A story I plan to include in a future collection – along with a novella – just won a preliminary contest held by the Appalachian Authors Guild, and will move on now to the Virginia Writers Club statewide fiction contest.
If you were to ask where such a story came from, I suppose I could make up a fairly convincing lie, but the truth is I haven’t a clue. What I will say about it is that editing changes things. It’s almost as if you’re looking through a telescope at a distant shoreline and think you see certain features there. But as you get closer (this is the way of editing), you’ll likely see the features in a slightly different way, hence a slightly different story. Negotiating with your subconscious – that’s what I call this process of editing.
And just for fun I thought I’d include the first few, nondescript paragraphs with this post. The story subsequently gets weird.
You might think this posturing, but I never considered my blindness a liability. Fact is, I thrived in social situations. I had constant invites to parties, and for a while I was even considered something of a draw. A cliché, I know, but at a young age I came to realize that my remaining senses more than compensated for the lack of sight, and so at those later adult parties I was never a source of awkwardness or a magnet for sympathy. Sure, people would sometimes shake my hand and tell me how great it was to see me. Then, aware of their mini-faux pas, they’d go silent. But I’d just grin and say, Well, it’s super to see you, too. C’mon, let’s have some fun.
So how else did I make party mingling work for me? Even within the din of music, clinking glasses, and conversation, footsteps provided an aural map to restrooms, doorways, the buffet table, and places to sit, and I always navigated without assistance. It was so easy to eavesdrop on conversations without fear of discovery. Later, I could casually throw out those overheard items as gossipy tidbits, and that helped me develop a following. Then, as I grew more confident, I found I could do what hosts and other partygoers wouldn’t dare: play the hyper-sensitive one with out-of-control drunks, shout them down and demand that they leave.
And my other senses – wow! An eminently refined sense of taste revealed everything about the hors d’oeuvres. Even with the subtlest blending of spices and other condiments, I could discern each dish’s ingredients, their proportions and freshness. I would praise these treats when I knew they’d appeal to discriminating palates, and I always took it upon myself to inform the host of their shortcomings – in the most tactful manner, of course. And smell: I identified men by their mixture of musk and aftershave, women by their unique, slightly acidic scents, something perfume couldn’t mask. Of course, words were of no use there. Facial expressions betrayed my reactions to these personal aromas, and then I had the grip of a hand as we shook or a squeeze of my shoulder to gauge the other person’s feelings about me.