Story of the Week: The Smile on Happy Chang's Face

I'm a little hesitant to pick Tom Perrotta's short story "The Smile on Happy Chang's Face" as my new Story of the Week because the story has already received so much praise, not the least being the opening tale in the 2005 edition of Best American Short Stories. That said, this is a great little story and I don't see any harm in heaping even more praise upon the pile.

"The Smile on Happy Chang's Face" is the story of a Little League Umpire who is overseeing the biggest game of the season. Despite the supposing impartiality of his profession, this umpire not only hopes one team will win but desires to throw the game toward said team. However, the umpire (who is also the narrator of the story) is a good man and, during the course of the game, relives the mess he's made of his life in recent years. Naturally enough, the umpire gets his chance to make the decision that will decide the game. But when this chance comes, the umpire decides to simply be honest for the first time in years. The result is something that no one--not the reader nor anyone in the story--can accept or understand.

Not only is this a great story, it is one of the best sports stories to be written in recent years.

As a side note, I want to mention that the 2005 edition of Best American Short Stories is the series' best collection in years. Editor Michael Chabon made a point of selecting stories that are not only well written but also entertaining (as he says in his introduction). If this wasn't sure a revolutionary selection process for the United State's preminent literary short story anthology series, it wouldn't be worth mentioning. But Chabon's decision is revolutionary, and that says a lot about the sad state of our literary world at the moment.

Except from "The Smile on Happy Chang's Face":

"The Superior Wallcoverings Wildcats were playing in the Little League championship game, and I wanted them to lose. I wanted the Town Pizza Ravens and their star pitcher, Lori Chang, to humiliate them, to run up the score and taunt them mercilessly from the first-base dugout. I know this isn't an admirable thing for a grown man to admit—especially a grown man who has agreed to serve as home-plate umpire—but there are feelings you can't hide from yourself, even if you'd just as soon chop off your hand as admit them to anyone else."

Read the complete story.


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Thanks, Jason. Great story. It's like a redemption story that no one sees. Sad, but wonderful. Thanks so much.