Sometimes, the touch of humour to a tale is so deftly added that it’s like an aftertaste. I enjoy stories like those, ones that don’t necessarily make me laugh out loud while I’m reading them, but instead leave me smiling when I’m done, ever-so-gently amused (but also charmed). “Chivalry,” from Neil Gaiman, is one of those stories.
Even better? Thanks to LeVar Burton Reads, I got to listen to it, and as always the performance was wonderful. The story is originally published in Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, which I own but—as always—haven’t read yet.
“Chivalry” is a little tale about a woman who visits an Oxfam shop and ends up purchasing the holy grail, and a series of visits to her little house by Galahad, who’d really like to end his quest, and is willing to swap her something for the grail, if she wouldn’t mind? But she does mind, since the grail looks so nice there on the mantle between a dog sculpture and the photo of her dead husband, and so things get… well, charming.
This isn’t as dark or as twisty as many of Gaiman’s tales, but instead is a character piece. Both the knight and the elderly widow are done with lovely little touches (his turns of phrase, her requests to have the strapping man move some of the old luggage from her attic) and the dialog sparkles with a gentle humour throughout in a lovely way. It’s not an earth-shattering story, it’s just warm and lovely, and there are two moments: one, where the widow considers something that could change her life, and two, the final moment of the story, that really made the whole.