• A Short Story . . .

    Date: 2010.08.07 | Category: The Art of Writing | Tags:

    A Short Story, Writing About My One Week Summer Vacation


    Counting down, two more days of a one week vacation.  I had a to do list.  One constructed from a mental can’t do list.  Can’t go to Las Vegas to see the only friend I’ve known since grade school.  Annie’s mother, now in her late 80’s, remembers in vivid details who we were as young girls.  Can’t go to Chicago, too many people to see and places to enjoy, too long a drive.  Can’t do anything that calls for an outlay of money.  But just to have a week to myself is a blessing and I wanted to use every second to do something.  Call it crazy, but as the saying goes, a girl just wants to have fun.


    So many possibilities.  Not everything is expensive.  Not everything is relaxing either.  I was already wound like a top with expectations, with hope. But faith isn’t always about getting what you want.  The Secret says ask for money and you will get it.  Doesn’t always work, especially at a casino.   Imagine money in the mail.  Funny.  Instead I imagined I had money that I didn’t, enough to carry me through one week of simple pleasures. 


    I made a list.  The Franconia Sculpture Park (http://franconia.org/blog/).  How many times had I seen from the road, giant sculptures that drew me to them?  I thought it was someone’s backyard art studio.  I wanted to witness the iron pour that was going to take place on Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight.  I wanted to visit the Minneapolis Public Library.  I wanted to spend time with my grandson, Ethan.  I wanted to be by water. I wanted to go to a county fair. I wanted to go for a motorcycle ride.  I wanted to paint my office, the only room that hadn’t yet been painted, though I had been in my condo for a year.  The most important room.  My writing room.


    Things didn’t start out well.  I didn’t want to fly solo.  Who could I count on to play with me.  I felt like that little girl who hid inside the doorway at her grade school instead of joining the other kids at recess, afraid no one would play with me.  I felt like that gangly teenage girl who went to dances, but clung to the wall afraid no one would ask me to dance, even more afraid someone would ask me.  I felt like that adult woman who knew many people, but didn’t have a best friend.  Friday, 4 p.m., the beginning of a vacation I had looked forward to for months, I was alone, nothing to do and no one to do it with.  I obsessed about what I would do for the next seven days.  What will I have I tell my colleagues back at work when they ask, “what did you do on your summer vacation”—that essay we were always asked as children to write when we returned to school in the fall.


    Today is day six.  Saturday.  I hadn’t include writing on my list, though I did want to spend some time working on a signature workshop that would be a collaborative effort with my friend Lori, to always be prepared to teach whenever, wherever an opportunity existed.  This morning I couldn’t sleep.  6 a.m.   I want to write.  I haven’t written a blog entry in months.  I wanted to write.  If only I had seven more days I could probably write a book.  Why does it take me so long to clear my head, to make way for words, for thoughts, for story?  Why does it take so much living before I can write?  It just does.  It’s part of my process.


    After I got over the first Friday night of my vacation with sadness and tears, and a Saturday that was dreadful only because at a casino I Iost the little money I didn’t have for my vacation—when dreams don’t come true, I can always count on one sibling or another to eat “buffet” and play the slots— by Saturday afternoon, I welcomed the company of my sister, the drive, the food, the noise, and the company of strangers—after I got over Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday (another casino trip with two sisters) I hunkered down, let go of control, and mercy me, things began to happen.


    Funny how, if I pay attention, there are always signs that motivate me to write .   Signs like having breakfast with a friend, who just happened to be in town to develop a play, who told me to write—write a short story she said (even though I’ve never written one).  Signs like a Facebook video about loneliness (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs) .  Signs like a purple writing room.  Signs like opening a book, Turning Life into Fiction by Robin Hemley and opening to a page that suggests this writing exercise:


    “We’ve all been to carnivals and fairs.  Write a memory of a fair or carnival in as much detail as you can.  Now make that the setting for a short story.  But don’t base the main character on yourself.  If other memories of other carnivals flood in, be sure to include them.”


    Funny that last night I went to the Washington County Fair.  My first county fair.  I am going to try to write a short story.  A short short story.  This is madness, but it’s my madness.  What do I know about short stories?  Most have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I can do that.




