This past week I wrote a draft of a new adult short story. (I say short even though it’s 7000 words, which in these days of flash fiction and short shorts is practically a novella.) The story came together pretty quickly, which makes me suspicious about how good it can actually be. It’s now resting in The Purgatory Drawer, where all my work has to spend time before I pull it back out and let my fresh eyes render judgement.
Though in the last two years the scale has tipped heavily toward writing for kids, I’ve always written for both young and old(er) readers. When I started out, around the time lung fish crawled out of the sea, I was lucky enough to get published in both Redbook and Highlights for Children, the cream of their respective crops, and I’ve remained a schizoid. This world brims with stories. Some belong to children, some to adults, some (the best) to both. Some stories are all language-y while others want to cut to the chase. Some need to go places kids aren’t, in my opinion, yet ready to follow, and some stories need to throw their hands in the air and stomp out the everlasting Dance of Joy. I once read something along the lines of, the main thing kids need to learn is how to let go, while for adults it’s all about having the grace and strength to hold on.
(Which reminds me of a joke I heard at a dinner party last weekend. A woman who lives on the 15th floor of a 30 story apartment building looks out her window and sees a man plummeting past. She cries out, “Are you all right?” and he yells back, “So far!)
The story I just wrote (and I’m not being coy or secretive here: it has no title yet, since I stink at titles, and only apply them at the last minute under extreme pressure) tried very hard to be a sad one. I mean, there’s a messy divorce, and a dog on dialysis, not to mention a dead mother (see why I needed 7000 words?) And yet, somehow, in the last two pages, it had a change of heart. Whether this works or not remains to be seen, of course. But I will share the last paragraph here:
The dog barked. The sun poured down. Lawrence held onto my hand. In the spring light, my second-hand princess dress sparkled, and Lily’s twin cowlicks shone like straw spun into gold.