Feeling stifled by her household and her giant panda, a woman contemplates escape.
I brought this story into a writing workshop early in my MFA experience, and the professor hated it. However, other people encouraged me, and “I” liked it, so I polished and submitted it anyway, and it found a home at Sycamore Review with people who loved it. It was a good lesson to learn — that everything is a matter of taste! One of the encouraging people was my classmate at the time, the multi-talented artist and writer Katie Burgess, who later made me the cover art you see above.
EPISODE 3: “Monster Leaves Dog” (After the Storms, Part 3)
As a long-married couple prepares to part ways, the husband tries to convince his wife to change her mind.
This story is the third of three interrelated stories called After the Storms. As with “Room” this story originated with a prompt:
Two characters part ways forever.
We were asked also to think about the questions: “Who and when and where?” “Do they know it’s forever?” “Do they have different feelings about it?” and “What causes the parting?”
I let years pass — literal years! — before I came back and finished this one. As the third story in the trilogy, it felt like writing a flashback episode of television. I enjoy flashback episodes, but they present their own set of challenges to the writer. Often a flashback episode needs to incorporate information the audience already knows from regular episodes and that can change the source of dramatic tension in the story. If this story stands alone, the main question that unifies the narrative is “can Jerry change Beth’s mind and convince her to stay in the city?” But someone who reads it with the context of the previous stories already knows the answer. So for them the the question is not “what happened?” but “how and why did it happen?” Which tends to be a “weaker” dramatic tension…
… but hopefully still worthwhile! For me, the appeal of a flashback episode is traveling back in time and seeing characters I already know as they once were — before I knew them. In this case, seeing Jerry in “Room” and Beth in “Tribe” each reminiscing about the other made me want to see them together for a little while, and witness the moment that sent them on their separate trajectories.
Greg Gordon Smith composes and sound designs this and every episode. Ted Giffin did the show art. And Barrington Smith-Seetachitt (that’s me!) wrote and read the story.
SUMMARY: In a near-future dystopia, two people check into a hotel room knowing only one will check out.
NOTES: This story was first published in Devilfish Review (where you can still read it). It stands alone, but is the first part of a trilogy of stories called “After the Storms.”
A few years back I took a class taught by one of my favorite teachers, Richard Rayner. Each week we were tasked to write 400 words from a prompt provided by Richard. This one was:
A sick man and his younger wife check into a hotel room. He tells her a story and orders drinks which are brought by room service. The man has something to drink, says something, and then he dies.
I don’t remember what I turned in for my 400-word assignment, but it’s safe to guess that my constant and pervasive anxiety about climate change was already seeded in. The hotel room setting is inspired by The Hollywood Athletic Club, where, like Jerry and Beth, my husband and I took a weekend “staycation” one sweltering summer.
Greg Gordon Smith composes and sound designs for this and every episode. You can see more of what he does on his Vimeo page.
The cover art is by the talented and prolific Ted Giffin.
A few weeks ago, I was delighted to receive an email fromColorado Review inviting me to be on their podcast. They would read one of my short stories from their archives, “Superman Falling,” and then interview about the process of writing the story.
The podcast came out this week, here. (Or maybe I can direct to the audio directly, lets see… )
They have a great discussion before reading the story, that makes me sound smarter and more intentional than I am, I fear, then do a lovely job of reading the story. And then they interview me, which completely removes any illusions of my smart intentionality. I talk in very long sentences, and kind of sound like I’m yelling, which I probably was. We talked over Skype, but for some reason the video was uncooperative, so I likely tried to = compensate by TALKING MORE, AND LOUDER! Fortunately, that part is at the end, after the other stuff.
Cringing at my own speaking aside, it was really fun and heartwarming. It makes me want to write another story that I like, preferably before I die.