Ten years ago, I spent most of my summer drafting and revising three short stories, all of which are a part of Measuring Time & Other Stories. That summer I was also preparing for the arrival of our son, and so those three stories remind me of that season. Today, I’ll share some thoughts on the first of these stories: “Wildlife.”
Confession. I’ve always enjoyed the artwork of the late Terry Redlin. My favorite works of his are those that show the landscape at dusk or dawn, the best times of the day. And in liking his work, I’m aware of the risk in that admission. As one character in the story expresses, Redlin’s artwork might best be suitable for a dentist office.
Through fiction, I transferred my affection for Redlin to the main character, focusing on one of his “guilty pleasures.” He visits the Terry Redlin Center and besides buying a gift for his father, buys himself a print. He really wants to hang the print up in his school office but is worried about how his colleagues will respond.
He’s an English professor, it’s his first semester, and the school is his undergrad alma mater in South Dakota. His apprehension is understandable, and I say this as an academic myself: academics can be some of the most critical, cynical, and harsh people. They are also (myself included) some of the most insecure people.
I won’t give anything away about how the story’s conflict does or doesn’t resolve. (You’ll have to read the story when it appears from Wiseblood Books this fall.) Instead, I’ll offer a second confession: I have a Terry Redlin print in my home office. It’s called “Morning Chores.” Ducks are flying low over an early fall wetland, the sky just beginning to brighten. Each time I look at the painting, I smile.