Category Archives: April Stories

“Eleven” (#4)

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

You don’t feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don’t feel smart eleven, not until you’re almost twelve. That’s the way it is.

Only today I wish I didn’t have only eleven years rattling around inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box. Today I wish I was one hundred and two instead of eleven because if I was one hundred and two I’d have known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red sweater on my desk.

Sandra Cineros’ Woman Hollering Creek and other stories was one of the books adjacent to “my” style. More “intimate orator,” mostly “I” voices on both sides of the Mexican border, on all sides of age ridges, time margins, fragments of sentences that pulse you down into a moment that is like a full breath. Most of the pieces are very short, but they weave together in a kaleidoscope of heat and hope and sadness and connection.

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If you are thinking about buying it, how about going here:

http://www.typebooks.ca/

Or any other independent bookstore.

Ingrid Catching Snowflakes on Her Tongue (#3)

More Lisa Moore, also from Degrees of Nakedness.

Reminded again how the best short stories are small, big meaning and emotion in tiny moments.  Moore’s writing is such… lush sparseness.

A whole entire plot in one paragraph:

For some reason she started seeing Marcel, Gabriel’s father, again when Gabe was five.  He stayed a month.  It ended when he took a swing at her. He’s a small guy and he was drunk.  She hit him back and he fell onto his bum, his legs straight in front of him, his toes pointing toward the ceiling, his palms flat on the floor — like a kid at the beach, she said, sitting at the edge of the sea.  She knocked his glasses off and he blinked, slightly sobered.

There’s a sense of movement in this story that’s like the breathing of a fish, water flowing in and out of gills in languid rhythm. The first person character separate, then of, then separate again, with the Ingrid she is writing about.  Living under the same roof with someone else shapes you both, the way liquid takes the shape of its container.

 

“Granular” (#2)

Lisa Moore was the best discovery of the short story course I did in the fall.  I had read and loved February but hadn’t really paid that much conscious attention to the writing.  Her short stories were a revelation, and the second person point of view in one of the ones we read was the model/inspiration for the story I ended up writing in the course.

The first scene of Granular is a page-long extremely graphic, sensual description of very connected sex, followed by an accusation.

I’m thinking about all the possibilities that spring up every time we act, then fall away to be replaced with another set of possibilities.  Sometimes the import of our actions catches up with us.  Import settles on one thing or another, the rim of a coffee cup, for instance, like a butterfly.

That moment alone is worth the story.  And her writing is a complicated weave of these kinds of possibilities. Moore fits into the category of “intimate orator,” I think, though she also fits “visceralist” — describing the indescribable with language.

Sometimes when we are having sex, a lost afternoon from months ago, or years, will creep over my skin.  It’s visceral, the way a flatfish draws shades and patterns from the sand it floats over.  Grainy blushes, they’re gone before I can speak them.

That image stopped me dead.  I now imagine this from a writer’s perspective — did she write the words “flatfish, blushes, shadows, over sand, flashes” in a little notebook?  Where did the words “grainy blushes” bloom as she wrote sentences?  What happened for her when that phrase appeared — where did she feel it and know its rightness in her body?

“Granular” is in the collection Degrees of Nakedness, and I can’t photograph it because it’s in the kindle app in my ipad (a clause that would have make no sense 7 years ago).

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We Are All about Wendy Now”

First story of my project, first story in Jessica Westhead’s “and also sharks.”  Sly, heart-catching first person story about a woman in an office whose cat is more real than the people around her… and who understands others better than the people-focused people around her.

The language and voice are impeccable — very of the moment and everyday and just right to almost obscure the searing truth at the centre.

The cafeteria smelled like fish because it was Fish Fingers Day.  Sherry told me when we walked in.  How people can eat that greasy cafeteria food all the time I’ll never be able to figure out, but I guess I got caught up in the excitement becaue the next thing I knew, I was lining up next to Sherry and pushing my orange tray along with hers, and there was tinsel and plastic holly everywhere because it was December, and Sherry even offered to buy my lunch, but then she ended up not having enough money in her purse and actually needed me to lend her a couple of dollars, which I was more than happy to do, and I told her not to even think of paying me back.

One of the “styles” we talked about in the story writing seminar I did in the fall was “deeper than you think” — this is the perfect exemplar of that.

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Bookends

The starts and ends to my days have always been a bit unhygienic.  Much as I wish I were the kind of person who started every day with a warm embrace of the dawn and a mindful commune with the sunrise and early cup of coffee — and I think I even have some alternative identity timeline in which this is true — I stay in bed too long, read random bits of news on the internet before I even make coffee, discover I don’t actually *have* coffee, can’t find the things I put out the night before to read, run around putting in bits of laundry and starting and never finishing tasks until I leave the house in a slightly late flurry.

My bedtimes are even worse, sucked into Reading the Internet or watching mindless downloads of TV even as I imagine myself to be the kind of person who drinks a peaceful cup of mint tea and reads a good book.  (Often I *make* the tea and it gets cold on my bedside table.  Pouring it out is one of the fragmented morning tasks). Sleep and I glare balefully at each other instead of spooning comfortably.

I’ve been trying to create more mindful practices in my life for a little while now, for lots of reasons — there’s a lot going on in my head right now, and to make the right sense of it, to find creative movement forward, to find space, I need to de-flurry my time, defuzz my head and body.  But man, the openings and closings of the day are hard practices to change.  Even while I *know* all of the reasons it’s a bad idea to bring electronics into the bed, or to fall asleep watching bad TV on a computer perched on my chest (seriously, civilization, what a crazy thing to evolve a possibility for!), I just… do it.  Those old shoes you won’t throw away because they’re in the doorway and pose no challenge to your feet.

Mornings, I’ve been working on a short meditation practice or 20 minutes of writing creatively.  So hard to carve out the time when my brain is supplying the 1000 reasons why I need to empty the dishwasher, send an email, fold the towels, put away my running stuff, take out the garbage, match socks.  I have to put it in my calendar. I get little alerts that say SIT.  WRITE.  Sometimes I listen.

Bedtime, it’s even harder.  I developed some terrible bedtime habits when my marriage ended, and because I haven’t lived with anyone full time for 9 years, my bed is littered with all the wrong things.  (The other day I found my iphone, my landline phone, my ipad and my computer, along with a book, a headlamp and a fair scattering of popcorn crumbs).

So I have a project for April.  Instead of just adding a bunch of “don’ts” to my routine, I need to feed the writing part of me.  I’ve been writing fiction for the past few months, for the first time in years, and have rediscovered short stories.  So for April, along with trying to permanently remove the electronics from the bedroom, I am going to read one short story every night.  And post about at least one sentence about it.  Trying to change some long-overdue habits while regrounding myself in the kind of voice that carries me to the best kind of new places.

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