Thanks for visiting my “O” post in the A to Z Challenge.
EMH wrote a powerful and symbolic short story called “Old Man at the Bridge” first seen in Ken magazine in April 1938. Ken was a publication that lasted from the spring of 1938 to the fall of 1939. The editor for Ken was Arnold Gingrich who began Esquire. Later this Spanish Civil War story was published in EMH’s book The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories released in October 1938 by Scribner’s.
The story has about 760 words. This minimalist story is a very strong commentary by EMH on the war in Spain that is full of irony, juxtapositions, and obvious symbolism.
The narrator, some sort of advance scout for the anti-fascists, approaches a bridge over the Ebro River where an old man is sitting. Through conversation, the scout finds out that the old man is 76-years old. He is apolitical and had to leave his village due to artillery bombing. He was the last person left there and was watching some animals, namely some birds, a cat, and some goats, all very symbolic animals that he had to leave behind. The scout suggests he follow the road to Barcelona. The old man tells him he does not know anyone there. The scout can tell that the old man is done fleeing and will probably soon die at the hands of the enemy.
The story is set on Easter Sunday. The birds (doves) represent peace. The goats represent sacrifice, and the cat represents survival (nine lives of a cat). The old man probably symbolizes the loyalists of Spain that are losing the war to the fascists. They are tired and defeated and know they have lost. Nothing more can be done to change the outcome.
Click HERE to read “Old Man at the Bridge.”