Sticks and Stones
A The words unspoken and actions undone may possibly remain so, but what is done cannot be undone, and if you cause a situation to go from bad to worse, the consequences of your deed will come to haunt you. This is what the main character of Trezza Azzopardi’s short story “Sticks and Stones”, Lewis, has experienced. Lewis accepts things as they are, even though he wants to change them: “[…]he imagines he’s the kind of person that challenges teachers like Stott and Walker, the kind that the Headmaster takes seriously.
(pages 9-10, lines 61-62). The quote supports the statement and also implies he is a person who blends in, and more importantly, that he does not want to stand out. Hence, he has adapted to his environment because he feels it is the safest thing to do. This has been caused by his mother, who has told him that “It’s the survival of the fittest” throughout his whole life. Paul Fry is not peer of Lewis’, but Lewis given his trait of staying in the background emphasizes with him surprisingly much.
The ability to emphasize so much with Paul causes Lewis to go against his guts that tells him to mind his own matters, so it must have struck a nerve. Being able to identify with Paul so well means he has experienced something akin to Paul’s inflections, which the small portion of his past underlines: “Don’t be such a baby. […]boys will be boys. It’s human nature. ” (page 10, line 69). He sees himself in Paul Fry, and consequently wants to help because he had no help to claim himself.
Lewis’ profession is not stated in the text, but it implicitly indicates that he is a teacher. For instance, the Headmaster catches him after class: “The next day, Harris (Headmaster) came and found him after class. ” (page 10, line 79). Moreover, Paul Fry is a student and when Lewis comes home, he has new information about Paul Fry to tell his girlfriend, Anna: “[…]he wanted to tell her (Anna) about Paul Fry. […]Later, she’d sigh when he came in from work, […]”What’s happened now? ” she’d ask” (page 11, lines 98-102).
The jump and the whole incident lie to the past, though. The short story is about Lewis reflecting on the past, which is why flashbacks occur in the middle of the storyline. In the present, Lewis has no connection to the involved people of the event. He has quitted teaching after Paul’s death: “[…]on Lewis’s last day, after suggesting he should take some time off. It was the day before Paul Fry was found. ” (page 11, lines 120-122) and even though he has an old letter from Anna, he has no contact to her: “”There’s a letter for you”, his mother shouts. …]He’s been there a month now, and[…]has had no phone calls, certainly no letters, no nothing at all from Anna. ”(page 8, lines 18;21-22) “Lewis puts it to his face. He can’t find the scent of her in the words” (page 9, line 40). The letter is definitely from Anna and has lost its scent, which implies that it has had one, but has now faded with time, which means it is old. The remorse of Paul’s death is so strong that it causes him to dream of his dive into the beach.
This indicates it was the same day Paul died, and more so does the fact that the boys had never been all the way to Lewis’ place at the beach. The boys went out to beat up Lewis, because as Lewis tells us, he observed Paul being beat up and making no sound – hence, the death of Paul – and they wanted to shut up Lewis. The use of flashbacks throughout the plot keeps the reader at suspense. Lead on by a in media res start, Trezza Azzopardi keeps building up the suspense. The flashbacks are never out of context: they always occur at a setting relevant to it.
As a natural follow-up on the flashbacks, Azzopardi’s short story ends with change in the main character’s person. That is why Lewis throws out the pebbles, because for each pebble he has felt his life was difficult. Paul Fry’s incident has haunted him for long enough and he now wants to move on. After he throws away the pebbles, the waves of the beach does not trouble him anymore and he can finally listen to the humming earth, which indicates the change. A change long awaited caused by merely one devastating mistake.