Today’s random short fiction 29.15.1, from Mystic Blue Review — here’s the link (begin page 15).
I note first, from the Bio section at the end of the issue, that the author of this piece is a senior at Michigan State University — my alma mater. I was in desperate need of a drink, the story begins — it’s good to see that the tradition lives on. Ah, but soon enough it’s revealed that “I” is a schoolteacher in a beach town in South Carolina — well I guess we’ve all got our dreams. The woman seated next to him at the bar teaches at a rival high school in town. The narrator asks her where she went to school.“The University of Michigan. You?” Clemson, he tells her, but I know it’s a South Carolina proxy for MSU. Now I’m getting an inkling of where we might be headed… She had an amused look in her eye, which bothered me for some reason. It’s that U of M arrogance: a couple of shots is plenty enough to coax it out. Puffy red eyes: At least high school teachers don’t do meth, right? Go ahead, Spartan, turn that Wolverine into a tweaker.
Oh but now what the heck? The snooty Michigan grad turns out to be a sympathetic character. Well at least the author had the good sense to kill off her doctor husband, make her suffer a little. And it’s the “Clemson” grad who’s got the magic.
The narration, the dialogue, the situation, it all flows right along. I realize the story is carried by what I’d regard as my own go-to cadence, the way regular people in my fictions go about their lives. The narration too. Is this the MSU cadence? I’m alternating between reading this story and editing something of my own. The chapter I’m working on features a girl from a large state university in the north who’s taking a year off after her junior year to undertake a personal quest. Geographically it’s probably Penn State, but of course we know what school it really is. The way she talks, thinks, interacts, is, she reminds me of the central character in this story.
Inasmuch as the random number algorithm selected this story for me to read, I feel that the fates will allow some further leeway for nostalgia. I wasn’t an English major, but I did quit college after my junior year with the intention of traveling the world and writing fiction. That future got diverted to another track in Marrakech, which serves as the setting for a fugue-like interlude two chapters following the one about the would-be college senior.