“I Can Hear the Clicking at Night” by Ann Gamble – Story #7 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: 5♥5 The Five of Hearts

The Selection: “I Can Hear the clicking at Night” – from Punchnel’s – an online magazine founded in 2011 and based in Indianapolis. This story appeared in June 2014. I admit that I may have only chosen it because I found the title intriguing. 🙂 It’s one of the shortest works I’ve ever read for Deal Me In and would more properly be classified as Flash Fiction.

The Author: Ann Gamble (check out her website at annmariegamble.com)

The Suit: This year for Deal Me “IN”, Hearts are my suit featuring selections from Indiana magazines, or Midwestern magazines featuring Indiana authors.

img_5408-1What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

 

 

“The control panel’s in there—that’s why the door is behind the desk. There’s only one man allowed in that office, and he reads all our files. Then he decides.”

“I Can Hear the Clicking at Night”

I’m always impressed when a “whole story” can be effectively told in a very abbreviated manner – the aim of flash fiction. Clocking in at just about twenty paragraphs, “I Can Hear the Clicking at Night” encompasses a woman’s visit to her grandfather in the hospital. Though not in an “intensive care” unit yet, he is clearly approaching the end of the line.

“The End of the Line” – Do you ever wonder about where you will find yourself at “the end of the line” in your life? It seems the older I get the more I think about it. Like I’m sure just about all of us I hope, when my time comes, to “go quickly” and not after a prolonged illness which ends up being the fate of many.

On arriving for her latest visit the man’s granddaughter, Kate (though he mistakenly introduces her to a nurse as “Loretta”), finds on his bed table “one of those books about the secrets on the back of the dollar bill” and “grits her teeth.” The grandfather’s world has shrunk to a few rooms in the hospital and the few people the work there or visit him. Already with a mind easily seduced by ’conspiracy theories’ he constructs his own about death at his own end of the line…

Certainly not a happy story, but one I found interesting and thought-provoking. The story may be read online at http://www.punchnels.com/2014/06/22/i-can-hear-the-clicking-at-night/

(Five of heart image found at http://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/ )

Other works from Punchnel’s I’ve posted about:

The Man on the Monon” by Ben H. Winters

The Gods of Indianapolis” by Jason de Koff

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Edward Eggleston’s “Bobby and the Key-Hole – A Hoosier Fairy Tale” story #6 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♣Q♣ The Queen of Clubs. My third queen in a row! Who shuffled these?

The Selection: “Bobby and the Key-Hole – A Hoosier Fairy Tale” (Book image above found here)

The Author: Edward Eggleston, making his second and final appearance in Deal Me “IN” 2016. I read another of his stories, Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick for week 1.
When populating my Deal Me “IN” deck for 2016, I learned of Eggleston and found his book “Queer Stories for Boys and Girls,” a collection he describes as including “…nearly all of those which I have written for children in a vein that entitles them to rank as “Queer Stories,” that is, stories not entirely realistic in their setting but appealing to the fancy, which is so marked a trait of the minds of boys and girls.” Then, when scanning the story titles for a couple candidates for inclusion in my project, I just couldn’t allow one subtitled “A Hoosier Fairy Tale” to be passed by.

img_5408-1What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

Bobby and the Keyhole – A Hoosier Fairy Tale

At some point along the line of my education, probably in Mr. Hon’s Biology class at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, I learned about “fontanelles,” the soft “membranous gaps” in a developing infant’s skull. They allow flexibility both during childbirth and during the early growth and development of the brain. It’s my belief that there are also fontanelles of the human imagination. How much easier for us, when young and still growing, to simply imagine our way to entertainment? For most of us, growing up leads to a hardening of these fontanelles of imagination as the sometimes harsh needs of the “real world” sadly relegate flights of fancy to a minor role in our lives. Bobby, however (the title character of this story), still commands the full power of his imagination – a power that can turn a spot on the side of a creek bed into a doorway into the fairy realm…

Eggleston talks about how fairies are usually only seen by rich people, or at least “people who wear fine clothes” and their encounters are not often in the province of the poor. Little Bobby Towpate may be the exception that proves the rule, though, as he lives in a log cabin along “The Injun Kaintuck” creek:

“Bobby’s play-ground was anywhere along the creek in the woods. There were so many children that there was nobody to look after him; so he just kept a careful eye on himself, and that made it all right.”


Great blue heron image from http://www.pwconserve.org/wildlife/birds/herongreatblue.htm

One day Bobby encounters a “stake driver” bird (sounds like a great blue heron from the description) by his creek. The bird transforms from a natural tadpole Hunter to a supernatural “long-legged, long-necked, short-bodied gentleman, in a black bob-tail coat.” It is through this creature that Bobby learns of a door, a keyhole, and a transmogrifying key.

