Tag: Short stories

For your consideration

Excerpt from ‘Lamentations of a Farmer’ from the collection Asunder, baby:

When the derecho winds arrived Friday, they lifted the split-rail fences, tore up most of the barn roof, uprooted the vegetable garden, then set everything down, hard, probably, in the parking lot of the shuttered A&P in Mechanicsburg. When he first heard the sound, he thought the P&E Freight was running ten minutes early, its whistle off-key by about two octaves. Then he remembered he hadn’t heard that whistle in nearly sixty years, and the bones of that old depot were half a country away.

Saturday morning, he carried his shovel to the fence line, now reduced to a perforated line of dirt clumps and splintered cedar, and he rubbed the tired out of his eyes. Strands of barbed wire spread across the pasture, patches of galvanized weeds.

As through a wide breach they come, in the midst of the ruin they roll themselves in,” he said. “Job, you were one sorry son of a bitch if you couldn’t figure that out.” Before he started, he checked his pockets. “Fool,” he said. “What is it you expect to accomplish with only a shovel?” Nonetheless, he set the blade into the dirt, and leaned into it with his boot.

From a mean distance, he noted the tricks of the midmorning sunshine, how it spilled through a colander of apple tree branches and furnished a fine frippery of light, then raised its heels along the curves of the pea-gravel garden borders and set itself to dance. Even so, the dark western horizon was starting to crawl back.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated,” he whispered.

His cows, those that remained in the field, gawped at him from a tousled ridge of hay. His favorite (if a beast could be called a favorite, though she wore a particular sorrowful glint in her eyes that always drew his attention), named Marmalade for the spoon-shaped patches on her neck, stepped towards him, tentative, and she brought her melancholy with her.

“To the end, eh, Marmy?” he said.

First published by and many, many thanks to DarkWinter Literary Magazine and its founder and editor Suzanne Craig-Whytock (www.darkwinterlit.com)

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A photo, a book launch, and several thousand words…

I have been searching for this particular photo for months. A little over a year ago, my laptop died, and with it went a whole bunch of stories and notes, a half-completed novel, and all references to this picture. I’ve been looking for it off and on ever since, and now, here it is, on the eve of my book launch.

What is it? A little slice of late 1960s Americana, and a story waiting to be written. It ran in Vanity Fair, December 2013, and was photographed by Elliott Landy. It was hugely inspiring to me. I first saw it online a couple of years ago and… I wrote a story — relatively quickly — and that story evolved into more stories. The two people in the foreground became Harry and Bridget (aka Birdie).

I did the requisite research into that particular area — the West Saugerties, NY (only 7 miles from Woodstock) — and rediscovered The Band, “Songs of Big Pink”, and Bob Dylan’s association with the area. I decided on “Light of the West Saugerties” as the opening story of Asunder, baby and I really hoped to find this photo again, since it was such an inspiration for a few thousand words.

Asunder, baby will be available for Kindle readers and in paperback on Amazon tomorrow, January 12. Many thanks for reading this little origin story… they’re not usually this specific.

The story begins:

—–

July, 1967

I see you, Birdie, pressed into your favorite gold brocade dress, somewhat shrouded in a turquoise Navajo throw. You were always a July blonde / September strawberry, but today your hair is transcendent, luminescent, loosely tied with a loop of jute twine you picked up at the side of Burnett Road. You walk ahead of me at that final curve before the smell of water hits us, you draw me closer with the shimmer in your hair, the shimmy in your hips, the sweet in your voice. A song is sung, “At dawn my lover comes t’ me / an’ tells me of her dreams,” a rat-sized chihuahua tramps along beside you, pauses at the dandelion stalks, the river birch trunks, pisses on the things it wants you to love.

In real life, Bridget, you tend the bar at the Pinewood House in the West Saugerties. You complain about the Club members who line up for their Tom Collins sacrament every Wednesday afternoon: ex-cops, mostly; tough guys who don’t know what to do with their hands.

“You think we’ll see him, baby?” you say.

“He who?”

You turn to me, your hair a spray of candied sunlight. “Don’t you ever listen to his words? Dylan, silly. Do you think we’ll see him there?”

“Maybe. Probably not. But so what? Maybe he’ll see us. Do you think he ever wonders about us?”

“He should. Because we’re fabulous. And he will receive us.”