The Rand Hotel by William Burleson is a 49-page short story primarily about the history of a relationship between a father and his son. During the examination, there is also informed commentary on an urban subculture of Minneapolis, block E. Block E is also the title of a three-volume Burleson collection which includes this story. The collection sells for USD 2.99 on Amazon, this single sells for USD 0.99. I fought off the anxiety of insufficient math skills as I tried to calculate possible savings I had given up by purchasing only this story so I could decide whether I wanted to read all three stories. This story is great with nice twists; I will read the other stories in the collection.
Bogdan Boguslaw is the father, the old man. He will be the narrator of two chapters. His son Jack narrates the other two. Bogdan, retired and living on a combination of small social security and disability pensions, goes to the big city to visit Jack. He hasn’t seen his son since abandoning him and his mother many years earlier. How can he handle the awkwardness that naturally arises in such a situation? How will he answer obvious questions his son must have? Dad decides to show up at his son’s place apparently blind. The burden of communication shifts to Jack.
Jack is the first narrator. The reader meets Jack as he is describing to his father what he would see in the surrounding area were he able to see. Jack describes the fine restaurant they are dining in. But it is really a run-down diner. He describes the fine hotel where the two will stay temporarily until they return to Jack’s home, an elegant mansion. But the hotel is seedy and even smells bad. The mansion doesn’t exist. Jack will mention his position as a partner in a law firm. In fact, Jack works as a temporary day worker and doesn’t know what he will do each day. But while Dad is visiting Jack will take care of him each day even though the care given is a well-intentioned deception. It works up to the time Dad disappears.
The elder Boguslaw goes with the deception for a few days before becoming tired of waiting in the hotel room for Jack to return from work. He seeks out the companionship of Tabatha, a working girl in the run-down section of Block E. She encourages Bogdan to confess the deception to his son and make amends by telling Jack why Dad ran away so many years ago. Although initially resistant, Bogdan will confess and the two will move on to mutually discuss their deceptions. These are fascinating confessions.
This is a very taut and well-written character-driven short story. Not all questions are answered. The reader may not be satisfied that all has been revealed and I left the story feeling that if just a few more pages had been written, a few more questions would have been answered. Those few more pages are not there. But there is that three volume collection. This is one of the best short stories I have read in a long time and I highly recommend it.