Issue #226: Prairie Fire, 1899 by Mike Alberti

When I was growing up in Florida, we would have tornados now and then. They were long and skinny, or fat and stubby, descending out of storm clouds to crack like a whip over our town, or poking down like the nose of a dog nudging a sand castle. The scariest thing about them—even scarier than their unpredictability—was their strength.

I was reminded of those tornados when I first read Mike Alberti’s “Prairie Fire, 1899.” There are no tornados in this story, but, as the title suggests, there is a fire. A wide, merciless fire. And, as we all know, fires are merciless not because they don’t want to show mercy; they’re merciless because they’re single-minded. They only want one thing: to burn.

The new issue of One Story is about the meeting of that fire and a mining community on the American frontier at the turn of the century. It has a classic, almost formal voice, and a narrator that moves from person to person with the ease of a spark carried on a breeze. In our Q&A, Mike Alberti describes it as “a sort of fable about the West.” It’s a remarkable, large-hearted short story with great staying power. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

4 thoughts on “Issue #226: Prairie Fire, 1899 by Mike Alberti

  1. What a remarkable story this is–that booming omniscient voice, the uncompromising momentum, the delicate touch to characterize so many people in so little space. And the rabbits! What a memorable scene! I’ll never get that image out of my head. Thanks for this one, Mike Alberti, and congrats to you.

  2. Mesmerizing story — it grabs the reader and doesn’t let go… I was totally engrossed in the smooth and flowing narrative (like a sweeping fire across a prairie?) until a sentence on page 15 brought me to a sudden halt… what???? LARSEN’s daughter Stella dead? Stella was E.J. Burke’s daughter… minor editing/proofing oversight but very jarring, nonetheless. Otherwise, great story! !

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