My short story “Old Boyfriends” is in Propeller Magazine this week. Here’s how it starts:
It’s four p.m.: the sun is gone.
Sandra, a graduate student in archaeology, lurches forward with the bus along Avenue du Parc.
“This roof’s all bone,” Sandra says, rapping her knuckles to her skull.
Back in my MFA program at the University of Washington, I took two “creative writer as critical reader” classes (my favorite classes from the program) one after the other, in poetry with Heather McHugh
and then prose with David Bosworth
, my adviser. Heather brought in a translation
of Anton Chekhov’s story “Gusev
” that she’d been working on with Nikolai Popov, a prose-bone to throw at the small contingent of prosers in her class. At first, I bristled against the story, feeling disoriented in its dark, suffocating setting. But the ending was wonderful and the more I read it, the more I loved the whole thing. I loved seeing how the story opened up with Gusev sinking in the ocean among the sharks and the pilot fish and how the light in the sky shifted to green, to violet, to gold, to rose. In David’s class, we were invited to choose a short story that we wanted to study deeply and either imitate or take its structure and themes and write a story we’d already been wanting to write within that structure or launching off of it somehow. I chose the latter, among other things making Gusev’s ship into Sandra’s city bus and kind of letting the story take over from there. Dan DeWeese
, the editor of Propeller, had a couple wonderful suggestions that ultimately took the story away from the exercise and made me excited about the story all over again, since writing that first draft back in 2010.