Tag Archives: short story

Into the Light – a short story

Göttingen, Germany

Standing on the sidewalk, Hannah loosened the ring on one tripod leg and lengthened it slightly until the level-bubble was centered, then she re-tightened it. She sighted through the viewfinder again and verified that the doorway was within the frame. She focused on one of the double door’s pair of brass doorknobs. The shutter clicked.

Gabe watched, amused by Hannah’s careful advance of the film. He pretended impatience, tapping the body of the digital camera slung around his neck.

“Patience for the sake of art,” said Hannah.

“Patience for the sake of you, my dear,” he said. She didn’t reply.

“Come on, Hannah, no grudges, alright? Don’t I earn extra points for spending hours on the sidewalks of San Francisco fielding questioning looks about why we’re photographing doors?”

“At least they’re just looks.”

“Yeah, but everyone’s really wondering if we’re stalkers or paparazzi or, I don’t know, casing a joint.”

“Whatever,” she waved it off, sliding the tripod’s legs together and setting off down the street, almost without him.

“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing,” he said, skipping to catch up.

She laughed, softening a little, “I thought you’d noticed, I’m photographing old doors.”

“Duh! But why?”

“Because they’re beautiful maybe? Because I like them. Why do I need another reason?”

“I don’t know. I guess you don’t. You just seem so adamant about it, I thought there must be something behind it. Going into business, catching the coattails of the calendars-of-common-objects fad?”

Her faint smile assured him.

“Nope…just… I don’t know, G., maybe we fixate on the things that block us the most. I think it’s good to face that, shine a little light on what’s shadowed and secret, you know? To not let it have too much power.”

Gabe looked at an ugly grey stucco townhouse last renovated in the mid ’80s. As they as passed it he nodded grimly, recognizing something of his childhood in the hollow core door with its peeling varnish and three deadbolts and said, “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”

Later that afternoon Hannah would be in her darkened bathroom with a red-lit Hello Kitty desk lamp balanced on the sink, and her alarm clock on the only available surface area in the open medicine cabinet as she counted off the minutes until she could squeegee the water droplets and hang the negatives from clothespins strung on the shower curtain rod.

When they dried, the black and white transparencies of newly painted or not-touched-in years or peeling or postered-over doors would offer to lead into something, into somewhere. Hannah loved the doors into people’s lives, loved the things that, charmed or locked, kept the rest of everything out, admitted something or nothing, blocked the view or peeped out slyly. So many options gave her hope even if they were so many ways of being all just out of reach, their plane of existence flattened yet again on each reverse-shaded negative.

With darks turned to lights and light cast in shadow, she’d hang them in strips, a gallery of doors, in front of her aluminum-framed balcony slider — and the sunlight, when it finally crested the neighboring building would shine through and drop soft shadows. The shadows would land on her and Gabe, lying on the beige shag carpet. Maybe she’d be lost in her thoughts and he in his, locked in their own minds in a way, but each also slowly moving out of their private corridors, through the doors and into the light.

***

This story brought into the light of day by

perpetualbloghop

which also brings you these fine stories:

Emily Plesner Time Stops When I’m With You
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink the Water 
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard
Elizabeth McCleary OverWhelmed
Viola Fury The Day the Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift

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I hope you enjoyed my story and have a chance to read the others. Let me know what you think in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you.

This story got me to wondering about what else doors symbolize and how they represent something besides just a barrier. For more nifty door pictures and thoughts on the worlds revealed by different doors, see this blog post. Thanks for visiting!

*image credit: Wendy Smyer Yu, Göttingen, Germany

This is not a Story

The following piece of writing qualifies as fiction because I made it up, but it doesn’t meet all the criteria for a story. After I wrote it, I was inordinately proud of it (I don’t know, maybe fancy wording makes me proud) but I wisely let it sit. Admittedly, I tend to let all my writing sit, but that’s beside the point.

I’ve now taken this narrative back “out” and am looking at it critically with the aim of uncovering what it needs to become a successful story. Notice the important nouns in that previous sentence and you’ll find the first clue to what’s holding the piece’s success back: narrative, story.

Floundering about, as I have, with the notion of story* as it relates to fiction writing and the human need for evaluating life experiences under that rubric, I’ve tended to conflate narrative and story, to the detriment of the “stories” I write. This piece, “The 2:37 from Hannover,” is pure narrative – there’s a character (protagonist, if you will) and an event – and not much else.

