Before I wrote "No Greater Love Than This", I had been working on another short story.
I used the work in progress as my writing sample when I submitted my proposal to Fierce Ink Press.
I didn't realize at the time that I was telling my own story. That Riley, my main character, is my Nick Adams, or even Kilgore Trout. She's my alter ego, in some ways, or an avatar that had allowed me to express emotions I'd experienced, if not actual events.
But then I wrote "No Greater Love Than This", using real events, and my own real name, so what to do with Riley now?
Something new, I guess. Something outside my own experiences, my own emotions. Something fresh.
So that's my next project. A shorty story I hope to complete within the next few months. I'll be looking for publishers, so let me know if this sounds compelling to you and if you might be able to help out.
Below you'll find the first pages of this new story. Let me know what you think!
If you haven't purchased "No Greater Love Than This" yet, you can do so here:
The storm's wind had pushed the barbeque a foot or so from the wet, slatted patio wall. The rain had filled the heavy glass ashtray until it had spilled over the side. It had dripped the grayish water down onto the rusting metal bistro table.
Down onto the pine two-by-four floor.
Down onto the neighbors’ patio.
Down onto the ground and grass.
Water had come in through the slightly open window in the living room. The wind had blown it against the screen until it made its way down onto the windowsill.
Down against the wall.
Down onto the old wooden chest on the floor, painted green a year ago. It had been a child’s coffin, once. But never used. The coffin was a gift from a family friend who was a woodworker. The order for the coffin had been canceled.
Riley slept on the couch in the living room with the coffin. Her feet were tucked under the corner of a heavy wool blanket, but the rest of the blanket draped off of the brown leather couch into a pile on the dusty hardwood floor.
She enjoyed the sound of the rain against the window, against the roof and walls. It helped her sleep, and reminded her of camping with her mother and father when she was eight or nine. They camped every year on Prince Edward Island, in an old canvas tent that would leak if you touched the sides.
So she slept deeply, now, as the water seeped in, more and more.
And it rained in her dream. She was walking toward her office, early in the morning. Too early, too dark. Her auburn hair was getting much too wet. But there was nothing to do about it. She had forgotten her umbrella. Forgotten her coat. But her feet were warm, and dry.
The coffee shop she usually stopped into wasn’t there anymore, in her dream. It had never been very good. They served coffee out of those giant thermoses, some off-brand generic roast, poured half-heartedly into a white styrofoam cup. But it was on the way.
Now, though, it was replaced with something else she couldn’t see, and didn’t want to. A part of her, something deep, and hurting.
She tried to walk away, but every step brought her closer. She tried to run, but her feet wouldn’t hold the ground. She bent over, tried to pry at the sidewalk with her fingers, to propel her forward but she only went back. Back and back. Toward something like a shard she couldn’t see but feel.
She felt something pierce her back, carve slowly through her skin. She felt it slide through muscle, wedging in between her vertebrae, and sending pain to every corner of her body. The shiv moved so slowly and so deep she could almost hear it.
She listened to herself die.
And then she fell. Down to the ground. Down past the sidewalk and through it. Down into the earth.
Down and down.
She fell until her she was traveling upward again through the earth. Toward the sky, toward heaven.
Up and up.
And then she woke.
The boards in the couch were uneven, and the padding had given in long ago. She felt the pressure from its structure against her back, felt the pain of seizing muscles through her body.
She kicked the blanket off of her feet and sat up slowly. She tried not to move her back too much. She tried not to open her eyes wider than needed. She tried not to hear the rain coming in through the window. She tried to wish it away.
She stood slowly, looked at the window, looked at the wall, looked at the coffin. The lights were on, had been on all night.
She closed the window and wiped some of the water away with her hand, down onto the floor. If she’d been wearing socks, she would have tried to wipe up the water with her feet. But now she looked down on chipped pink toenail polish, standing in a puddle.
She left small, delicate footprints behind her on her way to the kitchen and the paper towel. Her father would have been so upset if he’d seen it. He hated footprints — no bare feet allowed on the hardwood — he hated fingerprints around the light switches, smudges on the mirrors, water left in the sink.
Everything had to be perfect. Cleanliness is next to… well, you know.
But now Riley could do what she wanted. She could leave footprints, she could wipe messes up with her socks, she could have sex and drink and smoke and live her life and hate it on her own terms.