This may have been my least favorite story of Deal Me “IN” so far, but it was still fascinating to read, and made me recall the “fairy craze” of roughly a hundred years ago (anyone remember the “Cottingham Fairies” (the most famous picture of them is below) a hoax that counted author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its dupe-ees?) and the “Fair Folk” of the Prydain Chronicles of Lloyd Alexander. The story includes a lot of eye dialect too, which I always find tedious to read. I did find Bobby’s encounter with the “Sleepy-Headed People” underground very interesting and somewhat reminiscent of the type of creatures Swift’s Gulliver might have encountered in his, er, travels. Worth a read if you’re interested. It’s available online at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/15167/


What about you? What are your favorite literary encounters with fairy folk – or the imaginary realm in general?

Below: our non-imaginary fontanelles 🙂

fontanelles

 

“Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World” by Gillen D’Arcy Wood (Book Review)


I bought this book (nook version) with a Barnes & Noble gift card which I received for Christmas (thanks, Mom!). Late last year I had read and really enjoyed the book “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed” by Eric H. Cline, after which I thought, “I really need to get back to reading more world history,” and then this book by Gillen D’Arcy Wood (pictured below) came to my attention.

For those who don’t know, Mount Tambora is an Indonesian volcano on the island of Sumbawa. Its gigantic eruption in April of 1815 is thought to be the most violent volcanic event of the past millennium. The worldwide fallout from its orbiting cloud of dust and gasses lasted for over three years, wreaking havoc with the earth’s climate and exacting a toll in human life that probably surpasses all other natural disasters known. Its belated impact was responsible for the legendary “year without a summer” in 1816. This book tells the story – now able to be better understood in light of modern science – of this event and its repercussions.

Where in the world is Tambora? See the map below.The author had me hooked pretty early by tying in the story of Tambora with the story of the origins of the Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein, written while she and her circle of friends were vacationing on lake Geneva during some of the worst of Tambora’s fallout. As the author puts it: “Shelley’s Storm-lashed novel Frankenstein bears the imprint of the Tambora summer of 1816, And her literary coterie – which included the poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron – will serve as our occasional tour guides through the suffering worldscape of 1815-1818.” Wood also notes that Charles Dickens was born in “the decade of Tambora” and grew up well knowing the cold, dreary and foggy conditions that creep into so many of his London novels.

For me, what was most interesting was not just how drastically life on earth in that time was affected by the event but that things had changed without people even knowing the reason for the suddenly harsh climate. As wood states, “For three years following Tambora’s explosion, to be alive, almost anywhere in the world, meant to be hungry.” It also – almost as likely – meant to be dodging outbreaks of typhus and cholera, or emigrating to North America, or anywhere that conditions might be better, for that matter. In parts of Europe, 1816 was known as “the year of the beggar” as large troops of starving peasants marched from town to town looking for food. Wood also discusses the impact on Thomas Jefferson’s fabled Monticello estate, where even the third president was not immune from the after effects of the “volcanic winter.”

Peppered with stories both global and local describing the eruption’s far reaching effects, this book made for fascinating reading and certainly doesn’t require a science degree or anything to be able to enjoy. Highly recommended.

Tambora today  (image from NY Times.)

“The Peacock” a short story from Midwestern Gothic magazine by Drew Coles

img_5408-1I’ve been reading pieces here and there in the 20th issue of Midwestern Gothic magazine, which I purchased an e-copy of a little while ago. If you’re interested in maybe reading this magazine, some purchasing options may be found here. In my perusing, my “bicentennial year bias” led me to look for stories from Indiana authors first, and this one fit the bill.
I really liked this story, written by Drew Coles of Hanover, Indiana. I was impressed to learn that it was his first published story. I certainly hope he writes more.

“The Peacock”

Abe and Travis are brothers who live on a farm. They are close in age and have often been confused for twins – until Travis’s “recent growth spurt” that is. The locals knew enough about their family to know they were not twins. I really liked how the author described this knowledge:

“Their faces had been seen in the area for generations. The tight community ran on an elliptical orbit. Just as something stretched into decrepity it was born again, entire families reliving themselves in the same place.”

The boys have become fond of a game of “chicken” played at their Grandmother’s farm, “and on that farm their grandmother had a…” peacock. The boys would provoke the peacock into attacking them, either by poking at it with a stick (which Abe held in front of him “like the spear of a Greek hoplite” – yep, the Classics Minor in me loved that simile!) or by trying to steal one of the bird’s colorful tail-feathers. (The game was much easier before the bird had “realized it could fight back with its beak and claws.”)

If this game of “chicken” were all this story was about, it might not have sufficiently captured my interest to write a post about it. There’s something else that’s going on with these brothers, though. Something that’s probably gone on with every pair of close-in-age brothers ‘since the model first came out’:

“Though he couldn’t put it into words, the younger boy sensed that his brother was on the cusp of change, on some sort of threshold, which once he crossed over he couldn’t return. Abe also knew, but again couldn’t say, that when it happened they would be isolated from each other until it was his own time to cross and join Travis on the other side. He thought about this now as he walked alongside his brother.”

One gets the sense while reading that this iteration of their game might be the last one they’ll be able to enjoy before Travis “crosses over.” Armed with this knowledge, the reader feels an urgency in this tale that imbues it with a power that a routine short story wouldn’t have. Bravo!

 
Peacock photo from nationalgeographic.com