A Little Fiction: All Fall Down

Shelly and Hank had planned this camping trip as an attempt at getting back together. It wasn’t working. He was late picking her up, the drive took five hours instead of their usual three, and when they finally found a space to camp, they argued over where to set up the tent.

She dropped the side of the tent she was holding and walked away. “All right, fine. You deal with it.” She headed for the river bluff. She thought Hank would come after her, but he didn’t.

riverview
the Mississippi / Gerry Wilson

The bluff dropped steeply away to the river, maybe thirty, forty feet. Willows clung to the banks and leaned out into the sky like filmy, green parachutes. Shelly walked as near the edge as she dared and considered climbing down. She had always wanted to do it; why not now?

She looked for a place that wasn’t a sheer drop, where there was brush, or outcroppings of stone. She eased over the edge and grabbed a sapling, then another, her breath coming hard, thought I can do this, until a branch bent and snapped, rocks skittered and fell, and she slipped, clutching at mud and stone and brush. She slid all the way down, landed on the narrow bank, rolled towards the rushing water, clawed at the mud to drag herself back. She lay still and assessed what hurt: her head, her right shoulder, her right ankle.

She sat up. The knees of her jeans were torn and stained with blood, her hands scraped and bloody, too, and caked with mud. She unlaced her hiking shoe and took off her sock. The throbbing ankle was already swelling and turning blue. Jesus. She pulled the sock back on and forced her foot back into the shoe. Pain jolted from her ankle to her thigh.

“Hello?” she yelled. “Hank? Anybody?”

Nearly five o’clock. The bluff cast deep shadows on her and on the river. Maybe  twenty yards away, a sandbar extended out into the water. She’d be more visible from there. She tried to stand, but she couldn’t bear weight on the ankle. She crawled far enough out onto the sandbar to see the top of the bluff. She called out again, “Hello? Hello! Down here! Help me!” But the day picnickers and hikers would have gone home by now. The overnight campers, like Hank, would be settling in. On the river, no vessels—an old-fashioned word her father, a retired Navy man, would have used—this time of day, no kayaks or canoes, no pleasure boats.

The sky was a clear, deepening blue. The wind out on the sandbar went suddenly chilly. The rising moon had a corona of light. That was supposed to mean something: a sign of rain? Bad luck?

Shelly washed her stinging hands and splashed her face with the cold river water. She struggled to her feet and tried her weight again on the throbbing ankle. She had to get off the sandbar. She hobbled the length of it before she dropped to her knees and crawled back to the shelter of the bluff.

No way she could climb. She’d be fine right there, a little banged up and wet. Hank would come looking for her. All she had to do was wait.

###

This piece of flash fiction is headed over to Yeah Write, where writing events abound. Writer friends, be sure to check them out!

Dear Dream . . .

From “Blogging 101,” Day Four’s assignment:

Publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element* in it.

So that audience would be . . . my dream agent, who may at this very moment be checking out my website to see who this new voice is—the one whose manuscript she requested three months ago, and she hasn’t had time to read it yet, but she just pulled it from the slush pile yesterday afternoon, and she stayed up all night reading and finished it at four this morning, and then she couldn’t get to sleep, couldn’t wait to pick up the phone–what time will Gerry be awake, Central Time? Is 7:00 too early to call?–and give me the news I’ve been waiting breathlessly for:

Yes, she loves my historical novel! Yes, she wants to represent me! Yes, she already has an editor in mind who’ll love the book as much as she does and will be fabulous to work with! Yes, she anticipates a six-figure advance.

Isn’t that everybody’s dream?

Just in case you’re cruising blogs right now, Dream Agent of Mine, this is for you:

About the book

processblogphoto2
Process / G. Wilson

Dear _____________:

Spirit Lamp, a literary historical novel set in the harsh landscape of rural Mississippi around the time of World War I, is the story of Leona Pinson, a sixteen-year-old white girl who gives birth to an illegitimate son. A feisty girl, Leona refuses to name the child’s father and lives with her shame. An elderly black sharecropper, Luther Biggs, is Leona’s only ally against her troubled brother, Raymond. As Luther’s strength fails and Raymond’s cruelty escalates, the survival of Leona and her son depends on her courage and cunning. When the child’s father, Walker Broom, returns after the war, the deception that has kept Leona and Walker apart unravels. Ultimately, Leona faces her brother alone, a confrontation that leads to his death and freedom for Leona and Luther.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

In the early, dark hours of the morning, Leona Pinson’s aunt perched like a doll in the straight chair near Leona’s bed, her short legs dangling. Sometime yesterday, Aunt Sally Pinson had put the sharpest knife they owned under Leona’s bedstead.

“To cut the pain,” she’d said. “An ax blade would do better.”

That knife was not helping Leona much.

When she cried out, her aunt slid down off the chair and went to the bureau where the basin was. She used a milking stool as a step, wrung out a cloth with her stubby fingers, came back to the bed, and hoisted herself up. She started to bathe Leona’s face, but Leona covered her eyes with her hands and turned away. She didn’t want to see Sally’s large head and jutting chin, her bulging eyes, her stunted arms and legs. What if her own baby were born like that as a punishment?

About the author

Image 7
At Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS

A seventh-generation Mississippian, I was born in the hill country I write about in Spirit Lamp. The place and the characters ring true for me. I grew up in the household with my maternal grandmother, a terrific storyteller whose tale of her father’s murder figures in the novel.

I sometimes call myself a late-blooming author. I raised my kids as a single mom, taught English and writing to high school students for more than twenty years, wrote late at night in little scraps of time I could steal. I retired to do what I’d always wanted to do–write fiction.

Now I have a collection of short stories to show for it–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and last year, I was a Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellow. I’ve published stories in some good places. “Mating,” a short story, won the Prime Number/Press 53 Short Story Award in 2014. I’m working on another book, a contemporary novel this time, that nags and niggles away at me, keeping me awake nights, with a main character who will not let me go.

I write because I love to do it. Well, that’s not quite true: sometimes I hate it, but I can’t not do it. Maybe I should be satisfied with writing good short stories, keeping up this blog, taking a great workshop now and then, publishing some.

But you know, I want the dream.

So Dream Agent, if you’re out there–and I know you are–how about giving me that call? I’m here. I’ll answer. I’ll work hard. I’ll give you the best book I possibly can.

Sincerely,

Gerry Wilson

phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

*The “new elements” are the epistolary style and, well, a little humor!

Challenge: Are you searching for an agent? Do you have any tips you would like to share here?

 

 

It’s Official!

The contract is signed! The short story collection has a new title–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and a publication date: November 1!

Champagne flutes with strawberries Courtesy of m. bartosch www.freedigitalphotos.net
Champagne flutes with strawberries
Courtesy of m. bartosch
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

So the whirlwind begins. I’ll be working with Kevin Watson, the fabulous editor at Press 53. I’ll  be acquiring blurbs, proofreading, helping to decide on cover art and layout design, and  fighting off bouts of anxiety (will the book sell three copies, or maybe thirty? Will anybody actually read it?)

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to go the traditional publishing route, which leads to lots and lots of submissions, re-writes, long waits, rejections, more re-writes, and more submissions and rejections. But this round (I entered the collection in Press 53’s short fiction contest where it was a runner-up), something clicked. Kevin, God bless him, gets these stories. I’m so proud to be part of the Press 53 family of authors.

So let’s raise a glass, friends and fellow writers, in celebration of this one small thing. A book. Of stories. And I’m going to be able to hold it in my hands.

Did somebody say launch party? I certainly hope so. Complete with bubbly. Come on down to Jackson and join us in the fall. I’ll let you know when!