A pious widow’s worst fear

Letting adoptees discover their birth parents was an issue back when I was covering the General Assembly. Few if any who testified against the change, as I recall, identified themselves as parents who had given up newborns. The lack of public confessions was easily understood.

When the issue surfaced at the Capitol again not long ago, memories popped up. It didn’t take much, in my new retirement community, to imagine an elderly woman — make her the widow of a clergyman — haunted by fear that her teen-age unwed pregnancy would be revealed, and she humiliated, if the infant she gave up at birth showed up shouting “Mama!”

Getting the story together took a bit of work, but when I had it right I began sending it out. A literary magazine called (how do they find these names?) Caustic Frolic liked it, and it’s now published. To read it online,  click===>here



Ancient trees and people

I began “Street People” eight years ago, not too long after a family vacation that included revisiting the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the Inyo-White Mountains, just east of the High Sierra, where I’d herded cattle one summer in ancient history.  I can’t remember now what prompted me to build the story around a homeless couple out to see America, but it flowed fairly well. Unsure of it, though, I set it aside.t

Last May, I ran across it and decided was worth tweaking a very little bit and sending out. Camas, the literary magazine of the University of Montana, liked it.  You can read it here==>



Remembering elephants

A small Montana literary magazine, which had published two of my short stories, put out a call for submissions to its next issue on the theme “the great outdoors.”

I was reminded of a outdoor adventure I shared with Brad more than 60 years ago — an elephant ride through a forest on India’s Deccan plateau, and a l00k at working elephants. They liked “When Elephants Harvested Teak,” and you can read in now on page 45 of the magazine, by going ==>>here

(or read it here at my blog, listed under n0n-fiction)


Crime stories: Tell the outcome first?

Zimbell Press, which periodically publishes themed anthologies (and has published several of my stories) put out an unusual challenge last fall: Invited stories about a game that ended in death, preferably horrible death. Moreover, they insisted on stories that began with the death scene, and then backed up to posit the setting and the game, leading up to an already-known climax — while somehow maintaining some suspense.

An intriguing challenge. I mulled it for several weeks, and woke up one morning  imagining a competition to swim the English Channel. (Don’t ask where that came from; I’ve only crossed The Channel once, on a solid ferry boat.) Zimbell’s editors liked my Crossing well enough to make it the second story in the collection, which is out now: Dead Game. You can get the book (paper or e-book) at booksellers like Amazon and others — or read my story here==>>


A conversation about keepsakes

I was introduced several years ago to the idea of a short story entirely in dialogue — not even a “he said”/”she said” — so that the reader must infer the setting, and the story, from what people say to one another. I’ve written and had published several in that unusual format.

The newest, “Keepsakes”, is one of my favorites: A daughter is helping her mother prepare —  unwillingly — for a move to a place like where I now live. As Jessamine packs things from the closet and dresser drawers, she learns things about her parents that she never knew.

Periwinkle Literary Magazine liked it too; it’s in their inaugural issue ==>> here


Barking up a nearby tree

If you looked out my desk window at my Seabury home, you’d recognize the setting for Rabbits and Coyotes. If you went out in the morning to pooper-scoop behind your poodle, the rabbit droppings in the grass would tell you what he’d been barking at last night. If you went out to look, on at least some nights, you might hear the yelps of some remote progeny of the critters that you used to hear sing in the California desert. And when your daughter came to visit, she might warn you that those wild animals have been known to go after domestic pets.

And you’d have the makings of a story that appealed to the editors of Metafore, a literary magazine created by students at the little-known Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa.

You can read it on page 40 of their ==>>online magazine    . . . . or more easily ==>>here.


From ‘Promises’ to ‘Independence’

I can’t remember what prompted this bit of flash fiction. I first wrote it under the title “Promises,” drawing on more than one state legislator I’ve known who couldn’t quite evade leadership’s arm-twisting on one bill or another. Nobody took it, so after a while I did a very minor rewrite and began sending it out as “Independence”. The Writer’s Club took it; you can read it ==>>here


“Elegiac, not full of bravado”

The Museum of Americana, an online literary review  that “revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana,” invited very short (500-word) essays involving “creatures . . . from pets to beasts of burden.”

That prompted a reminiscence of Deep Springs, California. In accepting it, editors Lauren Alwan and Lindsey Griffin said they “enjoyed the elegiac stance, an unexpected approach to a subject often full of bravado.” It’s published now; read it ==>>here.


A dating app for a widower?

I doubt that many folks here in my retirement community  have even considered online dating services like eHarmony, Match, etc. But a few months ago someone mentioned trying one, so who knows? there may be others. I would find the idea distasteful, but was prompted to imagine a recently widowed man being urged by his son to sign up for such a service, and balking. Aiming for a sense of mournful open expanse, I placed it on the Platte River in Nebraska where the sandhill cranes stop each spring, which prompted a title.

A literary magazine named Nightingale & Sparrow wanted stories for their 5th issue on a ‘love’ theme, and they liked my Threshing. You can buy the volume at Amazon or other booksellers; read it online at their website (my story is at page 57) or (easiest) read it ==>here