In “Uncle Rock,” Dagoberto Gilb writes a short story that is sparse and to the point. The story is basically a coming of age story. Erick, the main character, is eleven and being raised by his beautiful single mother in L.A. She’s immigrated from Mexico, and he has no real sense of Mexico. I’m not even sure if Erick has any dialogue in the story. He never talks to any of her boyfriends, and lies about his family life out of shame.
There is one man in his mother’s life who keeps coming back, named Roque. A nice change of pace, Roque, is at heart a good man who is kind to both Erick and his mom. It could have been easy to make the character a jerk, but that would be a different kind of story. Instead, Roque, is a pushover. He loves Erick’s mom, but is not flashy like the men she sometimes dates.
The moment this story loses me is when Roque takes Erick and his mom to a Dodger’s game. They get to the game late, and wouldn’t you know it, a homerun is hit straight to Erick, who (bet you can’t guess it) catches it! Never saw that one coming. Luckily, Erick did. The story ends with Erick growing up a little or appreciating Roque. What works well is that it isn’t a shared moment, it’s Erick’s moment, and he doesn’t make a big deal about it. Gilb writes it in a way that castes doubt on whether Erick even knows the statement he’s made.
Overall, this story is a quick read that has some good touches, but doesn’t carry the impact to keep a reader coming back.