Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review The Examination Cloth by Jonathan Edelstein.
Fiction Friday: The Examination Cloth
Today’s review is The Examination Cloth by Jonathan Edelstein. You can find it here. It’s another simple story, but I’ve been busy this week and going through personal matters, so I found a short, simple, yet interesting read for you all. While the story might truly be “short” the story is bigger than I could have imagined.
So let’s begin.
The Examination Cloth
The story focuses on a villager named Ukeme, who takes part in an exam to see if they can answer a single question using the materials provided. However, when he discovers a secret and believes he’s cheating, he tries to find a way to justify his crime while still solving the mysterious riddle, “Is the ancestor’s wisdom greater or less than that of living people. Despite trying to temper the fact, he comes to a realization, one that might make or break this exam.
This is a simple story, but it’s why it works so well. The story has a barebones plot, one notable character, and drama worthy of a TV adaptation. Yet, I thought it was much more than that. The whole story revolves around Ukeme, who accidentally cheats by invoking people known as egun, and in it, he fears he might get caught. He finds a way to excuse his cheating and ends on a happy note.
We’ve all been in situations where we feared doing something wrong, yet turns out we’ve made things better. Perhaps you accidentally took someone’s phone instead of your own, and instead of keeping it, you go through the effort to return it. Doing so, you made a bad situation into something good. You stole from someone, but you made it up by apologizing and returning said object to its rightful owner.
Ukeme cheating is wrong, but he didn’t mean it. We sometimes do bad things without even knowing it, but as long as we make up for it, that’s all that matters. He didn’t mean to invoke the egun-wives, he didn’t mean to gain a clue through “illegal” means. Yet he tries to find a plausible scenario instead of taking its advantage. He could have thought it was a sign and went on without a thought, but to think he cheated was the right move.
Reading this, my immediate thought was that this story reminded me of a fable. You know, like The Tortoise and The Hare? I remember studying those all the time back in grade school and the end usually invokes something like, “And the moral of the story is…” or along those lines. The moral, to me, would be that sometimes, we have to do wrong to do right. Or maybe, sometimes we have to take big steps to solve small problems. Perhaps even if one does something bad, you can still make amends by doing right.
There are so many ways to interpret this, and by having the character do something genuinely wrong and trying to justify it in a way that teaches you is something we all need. I’m not saying cheating is good, it’s just I love seeing bad things become good. It reminds me of a Naruto episode where the characters have to pass a test beyond their intelligence, so the only way to pass is to cheat without getting caught (because they’re ninjas. Being obvious is a big issue, even if, you know, the main lead sticks out like a sore thumb).
Ukeme isn’t evil. He’s not trying to cheat, but his fear of failing the exam through no fault of his own puts his future in jeopardy. He wants to pass whatever this is, but he’s so focused trying to figure out why he cheated and how he can solve this despite knowing a big clue when that clue exposes the courage to admit his wrongdoing.
I loved the message in this story and perhaps you might find something interesting as well. Maybe you have different interpretations of the meaning behind the story. I love seeing modern-day fables and this could be one of them. It’s simple, short, yet effective. That’s what a fable is. A tale, passed down for generations. I feel someday, we could see one here.
This was a short, but interesting fable that no doubt will be remembered. Most fables tend to be simplistic anyway, but this one can fit right in with all the others. Surely Aesop would have been proud to see his legacy carried on in modern times, many years later. I want to see more fables such as these, perhaps as a project for a magazine. I’ve seen fairy tales exist in modern times, so surely fables can still exist.
Anyway, wonderful story, and another short read. Most of these shorter stories tend to be on the small side, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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