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Tag: “short story

In the pouring rain, across a highway divider in an unknown town, I sit at a red light, listening to the rain thump the car. Gone are the jokes about the cheap hotel room that cut the tension while we toured the tiny downtown where trees squared the block and the rotunda stood tall. I fell in love with the sidewalks so straight, but then we left the white concrete and landed on the streaming highway with the rain sloshing the four corners of our truncated world.

Something rustles inside my husband’s head and, turning toward me he suggests we eat at the 5/4 Steakhouse across the median. A big red sign flashes in the standing water: “Welcome to the Quarter.”

Once upon a time when we traveled for fun, we’d ride to the real French Quarter in New Orleans where we ventured into the coolness of the antique stores and wandered until the wooden floors gave way to dirt three rooms back. One such trip, I bought the Jesus icon with the silver cover that slipped on and off. I carried it under my arm, out of the overpowering smell of the merchandise rotting on the shelves and across the parking lot to gaze at the boats docked on the river, so mechanical, black and greasy and full of metal. Churning and smoking and heaving through the water. Then we drove home, and I hung Jesus on the bathroom wall.

We exit the car, struggling through the rain, and land dripping in the entranceway. A stop clock graces the maitre d’s table with a sign below it: “Served in a Quarter of an hour or your meal free!” The place is big on signs.

We order steak and potatoes, and while we wait for the arrival of the food, Paul throws his hands in the air. “I can’t believe I haven’t told you. I have to tell you this.”

It’s a long story about two drunken women at a roulette table in Vegas, a mother and daughter, I think. Paul travels to Vegas on business. He’s in the entertainment business. He says he needs to travel on the weekends, that’s when business is done. Today is Thursday and only Alabama, so he’s brought me with him.

I read the little stick that came protruding from my potato. “I’ve been rubbed and scrubbed and you can eat my skin.” Shaped like a small smiling spud, the potato stick winks at me. I slip it in my pocket.

“I told him to hell with that.” Paul is cutting into a steak so rare it could get up and walk away from the table. “‘My damn plane is leaving,’ I said, and I hung up on the son of a bitch.”

Somewhere I think the story has changed, like channels surfed in the night when you’re not paying good enough attention. The waiter comes up for more service, but Paul waves him away, dismissive the way he is.

“Well?”

He’s talking to me.

“Well, what?”

“Well, what do you think?”

I finger my plastic potato prize. “Sorry. I kind of lost the plot.”

“That’s not very nice.” He wags his head, jaw to the side. “I tell you what, I bring you on a trip and a spool of barbed wire, and I’m fixed.”

No, I tell you what. When I get home, I’m going to take the Jesus with its silver cover from the wall and I’m gonna take the gold-embroidered bath towels and the silver candlesticks from the dining room table and the writing paper from inside the writing desk—and maybe the writing desk, too—and I’m going to stuff it in a suitcase with my new potato prize and then when it’s time to go, I’ll be ready.

And you can take that truth and hang it on the wall.

(an old short story I came across when cleaning out papers; as it was thoroughly written, I thought I’d share)

 

 

 

The stories are free, because so many of them have already been published in literary journals. To the extent I would be paid for them, I have been. So you get them for free.
But.
There’s always a but, right?
It’s a little but, I promise.
Each story is paired with a charity, non-profit, or community organization. After you listen to the story, you have the option to donate to the paired organization.
$1. $2. $50. Whatever you feel you want to give.
Or give nothing. Just enjoy the stories.
Many of you have told me you’re listening.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Some of you have told me you’ve donated.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If you’ve done neither, now’s your chance.

Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love

Realistic Writing, Take Two

What is it with this story? Second reader asks, “Did it really happen? I never know with you—you write so realistically.”

That’s at least two folks believing that, possibly, when I was showing clothes I’d gotten into fisticuffs with a member of the audience. Do I look like a women ready to throw a roundhouse punch?

hat

But that’s also two folks believing I write “realistically.”

This story is turning out to be more interesting than I ‘d ever imagined.

Remember: you cain’t do nothing with love . . .

 

Mother should be grateful for an attentive son, but she’s glowering at me, her pug nose crinkled as if I’ve spilled sticky pickle juice on her kitchen counter. Mother no longer owns a kitchen counter, and I no longer am a child with clumsy mitts attempting to fix a pickle and cheese sandwich. Mother now lives in this lovely retirement home where the management conducts Happy Hour every Monday and Thursday at 4:30, cover charge $1.00, all the drinks you can down for free.

Listen to the story for free here:

To contribute to Church Health Center, a charity providing healthcare for the working uninsured, please follow the link here or visit churchhealthcenter.org

 

In filing new query letters for my short story collection, I came across an old document. The year was 2007. The list identified agents who asked for stories or the entire manuscript. There were many. I chose one.

The agent I picked was not good for me.

I piddled around with him for four years, only to ultimately part ways, my fiction unsold.

I’m not saying I made a mistake—in the interim, the cross book was published and the Door of Hope Writing Group came into being. Knowing me, neither of those things would’ve happened if I’d had a Literary Book—capital L, capital B—on the table.

But.

Changes have occurred during these years that cause a problem, and I’m not talking about changes in the publishing world. I’m talking about changes in me.

I’ve never been a naturally competitive person. “I don’t care anything about beating those girls,” I’d say to my mother in tennis tournaments. What I liked, what got me to the finals, was the beauty of the swing, the well-placed shot . . .  the silver trophy.

Nor have I easily followed someone else’s path. I am arrogant enough to think I can do it a better way. And—here’s the real kicker—I don’t like repeating myself.

So when it comes to getting the short stories into the world, I’ve already done the “send out query letters, get an agent, jump up and down when the agent calls,” thing. That makes it boring, boring, boring.

So . . . .

How to achieve my goal—getting the stories into the world, encouraging people to experience them, maybe even inducing an aha! moment: short stories can be FUN!—while at the same time enjoying myself?

Answer: Podcasts.

Only problem: when I practice reading the stories, timing myself, I start laughing, thinking, this is the funniest story.

I gotta buck up here. Get serious.

Or not.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

 

 

Terrible in its Sorrow

Sometimes I read what I’ve written and I think, how could you do that?

The Bone Trench novel is pocked with very brief flashbacks of the deaths of the bones in the trenches. Despite their brevity, they are intense. When I re-read them, I wonder how I could write scenes filled with such sorrow. 

I’ve just finished revising a short story told from the point of view of a young man who becomes an arsonist. It breaks my heart.

Tonight, at an open mic event, I’ll read a story that, to me, is terrible in its sorrow. I wrote it, I’m choosing to read it. How could I?

Maybe the answer lies in my experience of sorrow. Maybe things seem chilling to me that others shrug off. Maybe I don’t write such difficult things. Maybe I’m too sensitive to sorrow, even that which I create.

here’s to creative synthesis . . . 

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