Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

I heard the auctioneer from afar

Today, after my dear husband departed for the pleasures (computer conference geekery) of Spain, I headed out to Big Rock. My first thoughts on getting out into the country? "Oh Lordy. I need a cigarette." Yes, the country makes me a twitch a bit. The lonesome stretches between houses I once found artistic. Now, not so much. I'm a townie and I think, have always been. But since I lived in the country back then, I made it artistic in my mind. Now I don't need to. I didn't buy any cigarettes but picked up my mother and we headed over to the Big Rock Plowing Match, home of winners.

Low and behold, jars of canning. I oogled them and examined the pickles in jars. My mother felt she would win the jam competition if she ever cared to enter her raspberry jam. If she ever made it again, that is…

I wish I had pictures of some of the knitting and crochet and crewel entries but the pictures just didn't turn out. My hand was full of shakes apparently. After perusing these crafts, mom and I headed outside to look at the bizarre and wonderful stalls of the Plowing Match.

I was a little shocked at mom holding a pie, much less being the escort of a headless gentleman but all these things are taken in stride at the Plowing Match.

We strolled through the stalls, I prodded at some gorgeous salmon colored wool roving, and we stared at an old horse drawn hearse wagon in earnest. I meant to take a picture of that but forgot. Oh well. A horse show and making over a baby corgi 5 weeks old was how we ended the Big Rock Plowing Match '07. It was a lovely day and no one from the dismal past appeared. I did see a few friendly acquaintances: the post office ladies and one curious woman, Joyce, known for her interest in used clothing, used goods and prophecy. I didn't sneeze once! and I got a pork chop dinner, something this townie can never find in town. That's the country for you. Full of pork chops.

 

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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.