A Short Story

I somewhat regret having promised this write … I’m intimidated by the complexity and nuance of a short story. But, I wrote a Fairy Tale for Prokofiev and the other major work grounding this recital is Aaron Copland’s Sonata, whose work I need a similar connection to in order to feel artistically satisfied. An American short story for an American composer it is then. The Sonata is three movements. The first is profound—spare but large in scope like Fanfare for the Common Man with Hoedown thrown in, the second is slow, meandering and somber while the third I refer to as “morning chores” complete with chickens and donkeys (all farm girls know if you have chickens, you need donkeys to scare the coyotes away).

Truthfully, writing is a revelatory process for me. I may sit down to these keys with an idea in my mind, but it inevitably takes its own path the moment I begin to type. My mind has a mind of its own. Let’s see what’s in here …

Suspended in mid-air, the sun lazily hung rather than sinking into the horizon. It was yet another souvenir of the unavoidable revelation earlier that morning, demanding every aspect be viewed in the light of day, refusing to allow her even the smallest retreat in the evening dusk. Each footfall into gravelly dust on the side of the road brought her closer to an inevitable conclusion—the great “I told you so” of humanity rising from the dust clouds as the occasional car sped past. She’d chosen the dusty back roads, hoping to avoid anyone familiar, though the stringy haired, dirty woman bore no resemblance to the fair-haired college-bound coed speeding out of town in a convertible of twenty-five years ago. She was never coming back. The memory made her chuckle and cough, choking on the dust.

Hoxie Kansas was a place you escaped, not ran to. With the last breath of her youth, she’d decided to walk the final 25 miles from the bus stop as a form of resistance. For so many years, Hoxie was just a haze on the periphery of her mind, but the smell of surrounding dairies brought clear flashes of early morning chores, dates to the drugstore ice cream counter and stifling platitudes doled out as pleasantries keeping “everything happens for a reason” center stage in the minds of citizens. At the time, “money can’t buy happiness” seemed like ravings from lunatics who spent too much time around cows, but as she walked, those words blistered on her raw, burned skin.

She’d seen money, lived in its enticing grip of new places to visit and clothes to wear packaged up in society rules, gossip and backstabbing. Had Bea really stood in the corner near the window the entire time, flashing an innocent look as if she had no idea what she’d set in motion? That in less than twenty-four hours the best friend who’d practically written her dissertation for her would be ruined? And for what? Petty jealousy? But then, wasn’t it the Pastor’s wife passing her walking across the street after graduation asking about college who cautioned “remember, money can’t buy happiness”? She chased it full throttle anyway, with certainty rich people offered escape from small town pettiness, from wearying small minds and oblivious fixed attitudes. This is what she wanted—it was the dream.

In High School the dream was Brad Davies with glass blue eyes and sandy blonde hair who could flash a knowing grin as well as he could corner a truck around a windy dirt road. For her, that ended in Drama class with a humiliating kiss they were forced to perform for the class, proving no dream ever goes according to plan. A breeze blew through the tall grass with the memory of Ms. Kistler criticizing their technique. There had been more …

No. No further. The wedges she’d been wearing with the last pair of linen pants and matching blouse were cutting into her ankles. It was Hoxie, not Martha’s Vineyard, but she hadn’t been given the luxury of packing appropriately, and hadn’t she tried Martha’s Vineyard … knocking on closed doors, in tears with maids trained to turn the needy away … The grinding of rocks signaled a car slowing behind her and the voice she silently willed not to speak asked “would you like a ride?”

Sorry everyone … it is almost midnight and I’ll have to wrap this up and finish/rewrite later. I was not wrong … toughest literary challenge to date. Mulling it over, working in a plot twist …

Kimberlee DrayComment