For the last day of Short Story Month, I’ll leave you with Andrew Scott’s “All That Water” over at Night Train. I remember first hearing Andrew read this story at Ball State. I was still a fledgling writer then just finishing my first fiction workshop, which Andrew had taught.
I still remember a couple of the writing assignments I turned in for this class: an exercise in tension/conflict where I wrote a scene of a son squaring off with his drunk step-father (ring any bells?), and my final workshop story about a guy on tour with his band in Nebraska, wondering what it all means after his brother attempted suicide.
I remember as a young writer how dramatic all my conflicts were, usually involving guns or suicide or something equally as drastic. And I remember hearing Andrew read this story of his at the class’s request on the last day, and how quiet the turn was in the story, how simple and elegant and yet how completely devastating–a father and son, the father has his news to share, the son his own.
I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll just send you to the story at Night Train. Maybe I’ll treat you to a teaser.
“How are you, Dad?” Pete said. “Everything okay?”
“You don’t look so good.”
Walter eyed Gayle and said, “Remember when we couldn’t wait for our baby to talk?”
“What does that mean?” Pete said.
“It’s just a joke. So I don’t look good?”
“You seem a little smaller.”
“It’s so like you to bring gifts,” Gayle said. Her voice, lighter than it had been in months, rose on certain words.
Julie lumbered back down the hallway as if hiking uphill. “It was her idea,” Pete said. “I’m not this thoughtful.”
“Nothing to it,” Julie said.
Gayle and Walter each opened a package. A blown glass dolphin for Gayle; for Walter, a ceramic bird figurine with a long narrow beak.
“Do you like it?” Julie asked, more to Gayle than the both of them.
“I do,” she said. “Thank you, thank you.”
Pete said, “What about you, Dad?”
Walter looked at Julie, who offered only a weak smile. She was trying; her mouth and nose seemed less beak-like than before. “It seems well-made,” he said.
This story is also included in his short story collection, Naked Summer, releasing tomorrow if you haven’t heard!