So, I’m writing, or attempting to write, a short story for an anthology called Beyond the Veil. I made a good story start in July, in a notebook, writing in a world I’d written before. But the content was sad in a way that was extra sad after the year we’ve had, and I didn’t feel like returning to it.
Then I started another story, a vignette-y, Queens-y, New York-y story that had some EXCELLENT SENTENCES, full of, you know, “Muscular Velocity” (which remains my favorite thing anyone has ever said about my writing, Amal, thank you very much), but it wasn’t coalescing into a story, even though Hernandez assured me, “There are many rooms in the House of Fiction,” and I believed him, really I did, but I was unhappy, and then I was stymied.
Then I sat down today, and looked through a bunch of old files, old drafts, half-finished stories, or finished drafts of things that were never good enough that I’ve forgotten about, and I found “The Loveliest.” That was the working title at least, and it caught my eye, because I remember writing a poem called “The Loveliest” in my late teens, and I remember that the poem had been based on a vivid dream I had.
Indeed, upon opening the file and reading, I realized that this was a story based on that same poem/dream, and I must have written it toward the end of my time living with my mother in Rhode Island–before my roommates moved in, before Carlos, before I moved out, and moved here, to New York. So circa 2013, 2014-ish.
It’s a full draft, but a young one, but it definitely falls under “fairy encounter,” and definitely of the “unusual” variety. Good enough for an anthology, with a bit of elbow grease and a lot of re-thinking.
I’ve decided, for example, that the protagonist is a ghost–or rather, becomes a ghost pretty quickly in the natural course of things. Tragic accident with a swan boat, that sort of thing. You understand.
And so, the story, whatever I end up calling it, deals with three characters: one dead, one river-dweller stone-speaking not-human-at-all person, and the living mother whom the dead woman has left behind. The intersection of three worlds, lines of communication running between them, how we can learn to love in the language of water and stone, and where a pair of red shoes can bring us . . . it’s all very pleasing to me.
I got fussy after six hours of writing and I was only halfway through, but then I took a walk (without my phone!) and became enthusiastic again. A good lesson for me!
I don’t think much of the old draft. Like many of my first person narrations that try to be hip and contemporary and this-worldish and relevant but also With Really Cool Neil Gaiman/Kelly Link-like Weirdness (™), it all ends up reading as shallow and snarky to me, more like a cheap knockoff of every urban fantasy protagonist ever than like a slightly deeper, passionately admiring knockoff of our Literary Greats. I’ve always just been more interested in my own first person POVs when I have them gamboling around a secondary world. (Maurice.) But I realize I must stretch myself.
Anyway, I like writing a Rhode Island story, especially now that I am gone. It’s a kind of love letter to a place I’ve given up–and not without sorrow and a troubled heart. I know I can still go back to visit, and I do, but it’s not the same. And that’s as fair a definition of “haunting” as any, I suppose.