The past couple of posts have been writing excerpts from my friends in this group. Reading words, especially the words of my friends always helps to motivate me and remember why I am in this group, in this blog, writing at all in the first place. When I feel stumped and generally dried up I often go back and read my own writing. This is often an exercise in ridiculousness.
I sometimes think “Jesus this is terrible, thank god I never let anyone read this.”
But often I will read something and wonder if it was really and truly me that wrote it because I genuinely like it. I’ve gotten most of my short story ideas from writing prompts. These are specific but always somehow warp themselves into my voice and my same themes. Our writing is not intentional in terms of what comes out of us and onto the page. The act of writing and sitting down to work is quite intentional, but if our hearts are in it what comes out of us is quite the opposite. It is free and open and uninhibited, and we can’t stop the bleeding.
Here are the first paragraphs from six of my short stories. These were written when the blood was pumping and the ideas were fresh and raw and they remain some of my favorite paragraphs in the stories. Sometimes a starting point, the moment when we close our eyes and jump, is the clearest and sharpest moment we have. So keep starting. We don’t need to finish quite yet.
I was born here. Most people came later, as babies, adolescents, adults, the elderly, stooped and sagging. There are only a handful of us who were born into this world, made up of a vast pocket of lost souls and forgotten faces. They have a name for us. The Trident. Pure, untainted, forming the three corners of our world. We don’t know what we’re missing. We have never known other families, other places. We have never gone through from There to Here, spinning in the whirl of color and time and fear and landing here forever. They have spent their lives trying to get out, to get back. But I don’t know anything but this place. This patch of sand and water is my life and it is where I will die.
She had the nicest kitchen. Everything was stainless and white marble. All that open shelving. It was pristine. And that pantry, oh my god I would have killed for that pantry. It had these doors with windows in them, like an old English phone booth. I saw something like it on Pinterest once and fell in love. Her shelves were lined with every kind of baking ingredient you could imagine.
Cream of tartar
Chips, nuts, a rainbow of separately packaged sprinkles
Gluten free flour
She had every allergy covered, every sensitivity and “Chase doesn’t go NEAR gluten” situation under control.
Her mixing bowls nested so perfectly, seriously, you’d die. She had the newest Kitchen Aid too, the one in bronze that matched her drawer pulls. Do you know she made her own food coloring? Beets, turmeric, red cabbage, kale powder. I mean, she was like Betty Crocker on fucking acid.
Sadie saw a twinkling in the forest. It was quick and she almost missed it as she was turning down the sapphire tree-lined road. The sparkling blues of treetops were her favorite and she spent a lot of time on this road, watching as the sun cracked in shards through the liquescent leaves. Late morning was the best time for Sadie. She could roam the streets and weave in and out of the flickering waves of sunlight before legs and feet blocked her way. These were the moments where she could sneak away and sit with the silent creatures across the threshold of her city, bring pictures of her world rendered in crayon and ballpoint pen on the bottoms of paper bags. She was told to stay away from these beasts but she loved their quiet acceptance.
We’ve been here for thousands of years. There weren’t many of us left but our history is in these very stones. We were born in the green-blue waters all through this valley and made our homes in the caves and rocks near the deepest part of the river. Gill-covered and old as the mountains, we used to speak to the water and the sand beneath. We lived alongside the gnomes and the fairies but they have all gone away now; their magic died when the people came. The people changed the river; they stopped the water and dried up our home. They took their their sons and daughters and made them build the wall rock by rock. The children, sweating, bloody and tired, closed off our water supply. They were treated as slaves and for hundreds of years the children of this valley have been used as workhorses and lost their innocence before they had a chance to live through it.
Lillian swung on the porch swing, her tanned legs hanging out of a shift dress. The healed scars of scabbed knees peeked out just under the hem, odes to long-ago summers running in the red dirt and scraping limbs on unpaved roads. The shift was white and sweat-stained at the armpits, the top four buttons undone in teenage carelessness showing just the whisper of round breast. The day was sultry the way it always was in Alabama Augusts. This weather left Lillian’s red waves flying off of her head like a million spiders legs and she had stopped trying to keep it at bay.
It sits on the edge of the rotary that brings you to the ocean. As you pass from dirty city, turn the bend and catch the endless sea and sun you see it, the harbinger of summer belly aches and clam shack hangovers. You’re just past the dump, the used car lots, the warehouse-blue-collar jobs. You’re approaching the long white beach, the one that isn’t covered in the seaweed that stinks up the oceanfront. If you keep driving you take the causeway into the small town on the point, houses covering the peninsula and sitting on the edge of the world. But you don’t keep driving, you stop and pull into the jagged and gravelly lot. It’s empty, save for a lone pickup truck in the far corner.
When I get discouraged it is always incredible to see how many words I have written in the last five years. Many of these stories are finished and polished, many are mere beginnings. But all of them started with a pulse, a seed that wouldn’t stop growing. I figure as long as I keep planting I am in pretty good shape.