Ben Fountain, "Impasse Tempete"

An American man visits his mostly blind Haitian friend for what might well be the last time.

(from Ecotone Vol. 4, issues 1 and 2)

He’d lived in Port-au-Prince his whole life, and when I first knew him he liked to mock the Macoutes and their country ways, their bumbling attempts at urban cool. “Macoute guy, he dance like this,” Pierre would say, stomping and lurching around like a man trying to fling a crab off his foot. “But you born in Port-au-Prince, you from the city, you dance like this,” and now he’d ease into a fluid shuffle and glide that made you thankful for your eyes. But that was years ago, and now he never left his house except to see the doctor. One of his legs was always numb, and the high blood pressure often made him dizzy, and with his cataracts he felt lost on the streets.

“I can see far,” he told me, “I can see the mountains, but I can’t see your face. Your face just look all dusty to me.”

It’s just an odd bit of coincidence that I happened to pick up this story to read now, when all of our minds are on Haiti. (Interesting also, that I’ve stumbled onto another story about somebody who can’t see faces. Anyway.) The footage and the stories coming out of the small island nation following the devastating earthquake are unbelievable. Heartbreaking.
This story aims for a similar humane nerve. It’s smart and swift, with many stones left unturned. Ben Fountain’s signature move, I’d say, is to lead his readers to the blank places, the possibly unimportant omitted details, and allow them to make assumptions. “Impasse Tempete” is also a vivid picture of the difficult conditions that existed in Haiti long before the earthquake.
Read it here.

2 thoughts on “Ben Fountain, "Impasse Tempete"

  1. james

    I can’t help but thank you for creating this blog, as a creative writing under-grad and a fan of modern short fiction.
    You’ve introduced me to a host of great authors here. :D


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