Mundania: Writing and Corsets and Stuff

Recently I dressed up for an event. While I was there, a woman struck up a conversation with me; she mentioned her daughter who needed to gain weight. I said that underweight as as bad as overweight. As for myself, I hadn’t had a waist since 2001 but tried not to let it fret me much. She glanced over me and said kindly, “You look great.”

What I said: “Thank you!”

What I didn’t say: “I’m wearing a corset.”

*
Snowfall three weeks ago; this is the birdfeeder standing in the middle of our yard:

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Yesterday, same birdfeeder. I’m titling these pictures, “That was a heck of a lot of snow. Don’t hurry back.”

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*
I’m working on short stories.

I thought I didn’t like short stories. When I thought more carefully, though, I realized that I’ve read a lot of them. When I was young, I loved Sherlock Holmes, O. Henry, some punchy Dorothy Parkers, and a couple of collections of old magazine stories my mom had.

My mistake was that, as a young adult, I tried a few collections of literary short stories. There’s a difference. Allow me to demonstrate:

Normal Story: Patrick and Haley are young and in love. They’ve planned a trip to Europe with a tour group. Although neither mentions it, they’re both expecting to come back engaged. Although neither mentions is, they’re not exactly sure they want to.

But they hit trouble almost immediately. Their luggage gets lost and it’s almost midnight before they get to their hotel. Haley has a change of clothes and a toothbrush in her purse so she figures she’s good. Doesn’t Patrick want to see Europe by moonlight?

Patrick wants sleep. He wants his luggage. He wants to see Europe by daylight so he can take pictures. So he goes to bed, and Haley goes off on a midnight tour and falls in with a mysterious European named Fernando.

Patrick wakes up sick with nothing to do but sit in the hotel lobby and play chess against himself. He’s joined by Lalita, an Indian woman who seems to belong at the hotel although he can’t decide how she fits in. She knows how to play chess.

And the setup is obvious, but the fun is in how it all plays out. Will they go home engaged… to other people?

Literary Short Story: Patrick and Haley are young, but old at heart, and maybe in love but they’ve got issues. They’re on their way to Europe, where they both wonder if their relationship will go forward, or if they’ll just go through the motions and end up together simply because they don’t know how to choose differently.

All of this will be told in one dense section of narrative.

“There’s some dialogue.”

“Like this?”

“Yes.”

“What does it mean?”

“Do you want another drink?”

“Yes.” There will be some kind of nervous movement, usually with a napkin or cigarette.

They lose their luggage, which Haley compares vaguely to her childhood. She wants to see Europe by moonlight, mostly because the darkness hides the ugliness but highlights old stone in silver like it’s trying. Patrick wants to stay at the hotel, where he’s mesmerized by a old chess board that’s three moves away from checkmate.

Haley joins up with Fernando, and they eat pastries together; the pastries are crumbly. Patrick is joined by Lalita, who seems to be lying about everything, but insightfully remarks that Patrick doesn’t know whether to play the black or the white.

Haley wakes up the next morning in her hotel room, alone. Patrick has fallen asleep in his chair.

The end.

*
DJ had a stressful week at work. Once home, he avoided the urge to climb under the covers and disappear by cleaning stuff.

Actually, it was more like Cleaning Stuff.

CLEANING STUFF might actually suit the  situation.

I came home from town to find that he’d cleaned out the coat/game closet… behind his lamptable… the desk in our room… bookshelves… thrown stuff out… thrown more stuff out… I had to retrieve a child from the recycling… Not really. But I did save a leather zip-up binder. I smuggled it down the hallway and hid it on top of my bookcase.

*

Here’s a rumpled February selfie of Ranger and me. You’re welcome.
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5 thoughts on “Mundania: Writing and Corsets and Stuff

  1. Literary short stories…ugh…those are why I stopped even thinking about entering writing contests–because all the winners were that. And it’s terrible. I don’t want to read that, much less write it.

    • Yes! There are elements I really like in my example. The chessboard three moves away from checkmate especially. But you know that in an actual story like this, you’d never really get the satisfaction it suggests.

  2. Read a lot of Borges (short stories and sketches) recently. I enjoyed them. Some good twist endings. Not overly “literary.”

  3. There are good short stories out there – even modern, serious ones. You just have to know where to look. And, not all of them are about “meet-cute,” I’m afraid. Ones I’ve read in the last several years that stand out are those by Yiyun Li (about the communist period in China), Alice Munro (because she’s just good), and Sarah Orne Jewett (likewise).

  4. I don’t require my stories to be cute (although my example was). I do require some reward for investing myself in the characters and their world. I read way too many that left me stranded without any way to get to a point.

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