It’s mid-August in Central Texas, which means that it’s even hotter than it was when last I wrote in this space. At the end of the previous week, I finished my final edits on the final proof of Measuring Time & Other Stories (out next month from Wiseblood Books). And today, I’m reflecting on one of my favorite stories in the book: “The Rez Fairy.”
In my previous post, I talked briefly about the role of “real life” in my fiction. With this story, there were a few biographical elements that generated the first draft. My wife is a licensed professional counselor, and once after visiting clients on one of South Dakota’s reservations, she encountered a man walking on the side of the road. He had a crutch, and my wife gave him a ride to the state highway where there was a travel stop beside a casino. It was at least three miles away.
From those particulars, I created a character–a young female counselor, but unmarried–who visits clients, picks up an old man, and then ends up at a casino. In the first draft, which I thought was pretty good (at the time), Alana drops him off at the casino restaurant and the story ends.
After some time passed, and I prepared to write the next draft, I had a thought that she needed to enter the casino restaurant with him. I remember thinking, “but I don’t know what’s going to happen. How is it going to end?” But then I told myself, “that’s part of the joy of writing fiction–not knowing exactly what’s going to happen next.”
More years went by, and after trying many literary journals, I was happy to have Whitefish Review pick the story (out of a submission pile of more than 300 stories) for their Winter 2014/2015 issue. The good editorial folks there helped me tighten the story so that it was even more polished.
Since that publication, I’ve tightened the story further in preparation for its release in the new book. This April I also had the opportunity to read it at two different literary events, and both times, I found myself stirred and moved emotionally by the final pages. This is one of the few things I’ve written that provoke such a response in me.
My hope is that my readers are also so moved.