After a word with the lieutenant, he went a few paces higher, and sat there, a dominant figure, his sweat-marked horse swishing its tail, while he looked down on his men, on his orderly, a nonentity among the crowd.”
“There was a pain in his head, as he walked, that made him twist his features unknowingly. But hard there in the centre of his chest was himself, himself, firm, and not to be plucked to pieces.”
“Yet, deep inside him, he knew that it was so, the captain should be dead. But the physical delirium got hold of him. Someone was knocking. He lay perfectly still, as if dead, with fear. And he went unconscious.”
“He had never been ill in his life. He did not know where he was or what he was. Probably he had got sunstroke. Or what else? – he had silenced the captain for ever – some time ago – oh, a long time ago.”
Then, finally, GESTALT followed by ELBOW…
“Then the pain he felt was another single self. Then there was the clog of his body, another separate thing. He was divided among all kinds of separate beings. There was some strange, agonized connection between them, but they were drawing further apart. […] Then again his consciousness reasserted itself. He roused onto his elbow and stared at the gleaming mountains.”
The Penguin Anthology context of this review: https://weirdtongue.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/
My earlier review of ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/25/the-rocking-horse-winner/