My story “Dinosaurs Divorce”, an excerpt from one of my novels-in-progress, won an honorable mention in the 2007 Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction from The Writing Site, an online resource for fiction writers, and is now posted on their website. (For reasons that are not evident in this early chapter, this post is not actually a departure from our “Pride Month” theme…) Here’s the opener:
We were gypsies, we were grifters, we were untenured faculty. After I was born, my mother left her beloved Manhattan and we embarked on the wandering life of an adjunct poetry professor, which as you might expect is about as lucrative as it was in Chaucer’s day, adjusted for inflation. “And where are you from, Prudence?” Mrs. Litwin or Barone or Vasquez would chirp as I stood up before yet another elementary-school class, and I’d proudly recite, “New York and Cleveland and Durham and Lackawanna and…” I must have sounded like a train conductor.
I probably didn’t appreciate how little money Ada had. I thought we were traveling light because it was the cool thing to do. Freebird! Even her weird side jobs, I chalked up to research. Weren’t writers always supposed to be gathering life experience? (That excuse didn’t work too well when Freddy Herkimer and I cut fourth-grade math to sneak into the junior high sex-education class, however.) The most normal job my mother had was being a bank teller. She told me her hero T.S. Eliot had also worked in a bank. I was about seven then, so we must have been in North Carolina, and at first I thought she was talking about Eliot our pet parrot. He must have had an interesting life for a bird, but how could he process the deposit slips without any fingers? Ada thought this was really funny and told all the girls at the bank, which annoyed me, and annoyed her even more when they didn’t know who T.S. Eliot was. The next year we moved to Buffalo and she signed up to sell bootleg T-shirts at Goo Goo Dolls concerts.
When winter put an end to the concert season, Ada somehow managed to get a job in the university chem lab, although she knew nothing about science. The professor was this old Southern guy who was always licking his lips and smoothing his hair back. I think he liked her legs. I grew to associate the smells of acetone and lab gloves with my mother’s goodnight kiss and the stories she told me at bedtime.
Read the whole story here.
“The joys of parents are secret, and so their griefs and fears”. (Francis Bacon). Fine story, and great lead-in to the characters. Looking forward to the novel.
Great quote – perhaps I’ll use it in the book! It seems we are so often angry at our parents either because they did not show us enough of their emotions (didn’t show us love, didn’t model how to cope with weakness) or because they unloaded too much on us. A difficult balance to strike.
Thanks for the encouragement about the novel!
You have a gift for creating believable characters, with deep back stories and convincing voices. I’m looking forward to getting and reading both of these novels. Take your time and do it right and hurry up and finish, will ya?
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