    She welcomed a Friday night with something to do.  Didn’t matter that pigs, and cows, and goats, and horses would be part of the evening.  There would also be corn dogs and corn on the cob and fresh squeezed lemonade.  And there would be music.  Rock and roll music by the Rockin’ Hollywoods.  What else could a lonely woman ask for?  Except a hand to hold, and a lover to jitterbug with.  Her ex-husband would have to do, and she was thankful this was one of the occasional nights he felt like doing something.


    She only had a couple of hours to get ready, but her gray  roots were colored earlier in the week, and it didn’t take long to decide on the low cut t-shirt, tight fitting capris, and a pale blue, light-weight, hooded sweatshirt, bobby socks and tennis shoes.  She enjoyed summer because she enjoyed looking good and summer clothes were cute and sexy unlike bulky sweaters and snow boots.  Looking good made her feel alive, attractive, and desirable.  Even though her ex-husband could care less what she looked like, she dressed for him as much as she did for herself and one never knows who they will meet at a county fair.  And if she choreographed herself well, it wouldn’t matter about the love handles, she knew how to cover the midlife fat around her waist.  What waist?


    They missed the senior special at the gate by two hours, but county fairs are affordable.  Six dollars each and they were on their way.  The smell of barnyard animals and greasy food filled the air, each smell distinct if you got close enough, overall a cacophony of disgusting and appealing.  Appealing was corn on the cob, pork chops on a stick, French fries, and beer.  They shared food.  A bite of his corn dog, a bite of her corn on the cob, a sip of beer by her, a sip of beer by him.  If any of those couples who weren’t talking to each other, not looking at each other, not liking each other much, you know the ones, if they were watching the woman and her ex-husband they would be envious, thinking they knew something about this couple that the couple didn’t know about themselves.


    Although she and her ex-husband merely glanced at the animals from a distance, a peek over shoulders to see pale pink pigs racing, a glance into the barn with hundreds of black, brown, gold, white chickens, sadness at the camel being offered for rides, as well as the old, and forlorn horses walking slowly in a circle for children to ride—they were glad there were no takers—they took in every 4-H and FFA exhibit.  Enjoyed the art, inspecting drawings and paintintgs and photographs by children and seniors.  Examined cookware, received free back massages, talked to politicians.  Ate more corn dogs.  Roamed the midway, daring each other to enter the cave of horrors or ride any of the death defying rides.  They were comfortable with each other, chatted, and laughed.


    Rock and roll music was something they both loved.   The show started at 8 p.m.  They headed toward the bleachers.  Although they didn’t join the throng of dancers in front of the band, after a few songs they were off their bony butts, clapping and gyrating, each in their separate reverie of what ifs and why nots.  But she has always said jitterbug, and he always insisted on the Lindy.  She was ready to dance and party all night, he was ready to go home at 10:30. 


    Settled in bed by midnight with a book, she thought about the man who had sat across from her and her ex-husband in the bleachers.  The man who sat an arms length from the woman he was with.  They didn’t look at each other, talk to each other, they didn’t hold hands.  He was handsome.  Thick, casually styled gray hair.  Tall.  Buff.  Dressed in khaki shorts and a black short sleeve shirt. She knew this man.  Loved him for the six months they had dated without ever telling him, instead told him goodbye.  Lying in bed, her book covering her breasts, she shivered.  She felt his sadness.  And hers.



    It is 9 a.m.  Saturday.  Six days into my vacation.  I watched the fourth and fifth season of 24.  I went to Treasure Island Casino one day, Mystic Lake the next.  I have been to the beach, and the zoo, and a county fair. I had my hair colored and cut.  I spent three days with my grandson, Ethan and his dad, my son, and his wife.  I made sloppy joes and tater tots. I made string bean stir fry.  I met a friend for breakfast, we went to a bookstore, I bought a book (Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi) and have read half of it.  My writing room is painted purple.  This afternoon I am going to a poetry reading, the first reading I’ve been to in over a year.  I have written my first short story/my first blog entry in months.  But, I have yet to go on a motorcycle ride, or at least  have a cup of coffee with a certain someone, who happens to own a motorcycle. 


    I received a royalty check in the mail.  It wasn’t much, but this time it wasn’t in the red.


    As always, this blog entry is “come as you are”— no rewrites, no revisions, no apologies for words misused, mix up of tenses, typos, or what could have been.  I’ve written something and that, for now, is enough.


    As always,


    August 7, 2010