Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Occasional Beasts: Tales, Story Notes #2: "The Wounded Table."

Story ideas come out of everywhere, including out of the blue. As mentioned in my previous blog post, “The Glove” was triggered by spotting a single glove in a field in Italy. “The Wounded Table” started in a completely different manner. It was an unexpected gift from the writing gods, who sent me one paragraph, an image, a voice, everything there…and it was up to me to find the story that went with it.

Let me see if I still have that original paragraph on file, hang on [goes to documents, not there; plugs in thumb drive and…]
The paragraph in question? Nothing special, but within my writer’s brain, it insisted I save it, put it in a file. When I read it in my head, the voice is so clear. Here it is. Raw, sure, but one has to start somewhere. 

“You’re like a stain on a heavy oak dining table.  Just gotta rub it out, use a little elbow grease.  If’n that don’t work, you use your fingernails, pick off the top layer, dig inside, where it’s still pure.  Where your presence hasn’t corrupted it yet.”

The character who says a variation of this, the mother of our narrator’s missing best friend, is not as sunk into the words, but that table…that table…

I had to know that table.

That’s when our narrator’s voice came to me. A young girl, Kimmie, who lives in a never named town in the south.  This was done purposefully. Just as details of the characters are never fully described--the mother gets some, but not Kimmie and Jolene; ah, peripheral characters get some, but our two main characters, I kept it lean. Just thinking that now, what an odd decision. I liked the ambiguity, the vague impressions left to be shaped by the reader. Leaving it open to interpretation seemed the natural path for this one.  

Kimmie's friend and forbidden love interest, Jolene, has missed school for some time. Kimmie finally decides to head across town to where she lives, to see how she is.

A simple tale. I tale of love. A tale of those who get by in circumstances steeped in poverty, or those who get swallowed up by drugs or within the ravenous maw of hopelessness. Choices made by the latter play key to what transpires in this tale. 

It's also a tale that hints at voodoo or some voodoo-related (it’s magic, yes, it’s magic) transformation that takes place in an already surreal apartment. Actually, Jolene puts it like this, in describing her mother: 

“She’s got all this heebie-jeebie, mumbo-jumbo shit she wants to teach me.  I don’t care about that kind of thing, got no interest that way.  Creeps me out, mostly.  I tell her, ‘Not now, momma, not now,’ then end up locking myself in my bedroom, hoping she gets a clue.  Our place is weird, anyway,” Jolene would say, then pause, any words to follow boarded up inside her.  Worst thing was her eyes, though, shifting to empty, like a drained bottle poking out of a brown bag.

Did you catch that, the final sentence spoken by Jolene, tagged on as an afterthought: "Our place is weird, anyway." Which begs the question" What makes the apartment "weird"? 

Well, perhaps it's that the architecture seems almost alive...

[this is where the writer leaves you dangling, curious about how an apartment can seem alive. I wonder...]

And that table, the one above. It’s the centerpiece of something so preposterous and obscene and yet love shapes it all and shapes a finale that may shock some.

The penultimate sentence is one of my personal favorites that I’ve written. Is that bad to say? Should I not admit that out loud? Bah, whatever! I read it and smile. Perhaps you will, too.

The title came after I got the tale rolling. I could not think of what to call it when it popped into my head: Frida Kahlo has a painting called, “The Wounded Table.” I’d actually used this painting in a scene from my Bram Stoker nominated debut novel, Riding the Centipede. Though the tale has nothing to do with the piece of art, that title was perfect.

You will, of course, have to read the tale to get all the details as to why it is perfect.

Pre-order info. Go! Buy!

Occasional Beasts: Tales…Print

Occasional Beasts: Tales…Digital

Though the tale has nothing to do with Kahlo's painting, here it is in all its bizarre glory!

A few days from now, we’ll deal with Story #3, “A Declaration of Intent.” This one is rather…puzzling (you’ll see).

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