Friday, March 7, 2014

*That* Story Published! and Another Story Free of Charge

Last weekend, the winter/spring issue of The Rampallian was published. My story "Little Bitch" is the final piece in the magazine. You can read it here, through a pay wall of $3 for the digital version. (Half of the proceeds for this issue go to a reading charity, so even if you don't want to read it, why not pitch in?) Honestly, I'm kind of glad that there's a pay wall, because this is that story, one with a very unpleasant topic and language with which I was very pleased.

Two weeks ago I read a book for my experimental fiction class, Anna Kavan's Ice, that I couldn't but think was sexist, despite the gender of its author. The main female character is dreadful: passive, childlike, fragile physically and emotionally, somewhat character-free aside from her unusual appearance, etc. In class Wednesday night, the professor mentioned that in a way, creating this character is a "violently feminist" act, because the author is skewering men's perceptions of women. I felt a little chagrined at my prior opinion of the book, because this exact dynamic is what I was up to in "Little Bitch." I imagine a lot of people will read it the way I read Ice, which is something I accepted when I finished the story, but I also imagine people will look at my gendered name and wonder if I'm doing something else. I am. Or so I hope.

Earlier in the week I worked some more on the journalist story and set it aside to ferment. My most recent impression is that it came out reasonably well, if not as well as I'd hoped. It's a little longer, over 6K, and I hope it doesn't creep up to 7K after the next round of revisions. I'm tired of writing stories too long to sell.

Just for fun, here's a few hundred words I wrote as an exercise for the aforementioned class. I don't plan to do anything else with this, but I thought it wasn't terrible, so here 'tis.

They trudged forward, Lopa and Shuggar. Lopa, atop Shuggar’s massive bulk, hunched close to his warm head. Her body swayed as the big animal moved at a slow ramble. Stepsway, stepsway, stepsway. Snow was spitting against her face. Nothing kept out the wind’s howl and its cruel fingers, no amount of squinting and no mask.

Just another half-mile, she thought, tried to say with her mind to Shuggar. Lopa’s connection to the animal might have been her own imagination, but it gave her comfort on long, cold rides like this one. Imagining that he loved her as she loved him, and they were in this thing together.

Meanwhile, Arthur Compton hunched over his steering wheel, weak heat coursing through the car’s vents. Snow was spitting against his windshield. His headlights made a white blur some distance ahead. To either side, white flakes whizzed against the darkness like fragments of yes against no.

Brenda had asked him to pick up two avocados to go on top of the salad on his way home. “I’d rather get home before the storm gets worse,” was on the tip of his tongue, but Brenda seemed hassled enough, her voice serrated, so he yes-deared and detoured to the Safeway. The green-black globes sat in the passenger seat, the plastic bag containing them shivering audibly with the car’s vibration.

Lopa tightened her grip on the reins and tried to nestle even further into Shuggar’s back. Her mother always chastised Lopa for her terrible stink after a ride, but Lopa loved Shuggar’s dry, fertile smell. She squinted harder; the blizzard was getting worse. Her clan would have to roll in the boulder soon, to keep out the shriek of Nybtee, the wind-spirit, during the long night. Lopa would surely freeze unless she arrived in time. Come on, she urged Shuggar. Just a quarter-mile more.

Just a quarter-mile more, thought Arthur, passing the landmark of the Ryersons’ burned-out trailer. That had been a night to remember. Brenda, seeming to know, roused him around two to see the orange glow outside the bedroom window. Natalie woke up, too, and he’d held her up against his shoulder – so much tinier then, his daughter had been! – while they stood on the lawn and watched the trailer burn. The car crawled through the whiteblack night, bumping over chunks of dislodged snow in the road.

Finally, Lopa caught sight of the cave, a leaping orange glow welcoming her in the whiteblack night. She buried her face in Shuggar’s hairy neck one last time and then slid down, the thick powder a shock against her rag-clad feet. She began struggling at a slow trot through the snow. Just as the rock-movers took their nightly places, she reached the cave, crying “Father, Father!”

“Daddy!” The gladdest sound Arthur knew. He dropped the avocados on the counter and knelt to gather Natalie up in his arms. “Daddy, I was playing the funnest game. It’s Ice Age Journeys. You ride on the back of this big mammoth to go hunt. But you have to get home before a certain time, or...” The ten-year-old drew her finger across her throat. “Crkckck.”

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