I have been experimenting with short fiction this week, or at least scenes that tell a standalone story; I have written about everything from aliens (as part of my new serial fiction, The Observer
) to time travelers, allergies, and South Asian lovers. Check out what I've been writing (and knitting in between keyboard marathons) after the jump!
List of entries:
Thurs: I wrote more of the first installment of my serial fiction, The Observer, which is about an alien woman come to observe the people of Earth and help them to reach intergalactic maturity. You can also suggest where I should go next with the concept in the comments!
Fri: I wrote a short piece about the worst possible trip to the allergist - in light of my own allergy testing that day, which wasn't nearly so bad!
Posts for Thursday and Monday both center around The Observer
A Visit to the Allergist
It was my first time in many years to schedule an appointment with a specialist. I called three times in a row and left messages for them, but they did not respond at first. I became relentless about it, calling the office day after day in an attempt to catch someone tangible on the phone lines; it always sent me to the answering machine. After three or four days of this, I took to the internet - home for the frustrated and desperate. I found the office location, multiple office locations, and made a paper checklist on a piece of spiral notebook paper. The first office I went to was on the second floor of a building cluster of clinics, with a little white sign kindly informing me that the staff was out to lunch. I tapped my fingers on the wooden banister leading towards the stairwell and wheezed a sigh. I checked it off the list as I blew my nose.
The second office that I approached was in a confusing location in the downtown area of a suburb, wedged between an apartment building and a nail salon, and I almost didn't see it until I halted in the middle of my lane. However, the windows were dark at 3pm in the afternoon. I checked it off before I got into bed, sweating and puffing as my lung capacity settled in for the night.
The third office that I went to was finally open, though there seemed to be no nurse on duty. I waited to be called upon for twenty minutes before finally inquiring in what I believed to be a loud sturdy voice, "Can someone help me?" A nurse sauntered up from the depths of the office area and asked whether I had an appointment. When I told him "no," he handed me a stack of papers to fill out and asked me to choose an appointment date from the calendar on their chart. Another twenty minutes later, I was set to see the allergist - in three weeks time.
I had sniffled through spring, but had deluded myself into thinking I'd grown out of them. My body balked at sniffing fresh flowers and I avoided cotton trees like the plague, but I thought these were minor burdens in the grand scheme of things. So I wouldn't be able to appreciate my grandmother's fresh roses when I visited - it was a non-issue. The change occurred when I arrived at my new apartment building and began gasping for breath. It was early summer and I was moving to Seattle for an engineering job where relatively normal breathing was a requirement. And yet, I continued to protest. Even as I suffered through the night sweats, the congestion, or the colds that felt like death, I would explain that my symptoms were minor and there was no need for alarm. Then my social life appeared and visitors came to my apartment and stayed the night in my bed, only to wake up next to a wheezing mess of phlegm and chest congestion. It was time for a change.
My agony did not end with the clinic. After the requisite three weeks had passed - the last days of which I passed with no medication, as per their instruction - I dragged my aching body over to their office. I walked in on a room of average-looking people reading magazines, seemingly unflustered by their shot appointments or allergic reactions. Many of them were children, playing with the blocks and doctors office toys that had been their since the 1950s, I'm sure. They kept up a pretty good act. As for me, all my warts were showing: I coughed for minutes as I waited in a chair to be called up, sneezed as I paid my hefty co-pay, and jostled my heavy congestion-filled body back to a chair like someone nearly-dead.
Sat: Although I wrote a lot of different short pieces during the exercises at Write-o-Rama, this was my favorite piece. It came out of Sonia Lyris' class Story Seeds: Great Opening Lines.
They were cleaning up the broken dishes afterward, talking to the floorboards with their eyes. The argument to end all arguments, so the melodramatic commentator might say as the play-by-play flicked by. The nearly-instant screaming. The baby crying. The hard line of the kitchen island demarcating their separate territories. It had all hinged on several words.
"I don't want you to be a time traveler anymore."
It stressed him out, he said; it made him feel uncomfortable to think that she could pop up in any one of his earliest memories and see what he had been like.
But that was the point, she argued. They were meant to observe the past so that everything could go accordingly. So people could live their lives believing in an uninterrupted linear flow of time.
He scoffed, stomped, asked her whether she even cared about his needs. Cue: dishes breaking, cue: baby screech. And when it was all over and they were both cleaning up, they tried furiously to pretend nothing had happened.
But the damage was done.
Sun: The back of my sweater was completed today in a torrent of success! I believe that I will have to forego my pattern alterations for the front piece because I worry there will not be enough stretch around my midsection if the front comes out the same size as the back.
Mon: I finished up the rest of the serial fiction writing on this day, and was extremely glad to find that it was jelling together, both in my head and on the page.
Tues: This day was my first experience using the website TypeTrigger, which I found through a postcard advertisement at Richard Hugo House. They give new writing prompts every six hours, and this was my first submission:
TypeTrigger Prompt: Pretty Happy
It's instant, this feeling. I shudder with the vibrations of it coursing through my body and am smothered by the heat of it. My fingers press into his arm too deeply, and he stares at me with a fixity I have not seen before.
"My heart falters when you do that," Bikram says, shrugging off my touch.
I watch as he stoops to pick up another clay-covered stone and flicks it over the calm water.
"You already know."
He responds by wrenching his arm far back and heaving a stone into the water. I untie and retie my long hair in a tight ponytail, twisting it around my fingers.
"They are sending me to the United States to marry. He is the son of my father's close friend, so he is trustworthy."
I repeat all the same words that I have constructed around my own heart. After a long silence, Bikram turns to me.
"Sruthi, if you had not been born a woman, none of this would be complicated. We would be great friends and you would not ever leave me."
The vibrations, the heat.
"I was made a woman," I start, "And I will remain as I was made."
I gaze at the sun dipping low, my yellow salwaar kameez turning maroon in the light.
"This will be my last time to see this."
Without another word, Bikram puts his arms around my waist and holds me. We both watch the sun migrate down below the horizon and the sky fade to black.
Weds: I started knitting one sleeve of my sweater while watching Lars and the Real Girl. I had to expand the sleeve
a lot - from 30 stitches to 50 - because my arm is much wider than the pattern prescribed.
Read more of my writing and stories.
Check out what else I've been knitting.