Crossroadscrawl

A few posts back I wrote a kind of fan fiction inspired by Salvatore Difalco’s short story “Relapse.” If I were still putting up “Flânerie” posts, “Relapse” would have been excerpted under the label “Intersection” in the multifaceted, pluripotent, infinitely extensible fictiCity where all fictions take place. It got me thinking about possible intersection fictions that might transpire here in Durham NC where I live. Such a fiction needn’t be shackled to the actual here-and-now Durham; it could be a there-and-then variant. In exploring this fictional space I came up with a kind of story stub, a situation that could be elaborated into a full-blown story. Here it is:

*  *  *

We got bogged down in the usual southbound traffic, the mall being a bigger draw than ever, maybe because everybody knew its days were numbered. The car eased into the left lane, signal flashing on the console. “Turning left from Fayetteville onto 54,” the car informed me. “Expected arrival at the clinic in one minute – ten minutes early for your appointment.” I made a mental note to bump up my satisfaction rating a notch. “You have time for a coffee if you like.”

“The coffee shop is still open?”

“Yes sir; it’s been relocated to the second story.”

“So that means whatever used to be up there is closed…”

“A realty office.”

That made sense. Plenty of sellers but no buyers, the houses worth less than their mortgages. Underwater. “No, that’s fine, just drop me at the side entrance.”

“The concierge entrance – very good, sir.”

The light changed and we waited for the foot traffic to clear – pack-laden people shuttling between the bus stop and the homeless camp that had sprouted up in the woods behind the gas station. There on the left the clinic loomed. Built on a low-lying area next to Crooked Creek, the massive structure now surmounted its own private island like a medieval castle. Or a cathedral, its moat encircling also the pilgrims’ tent village strewn haphazardly across the roof of the parking garage. Makeshift wooden walkways spanning the now-saturated grounds looked like those old photos of St. Mark’s Square before Venice went under for good. Barricades blocked the road just past the clinic entrance; up ahead the creek, an engineered runoff designed to carry not much more than a trickle, surged left to right across 54, the I-40 overpass barely clearing the flow. Trees blocked the longer view of the salt marsh encroaching on the city, lapping at the front doors of the nursing home and the tire store and the Asian market. A mile or two farther east the office buildings and the condo complexes, the strip malls and restaurants stood half-submerged and abandoned, with kids on jet skis slaloming between stilted derrick rigs hauling sodden scoops of salvage onto barges parallel-parked along route 55.

*  *  *

The roads, the creek, the homeless camp, the clinic and garage: they’re all part of the here-and-now Durham, less than a mile from where I’m sitting. The ocean? At present the coastline is 200 miles east of here. So the story stub takes shape in a kind of an apocalyptic overlay.

I wonder about the possibility of a bunch of intersection stories. Maybe I’d write them all, each of them overlaid on some actual Durham location. Maybe a cadre of Durham writers could be gathered, each writing a story about a different intersection in town and compiling them all into a choral prophesy or farce — call it Dürmopolis, or Dürmscrawl. Maybe it would be a cadre of writers scattered around the world, writing about intersections in the towns where they live, all of those geographically scattered intersections mapped onto the same imaginary fictiCity…

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One thought on “Crossroadscrawl

  1. I saw James on my walk early Friday morning, carrying his pack, probably setting out for the day. Good to see you again sir, James said as we passed on the trail; I returned the greeting. It had been months, so I interpreted the James sighting, coming immediately after having written the intersection story hub, as a synchronicity. It’s not just because James probably lives in the homeless camp behind the gas station at the Fayetteville-54 intersection. James himself figures in another possible intersection story. Usually when I would see James he would be kneeling next to a bench alongside the trail — formally known as the American Tobacco Trail, for reasons that could play a role in another story — and Dunhill Drive. Why kneeling? That would be part of the James story.

    I don’t write short stories. I’ve written only one, and even that piece was intended to be received aurally in public recitation rather than read to oneself on a page or screen. I do write episodically, but the episodes get linked together into larger contexts, into novels, the novels into a suite of novels. So that’s what happens when I start thinking about intersection stories: I wind up extending the roads beyond the crossroads, mapping the whole territory.

    I could limit myself to writing a single crossroad story, but it would have to link into a wider context, an integrated network of intersections, of stories and their writers.

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