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Posts Tagged ‘short fiction’

For decades now, a ginger-haired girl has lived near us. Not the same girl, mind you. We’ve lived in three places in the past thirty years and, at each address, a ginger-haired girl has lived a few houses down, across the street, or around the corner. There has only been one such girl living near us at any particular time, as if there is some sort of limit on how many redheads a neighborhood can sustain.

I’ve never spoken to any of these girls, aside from chitchat about costumes on Hallowe’en night, but nevertheless, I’ve gleaned something about their character, their personality.

When we lived up in Richmond Beach, there was the young redhead who we only saw as she ran by our house. I never, ever saw her walk. She only ran, a blur of that grew ever taller as the years went by. To school, from school, out to meet friends, coming home from play. Run, run, run, faster each year, as her legs grew longer and her speed increased.

She is Energy. Vitality. Eagerness.

For the past dozen years or so, there’s a girl with wild, ginger hair who lives behind us. From our kitchen window I can see the swing set in her yard and a day does not go by where I do not see her out there, kicking her way, to and fro, through the upended arc. She swings rain or shine, heat or cold. Her hair, once left wild, has now been tamed by Beats headphones. It is her haven there, alone on that swing.

She is Focus. Solitude. Diffidence.

And then there was the little girl who lived across the street for a few years. Vivacious and vocal, she was a true individual, as full of questions and unpredictability as only a seven-year old can be.

There is one day I remember clearly. It was December, closing in on Christmas, and it had snowed, just a few inches, just enough to give the world that magical, unsullied patina. I was on the treadmill, listening to McCreary’s “Passacaglia,” a serene piece for strings in 3/4 time, and I noticed our redheaded neighbor out in her yard, walking with a friend. The two girls were bundled up, wearing swing coats and knitted caps. The redhead’s parents had put up, along with the strings of lights along the eaves, a giant inflatable snowman on their lawn. The snowman, with carrot nose and top hat, rocked gently in the breeze.

The two girls, hand in mittened hand, walked across the snowy lawn and up to the snowman. They stopped a few feet from his round belly, both looking up at his face. It was an idyllic picture, and the music made a perfect soundtrack.

Until the ginger-haired girl, this sweet, inquisitive tyke, stepped up to the inflated giant, and began kicking the crap out of him. Her friend clapped her hands and ran forward to join the assault. Together, the two girls kicked and kicked, little boots punishing, snow flying. The snowman wobbled under their attack, reeling side to side against his guy wires. The girls continued the onslaught and the snowman began to sag, one side crumpling, his painted smile belying the tragedy as he slowly sank down onto the trampled snow until only his top hat remained upright.

Hand in hand once more, the girls walked up to the house and went inside, leaving me stunned, gaping, caught between laughter and mild horror, as the passacaglia finished.

She is Chaos. Complexity. Unrepentance.

Redheads. Go figger.

k

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This week’s post brought surprise, rage, and embarrassment, all in a single envelope. Also enclosed: a copy of The Timberline Review #7, wherein my story, “The Book of Solomon,” is published.

So, exactly why did receiving a hardcopy of my published work engender such fire and furor?

Read on.

(more…)

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Hope. Damnable hope.

For most of my life, this has been my Achilles Heel. I simply cannot stop hoping. For things to turn around. For things to get better. For luck to change.

Four years ago (!!) I wrote “The Book of Solomon,” a short story, and started sending it out to markets. After a year an a half of submit-reject-rewrite-resubmit, I called it a day and put the story in the trunk.

Except I didn’t. (more…)

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In the center of my front room is a table. On that table stands a single vase with a single stem on which is a single bloom.

A rose, the first rose of the summer that is yet to come.

From purple to cerise to pink, the outer petals open to reveal their brethren, rank upon rank, unfolding like Mandelbrot origami, endless, hypnotic to the eye.

A single rose, a flower that can fit in the palm of my hand, and yet it fills the room, side to side, top to bottom, three thousand cubic feet, with the scent of honeyed apricots, sweetened cream, dappled sunlight, and the longing of ancient empires.

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Evening shadows
gather beneath the cedars.
Beyond the garden fence
the dogs stir and pace
preparing for the nightly trespass.

Trooping into my garden
the raccoons are confident
unfazed by snapping teeth
beyond the fenceline.

Full-throated threats
voice present frustration.
Irregular
urgent
they disquiet my peace.

The interlopers
unperturbed
disappear into the gloaming.
The dogs
with disconsolate growls
return to their beds.

Night draws the shades.
Trees sigh in the easy breeze.
The moon rises
small and bright
limning dark conifers.

Far off
a distant siren
rouses the sentries.
One lifts her muzzle toward
dark clarity
issues a low, rising note.

Her partner joins
adding contrapuntal lines
to calm, focused song.
They take a breath.
A new verse begins.

The mournful howls
echo memories
of pack
of wild
of ancient blood.
Unhurried
restrained
they salve my soul.

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Le crayon rougeIt amazes me how, every time I read something I’ve written, I want to change it. When I finish it I think it’s great, then I put it down for a while, and when I pick it up again, I’m like…bleah…and I’ve got to make changes.

This has never been more true than with “The Book of Solomon,” my most recent short story, which I’ve recently ceased trying to sell to the “literary” markets.

Now, in my defense, this story is a major departure from my previous fiction, on many levels. It’s a genre I’ve not tried before (historical fiction), and it’s a style very unlike most of my other work. influenced heavily by authors like Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Alice Hoffman, I purposefully avoided dialogue, working toward a more internal narrative and fluid style. Also, I did not shy away from complex syntax; I wanted to let the narrative flow in the way my character might think rather than how a storyteller might speak. Lastly, there’s a flipping ton of chronological intrication, jumping around from present to past to deep past to near future to imagined future.

The result was a minefield. Every page carried dangers. (more…)

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Le crayon rougeDear me. How perspectives change.

A quick follow-up on my decision to pull from the market a story I’ve been shopping around.

When I started going over it, for no other reason than to reformat it for the web, I found that this story, one that I had edited and re-edited, sent to researchers for fact-checking, and passed to my Beta Readers for feedback, this story that, a year ago, I felt was suitable for publication, really needs another round of edits.

And it’s not just that I don’t like this phrase or I’d say that a little differently. There are errors of continuity, spotty problems with past perfect and past conditional verb tenses, and even (shudder!) a typo (only one, but still…yeesh!)

So, grasshopper, remember today’s lesson well:

It’s never as good as you think it is.

k

Pup Dog Speaks

 

 

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