Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

 It never occurred to me when I got out on the ice that I would be taken completely off course. I would turn into a tiny ship, propelled by the wind. It happened quick and delighted me. Later on, it frightened me and I yelled at Steve, waving his camera in the air, heading rapidly for the snowy shore.
The wind does that people. As soon as I got out on the ice, it scurried me along. I didn’t skate, I just stood there and it surged me forward, pushing my legs and back and arms. I smoothly went forward and only turned when I wanted to. This kept up and could be difficult when you were turning or going against it. Only when I turned to the left, facing north that the south wind urged me forward. As if I was a horse and it was betting on me to do things right. Steve and I skated round and round, yelling at each other in speech, taking breaks for water and catching our breath. I hated turning left because sometimes I was shot forward and sometimes it was only a gentle breath and it didn‘t tell me before hand.
We skated over deep fissures of the ice and one, which met in a three way spider, took me out, grabbing at my toe pick. I lunged forward and fell on my right knee. It’s swollen now, resting under a pack of ice, ironically enough. I slid along, the ice turning into water as it touched my pants’ legs. I stood up and surveyed the country. I was okay. A mother pointed me out to her four year old son, “See, she fell and she’s okay. She didn’t cry.” Surely I was victor. I didn’t feel like crying but maybe it would have been nice to squeeze out a few drops and have a helpful hand pull me up. Whichever. I got up and skated slower, steering clear of the three pronged fissure and the playful south wind.
Turning left is always inevitable as Derek Zoolander taught us and I turned left gleefully as I took pictures of Steve goofing off on the slick ice. His camera was odd and I had a hard time knowing if the pictures were taking or not. He zoomed past me and I followed him like a sports photographer, busily clicking away, wondering if the camera was doing anything. I turned fatally to the north in my gleeful clicking and the wind surged forward. It grabbed me quick and I was soon out of control. To fall would have been grace but I couldn’t because I held his camera in my hand. I yelled to Steve, shrieking with laughter but alarmed. How fast could it take me? Playful forces of nature tend to go overboard as a general rule. I was going faster and faster. I shrieked. “Aim for the snow!” he shouted. Smart kid. I plowed right into it and fell down easily, holding the camera aloft.
I can’t deny that my interest in skating waned as the wind grew fiercer. The ice shimmered into wetness and it was growing only a little too tiring to skate. I was up for the call and crunched off along the bank as Steve did a few more loops, challenging the wind. I sat on the dock and untied my skates. I was done for the day and the red flag, that warned the skaters off the ice, was being raised up on the flagpole. Definitely time to go home.

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.