From the introduction to the final sentence, Leslie Jill Patterson’s flash essay,“Study in Self-Defense: Lubbock, Texas,” published in the September 2019 issue of Brevity (Issue 62), kept me on the edge of my seat. A perfect read for this October, Patterson tells the story of the tense moments that follow her dog’s ferocious reaction to something, or someone, outside her house at one in the morning—an event that gives her “a lesson in self-defense.”
Patterson sets the scene by painting a sense of isolation: a woman living alone, lurking shadows, the man she is afraid might come after her. She then fully engages the reader’s fight or flight response through dark strokes of impending danger, her dog’s protective instincts engaged. From the moment of her dog’s jolt from a sound sleep to an adrenaline punched awakening, the reader finds themselves breathless as her “lesson” unfolds.
Patterson’s essay brings the scene to life with detailed imagery and an all too relatable reaction to terror. You can hear the furious barking of the dog as he “pinball[s]” from room to room, see the woman hiding as if to play “peek-a-boo,” and feel afraid even to look up from your own screen, your “covers,” and catch that terrifying glimpse. A thrill to read.
Review by Kelsie Peterson