Many years ago I saw the movie Waitress in the theater with some friends. When we left, one of my friends said she just couldn’t get behind the love story because it involved adultery.
“What did you think?” she asked me.
I reflected on the degree to which I was rooting for the two adulterous leads to find happily ever after. “You know, I’m fine with adultery, as long as it’s a plot point,” I replied.
My new story, Game Changer, which was just published by East Coast Literary Review,* explores some of the temptations of adultery, especially the lure of alternate paths. What happens when you’re in a committed relationship but you share a spark with someone else? What does it mean if you’re considering risking everything on a glimmer of an uncertain possibility?
The temptations of alternate paths aren’t limited to romantic partners, of course. Game Changer grows out of some experiences on sabbatical, when I thought long and hard about alternate career & life paths. On many days I fantasized about jumping ship and writing full time…even though I had no stream of steady income. I made a choice (for now) to maintain the path I’d selected years ago, one that provides stability for those depending on me and my income, and one that does its best to support my writing life.
Perhaps it all comes down to choice, even when we’re swept up in the emotional highs of new loves – romantic or otherwise. Those highs can be amazing. They can also be devastating. If we’re receptive, they can lead us to ask new questions or down new avenues of discernment. But in my experience they need to be balanced by responsibilities and cold, hard reason.
This is the intersection where my protagonist stands. I’m not sure what she chooses. All I know for certain is that this blog post is longer than the story itself (it’s a 250 flash piece). For whatever that’s worth.
*East Coast Literary Review is published quarterly; click here for ordering information.
I wrote a few days ago about encountering all the sadness in the world. My plan was to follow that post with a cheery Christmas story of mine that was recently published on MicroHorror. Then I reread the actual story (and remembered that it was published on a horror blog) and it isn’t cheery at all. It’s the opposite of cheery. It’s depressing and creepy and a little disturbing, to tell you the truth. But so’s the inside of my head. And I like living inside my head and I like this story, too.
So here it is, my flash piece, Christmas Wreath!
The story has two major influences, which is pretty impressive since it’s only a little over 500 words long. The first is a hair wreath that resides at a local historic house in my town. Creating hair wreaths from deceased family and friends was a Victorian funereal custom, a keepsake to remember those who had died. (Read more about hair wreaths and other hair customs at Victorian Gothic.) While I think this is a lovely practice in theory, coming face to face with the actual hair wreath creeped me out. (It was dark, almost Halloween, there were shadows, creaky floorboards…and then my face was pressed against the glass of the hair wreath. Creepy.)
I can’t explain the depth of my discomfort except to say that I appear to have hair issues. I first saw the hair wreath years ago and it’s stuck with me, so I stuck it in a story.
If you’ve ever read Woody Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein, you might recognize another influence in the story that grows out of the tragic events that ended Woody’s sister Clara’s life. I read the book after a friend recommended it and because Bruce Springsteen talks about it on his Live: 1975-1985 album. And I will do just about anything on account of Bruce.
It’s back! I was walking in the place where I usually walk the other day, rejoicing in the fact that I could still walk outside after the massive snowstorm tracked to the north. (The fact that the windchills are subzero was not stopping me, no way. I’m tough like that.) I rounded the bend and came upon the small tree and discovered that it had indeed been decorated for the year.
If you remember, tree decorations pop up in the place where I walk every year, usually around this time. The tree captivates me. For years I thought it was a sweet gesture done by students, a way of spreading holiday cheer in every corner of campus. Then I wondered if it had another meaning, created by someone who has lived here past several generations of students. Maybe it’s a tribute to loss: a lost friend, a lost child, a lost identity or idea.
These reasons say much more about me than anything, pointing to my own losses and the way I have made the tree a symbol of my own. But the tree means something to someone, a symbol of something. Maybe it’s simply a nice tradition a few employees do every year, but that still makes it symbolic. There’s something sacred about the not knowing. It’s a sacredness I encounter every time I walk around the bend and see the tinsel swaying in the cold wind.
Last year the tree sparked my creativity and the story I wrote about it (full of ritual and loss) became my first published story. Read the story here at Foliate Oak. And if you read that much, you might as well also read an earlier post I wrote about the tree, too.