Sunday, September 14, 2008

Against the Frost

It's been a very busy end of summer. Between the dog and the new place and the full-time job, I feel like I haven't had a chance to sit down since early August. There's something to be said for being insanely busy, though. Today I took the afternoon to work on short stories, and this one I've been working on makes me feel really exposed. I think it's a good thing. I've heard so much about taking chances with stories, and this one--tentatively titled "Against the Frost" is certainly taking a chance. Here's the opening:

One Sunday afternoon in mid-October, Beulah McCarroll decided that the deer were getting complacent and fetched her late husband’s rifle from the basement gun-safe. Her hand hovered over the shotgun and its ample supply of buckshot—including rock-salt stuffed shells Pete had carefully filled at their kitchen table, explaining that these were “strictly for pests and neighbor kids”—but she decided she wanted the impact to be clean, without the scattered pellets dotting the oak leaves in the woods behind the house.
It was the manner in which the young doe had crossed the street behind her car that revealed to Beulah the true measure of their comfort: she waited. Who had ever heard of a doe looking both ways, waiting for a car to pass before running onto the road? This was not how deer were intended to act; Beulah remembered from her youth the brakes locking on her father’s truck as the animals would trample out of the brush, headlong and singular, drawn forward by the promise of nearby water or by plain stupidity. Now, they knew better.
Beulah had been developing concern over the animals’ complacency all summer: each night, the deer ate the heads from her tulips and morning-glories, never appearing in daylight. It was as though they knew when she would be asleep and wouldn’t shoo them away.
“The damned things,” she mumbled to herself as she loaded the rifle. She had only learned how to do this a year ago, and hadn’t truly paid attention then: how was she to know she would need to shoot for herself so soon? She finished loading the gun and placed it next to her back door. She lit a small fire in the wood-stove and waited.
It was Tuesday night when a doe stopped by—it couldn’t have been the same one, but to Beulah they all looked the same without antlers—and Beulah shot her in the throat.
For decades, Beulah had assumed that when something was shot with a gun, it died, right there, like in the movies. Pete came home with stories of the kill and a buck in the bed of his truck, but he never mentioned this flailing around on the ground, the slow bleeding onto the grass. Beulah put the gun down and wished it would rust over, hoped the earth would reclaim it, anything so that she would not have to pick it up again. Night fell early, and the doe had not moved on.

The rest of the story is about this old woman trying to get this doe killed and buried before the ground frosts and is undiggable. It ends with a confrontation with a coyote. It's a different direction for me, and I'm really happy with how it's going.

In related news, I'm re-starting the application process for graduate school. After the debacle last year, I've decided I'm having everything sent to me early so that I can make sure everything is sent that needs to be sent. That way, if I don't get in anywhere, I'll know that it's all on me.

1 comment:

Loren said...

I REALLY like the beginning of this story, it's beautiful. Nice clean prose, Old Ernie would be proud. You are the shit.