James River | 21 June 2016 | The Vignette Review

Published on 21 June 2016 in The Vignette Review Issue 5 Volume 2.  To jump to the story, click this link.

Many thanks to editor Abby Sheaffer for accepting this piece to TVR‘s Summer Issue.  The piece was inspired by a writing prompt my friend Audra Kerr Brown came up with a month or so earlier.  Audra got it from the book Naming the World and other Exercises for the Creative Writer edited by Bret Anthony Johnston.

“Think of the most frightening experience anyone has ever related to you–a carjacking, charging rhinoceros, or clown party for example–an spend five to ten minutes imagining what it must have been like to be personally involved. When you’ve got a clear idea of the narrative trajectory and have felt a frission  of the  fear it inspired, write out the incident in the third person, in fewer than fifteen hundred words.”

I immediately thought of a story my husband has told me more than once, until I stop him and cannot take imagining him in the past tense, a story of the time he almost drowned in the James River.  Everything was so ordinary, it seemed to me, outside of his moments of strength against a force of nature.  And, of course, once I’d thought of that, I remembered Wallace.  When it comes to frightening experiences on ordinary days, there is no better work of flash fiction, no better seven-sentence story, than “Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace.

So what I did here is mimic Wallace’s structure to suit the tale told to me, even putting Wallace’s remote, telescopic bird in the tree.  It was a very good writing experience, to work within Wallace’s model. He was something special.

Thanks for visiting my blog, and here is a link to “James River” at The Vignette Review.

PS: I usually post my own photos here, but I didn’t have a fitting river photo in my files, so I borrowed this photo of the James River from the 365RichmondVA blog, and thank them for the loan until I can put up a photo of my own that’s half as nice as theirs.