Thank you to editor Russell Bennetts at Queen Mob’s Teahouse for publishing this story. “Hamlet” is one of my all-time faves to read aloud, thanks to its recursions and repetitions. To go directly to the story, link here.
It began by listening over, and over, and over to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3 in G Major.
Songs on repeat is a favorite thing. (Here’s another publication I wrote after listening to Elis Regina and Tom Jobim’s “Waters of March” on repeat. The story is called “Elis, Queen”, and you’ll find it published alongside another, “You Sexy Thing,” which directly references he 70s hit by by Hot Chocolate. Both of these stories + one more appear on Flash Boulevard, thanks to editor Francine Witte.
But this story, “Hamlet,” originally began: “Three violas, three cellos, three violins slip into a tomb….” The tomb had bolts uncouple and hinges swing loose to admit new instruments and then reseal; the strings all poured arms of music around each other. Listen to that song, and maybe you’ll figure when the dervish, the fouette entered the mind “like the surge before Oxycodone flexes.” Everything else enters that composition in turn, even my small-bore heart.
I’m glad I’m making a note of these cut lines because I have a feeling I’ll look for them again one day. I might kill my darlings, but hey they were darlings after all; I’ll visit with a rose.
Other lines I cut which I quite liked included ferns “that quivered in some unfelt breeze,” and guests, “a sister, a bride, a daughter, a bitch” all entering ‘like roots, their long veils of twist and cordage,” and the “sandy, circling plow of Foucault” and then I was wondering, by the time I wrote of “nine birds being coaxed out of the wood,” if I was actually writing about a gun. A working title at one point was ballistics.
What is it all about? That’s the job of drafting. I like that Lish quote, how a story has to be what it is, and continue being what it is. That is not verbatim. I can’t find the quote, it’s in a pdf of somebody’s notes of one of his lectures. If I can find it I’ll drop it at the bottom of this note one day. I did find his definition of “Torquing, wherein the story is a winding spring, and each succeeding sentence ought to give a little turn to the spring. Stakes should rise steadily, sentence to sentence.”
Having started in a tomb, the story took on some Hamlet-sexy vibes. I do love that play. I can recite the great soliloquy at the drop of a hat, all the way to the pivot to Ophelia. It’s a masterwork, full of lists, repetitions, imagery, anger, sorrow, declarations, and grief. Light and easy words words words rifling in his cheeks. His foils, Laertes and Fortinbras, spring to action to avenge what they’ve lost, but Hamlet suffers from some intellectual inertia. Inertia. The great laws of physics. And then I pulled out any other mentions in the draft that did not have to do with action, opposition, natural forces. I finally knew what my story was about.
I know it seems hard to believe (unless you are a short-form writer), but I’ve been working on this 82-word story since November 2019. The first draft was 1078 words in five paragraphs. So, I cut 1,000 words from a 1,000-word story, pretty much. Might just out-Lish Lish one day. I thank early readers Chris DeWan, Kathy Fish, Kristin Bonilla, Lis Ingram Wallace, Colleen Rich, and K.C. Mead-Brewer. I thank Paul Beckman for inviting me to read at FBomb NYC, where I often smile my way through drafts in front of an audience. Thanks to my friend Carlos Garcia for helping me record the story.
I am very happy to have a second publication in Queen Mob’s Teahouse. To click over to “Hamlet,” follow this link.
The other story of mine published at QMT is “Neighbor Network,” and that one’s a hoot and you can find it at this link.
Thank you so much for visiting. I’m so grateful you would read these things. The header photo is of my better half, on the mouvre through the Louvre.
C O N T A C T