Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Echoes: Part 2


I opened yesterday's post by musing about a presentation at the Kiski School, which led to some reflections on the long history of "Echoes," one of the stories that I presented there -- a story that first appeared in Twilight Zone Magazine and then went on to be reprinted in numerous anthologies, foreign and domestic. I'm always intrigued how one thing leads to another. Connect, always connect.

I make it a point to tell my students that writers need to do more than write well. They need to read widely, of course. But they also need to get out in the world, mix with people, listen and observe.

As I suggested at the end of yesterday's post, the story "Echoes" began with listening.

Here's the second part of the story I started yesterday, right where it left off:

My grandmother asked, “Did I ever yell you about your father’s sons?”

I considered the questions. “My brothers?”

“Oh, heavens! No,” she said. “He was five, then.”

I felt as if I had missed something. “Who was five?”

“Your father?”


“When he had his son.” She spoke with a matter-of-factness that seemed to say, But of course it’s the most natural thing in the world. Why are you having trouble with it? “He called them his boys,” she said. “There were three of them, and if you ignored them he became terribly upset.”

She told me how the boys always had to have places set for them at the table, and how he would regale the dinner table with tales of their accomplishments. “Today they built a river,” he would say, and everyone would be expected to ooh and awe. Naturally, it got tired fast. “Your great aunt saw that it was going too far,” she said. “And one day she asked me if I wanted her to get rid of the boys.”

By now I was hooked. Any story with my great aunt in it was worth listening to. She was an eccentric in a family of eccentrics, an independent woman who had never married, never had children, but nevertheless had always seemed to possess a great sense of what it was to be a child.

My grandmother continued, speaking in my great aunt's voice: “I can do it, you know. I can get rid of those boys. Just let me know.”

My grandmother didn’t need much time to think it over. She told my great aunt to go ahead, give it a try. After all, there was nothing to lose but three imaginary kids -- right?

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what happened to those boys and how my grandmother's account of it became the impetus for a story that has remained in print for three decades.

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