July 27th, 2011

When Stories Die

I am usually willing to rework a story for nigh on forever if I want to save it–if I’ve changed every word but the heart is the same, I consider it saved still. But I just had to go through my entire freaking hard drive for a piece I’d forgotten the file name for (I found it, amazingly) and I realized how many stories I just kind of quietly forget about so I don’t have to face the fact that they are failures and I can never fix them. I tell myself I’m just taking a break and will come back and solve the problem, but I never do, and the stories live quietly forever on the hard drive, ill-conceived and awkwardly paced and all the rest.

It’s worse when I am actually staring at a story that I subjectively like, but objectively I know that there is not enough worthwhile substance there to save–to save it would mean a heart transplant, making it a different story, and what I should really do is start again. I do it, but I hate it.

Here’s a couple paragraphs–maybe the only good ones–from a story called “Wives.” The piece is truly not very good–glib and maudlin, both, and upon rereading also really skirting what I wanted to say. It deserves to rest in piece–let this be its memorial.

The setup is that some men have escaped from the waiting room while their wives are intensive care, and gone up to the hospital roof to blow off steam by having wheelchair races.


The grips felt slick and cutting to Grey’s soft palms. He had to lean his whole weight into the first turn, but he got it. On the second turn he lost sight of Collin in his peripheral vision. He was winning.

“Fuck, Collin, knock it off,” he heard Mees bellow, then footsteps pounding on the sticky gravel of the roof.

Grey turned to see what had upset Mees. Collin hadn’t turned, that was it. He was continuing on towards the edge of the roof. It was a sizable concrete lip, a foot, maybe, and there was no real likelihood that a wheelchair could roll up and over it, but still it was startling to see Collin’s long stringy arms thrusting his chair towards the sky’s edge.

Startling enough to send Mees sprinting to tackle him just as the chair tipped up on the concrete. They both hit the gravel hard, Collin on his back in the chair, Mees draped on top of him.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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