A foggy early January day and mysterous atmosphere led me to drive around looking for cool places to hang out. It’s not hard where I live. I found a spot near the Panther Den Wilderness area not far from a really cool attraction, the Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour, a zipline and suspension bridge site.
This story, Renaissance, is a re-write from an older, much longer story I wrote several years ago and shelved. I knew I wanted to do something with it. What needed to happen, as it turns out, was for me to whittle down the word count to just less than half of the original — and then to do that again.
Once upon a time, before the time of writing, famine came to Wisconsin. There was nothing for many animals to eat, and they wasted away to nothing. A mother bear with two cubs determined to leave that land and go somewhere else, somewhere across the great lake now known as Lake Michigan. The mother bear encouraged her two cubs that the land on the opposite shore was within their reach, and so they set off to swim. Ten miles from the Wisconsin shore, the first cub sank—he could swim no more. The other cub tried to keep going, but also sank not much farther than her brother. The mama bear was heartbroken, but she could not help her cubs. She swam to the Michigan shore of the great lake, and lay down on the beach, looking out over the water where she lost her cubs. The Great Spirit felt the mama bear’s sadness, and caused the two cubs to surface as small islands in the water. The mama bear still lies there, watching over her babies, while the sands heap up around and over her.
The Michigan side of Lake Michigan is spectacularly beautiful. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is something to behold. (No knock against Wisconsin, where my amazing sister lives! I’m just not as familiar with the Wisconsin side.)
I was thinking about this story while walking on the beach in Naples, Florida, where my brother lives now. I was thinking about the many associations of sand—summer beach fun, but also the sands of time.
I read this story, Sand at Gulf Shores, Alabama, just inside the Gulf State Park, which was right next to the condo we stayed in for our honeymoon. There is something about coastline that sings of melancholy, and the threshold between the known and the unknown.
Here’s an older story, first published in Clamor Magazine in 2015. I thought it’d be fun to read a 3-parter in three different places.
I read part one — my favorite part of the story — at White Sands National Park. White Sands is other-worldly. It’s miles and miles of white dunes. It’d be easy to get lost there because there are so few landmarks. I guess you could keep your eyes on the distant mountains and keep walking in one direction — but that could be a very long way.
Part two is on the deck of the cabin we stayed at in Ruidoso. It was a super-cool cabin. Vrbo and Air BnB are the salvation of people like me. If I’m stuck in a hotel, I just wanna go-go-go. I can relax more at a Vrbo or Air BnB, making it easier for people to tolerate me. Anyway, here is part two, in which the narrator is a little bit mean and a lot frutstrated.
Part three is on the mountain slope behind the cabin where we were staying. It might not look like it, but it was hard setting up! The slope was pretty steep — a hike, not a climb, but still.
I’m honored to be included in the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day anthology, forthcoming in print. And! a virtual launch! In which I read my contribution, “Harbinger,” a story I wrote partly in my head as I sat at a boat dock in the rain collecting myself after a stressful day. If you open the link to hear me read, you can hit the link to the virtual launch and hear other readers with stories that’ll knock your socks off. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1H9Jgv3Qn8