After taking my sweet, foot-dragging, time to adopt a working definition of story, I’m going to go with one offered by Holly Lisle. Since I own several books in her “How to Write…” series (such as “How to Write Page Turning Scenes” ) and am a How to Think Sideways** student, I can’t tell you where, exactly, to find this definition (It’s around here somewhere, I swear), but my cobbled-together-from-memory version looks like this: a story must have: 1)a character 2) in a setting with 3) a desire and 4) a problem (or several) standing in the way of his obtaining it. Additionally, the 5) character’s actions must have 6) logical consequences (though not necessarily the expected ones) and lead either to overcoming the problem, thus obtaining the desired end, or, to not overcoming it and having the desire thwarted – all in a 7) meaningful way.

I know, that’s not a very elegant definition, but blame that on my cobbling skills. It’ll do for now, and as you’ll soon find out, the draft below is missing a number of those qualities. It remains to be seen if it can be fixed; whether or not it makes it to story status will be revealed in posts to come.

In all it’s narrative (and mostly descriptive) glory, I give you the inaugural work in an occasional “Fiction Going Nowhere” series:

Go By Streetcar Part III

The 2:37 from Hannover

Traveling southbound from Hannover, Hazel would be in Frankfurt well before six. A bit too early, but not something a cup of black coffee wouldn’t help her wait out. She’d tried other trains but none were right – either by their timing or the route they took or by the clatter and volume of other passengers picked up along the way.
      No, it had to be the express that only stopped in Kassel at about half-past three to pick up a few airport-bound passengers heading into early jet lag. Even at the height of summer, the required darkness lasted until the approach into Frankfurt.
     She would doze. It was inevitable and, honestly, necessary. The few times she’d fueled her flagging alertness with early coffee and had sat upright among the sprawled out passengers whose claim over two or three seats made the train feel far more occupied than it was, she’d only added a tight buzzing headache to the hum and rock of the speeding train. She’d seen nothing.
     She figured she’d missed it, if it had ever come at all, on her second coffee-inspired trip to the bathroom. It had seemed too soon out of Kassel, far too early and yet she’d missed the moment she’d come to anticipate… no, that she’d actually come to need on her weekly trip south.
     The touch of the ineffable and the sense of privately-offered mystery didn’t fade just for occurring among barely asleep businessmen and conked out college students, wasn’t diminished by the electric lights, blue upholstery or the periodic rattle of a window shade.
     What mattered most was the entirety, the stepping off the cold platform and away from the diesel and trash smell, the attendant’s whistle signaling the start, and the snick of the doors cutting off the station announcement. What mattered was that no matter how many times she did this, she still marveled at the feeling, was still amazed at the smooth arrival of the sleek white cars, the train’s sometimes squealing stop, its welcome-by-open-doors and the distinction that now she was entering a vehicle to the unknown.

Anything could happen.

And something usually did.

Somewhere past the halfway mark, just when she feared it was too late or that they’d gone too far, just when her stomach gave a kind of flop at the thought that she’d somehow missed it again, had gotten too engrossed in her book or dozed a little too deeply, she’d glance up at a flash of color, a change in pitch. Her fear that maybe she’d wanted too much and the certainty that this would be an un-meaningful, tally-marked, trip between occurrences would drop away as the train left the last tunnel and a motion in the window and a shift in the light would catch her attention.
     Always in the window across from her, no matter which side she sat on, she’d see the other train speeding next to hers, reflected into her car: red to the white of the ICE, on a parallel track that couldn’t exist in the narrow stretch near the hillside or between her train and the riverbed thick with plane trees below. The red train mattered all the more because it couldn’t be there, because no matter which side of her car she crossed to or which window she peered from, she could not pinpoint the source of its reflection and its faintly lit passengers. It just shot on alongside.
     Cupping her hands around her face and looking out into the night revealed nothing but blurred vegetation lit momentarily by her car’s interior lights. Only if she stepped back was she granted the view of the red local train somehow keeping pace with the express. She could see its interior, lit from within and flickering with speed — as though seen between branches or in movie frames. If she stepped further from the window so that it was hard to make out details, she could see the forms of the other train’s passengers, eyes closed as though in introspection: a man with his mouth open, not snoring but singing, a woman, like her, with her elbows on the small table and her head resting on her folded hands as though in prayer, and somewhere across the aisle of the non-existent train, a child, bolt-upright next to a quiet parent, looking back at Hazel in astonished delight and complete understanding with shh-it’s-a-secret fingers laid across her lips like a kiss.

-end-

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image Creative Commons License Ian Sane via Compfight

* in this post I alluded to eventually putting a story up here – this isn’t it! I thought I’d start with something more flawed first, because … why not?

** I am also an affiliate of Holly’s – that means that if you decide to purchase anything from her site through the links I provide I get a commission at no extra charge to you.