The Card: ♣6♣ Six of Clubs.
The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ’Legendary’ Indiana Authors”
The Selection: “Autumn Full of Apples” first published in Redbook magazine. I own a copy via the 1966 edition of the “Best American Short Stories” anthology series.
The Author: Indianapolis native Dan Wakefield, whose novel “Going All the Way” may be his most famous work. He also edited a recently published collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s Letters. Another favorite, recent read of mine was his novel Under the Apple Tree, which I heartily recommend. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him briefly on a couple of occasions at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Wakefield has also, just this year, had a city park in Indianapolis named after him. His website may be found at http://danwakefield.com
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click 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. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
“Our year began those days in the hot blaze of fall, the sun was still bearing down too hard and moving back from summer’s rule reluctantly, wanting still to be king and hating to watch his green work burn away into yellow and red and finally turn to smoke. Footballs exploded off practiced toes, lockers came clicking and rattling to life in the school’s long sealed and musty halls, and a gold blare of brass rose up to the windows from the marching band, reborn again.”
Wow. How’s that for scene setting? Though I’m more than a generation or so younger than Mr. Wakefield, this quotation reanimated vivid memories of my own school days when the new year of school was just beginning. And I’d never really thought about it before, but when you’re that age, the more natural “New Year’s Day” is indeed the first day of school. A day of new beginnings, a blank slate on which to write new accomplishments – or failures – perhaps also a chance for new friends and adventures. Wakefield captures that sentiment almost perfectly in this short story.
It’s the story of the narrator, Dan, and his new love, Katie Deane. They meet when she stumbles in the school hallway, dropping her Algebra book. Dan, all chivalry, picks it up and hands it to her, trying to ease her awkward feeling of clumsiness “I drop things all the time,” she says. “Well, that’s okay. Everyone does.” Although there are references earlier in the story to “last year’s girl,” it seems that Katie is Dan’s first “true love” (I know, whatever that means), and they go through some of the stereotypical ‘courtship rituals’ of that era.
The clock is ticking on the wondrous autumn of this story, though, just as it has each year on all autumns in the real world. Is the life of Dan and Katie’s romance linked to that of the short season, or will it endure? At the conclusion of this story, my money’s on the kids…
(above: I found an appropriate “Autumn six of clubs” at http://worldsedge.deviantart.com/gallery/39568425/Playing-Cards )
Reading the story a second time to prepare for writing this post, I realized that some readers may find the story too syrupy sweet or too idyllic to be believed, but I didn’t feel that way at all and enjoyed it to the fullest.
♫ Personal notes: ♫ I love literary coincidences and there was a big one related to drawing this card and reading this story. It so happens I read it the same week as one of my book clubs was meeting to discuss Indiana author Ian Woollen’s great book, Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb. In looking online for more info on Uncle Anton, I found an article written by Dan Wakefield (here if you’d care to read) himself. It turns out Woollen (who graciously drove up from Bloomington to join our book club’s meeting – hopefully I will post about that event soon also) is the nephew of Wakefield’s high school girlfriend, Kithy Woollen, upon whom the character of Katie Deane in this very story is based(!)
With this post I’m now halfway through the 52 stories of Deal Me “IN” – If you have any “calendrical” expertise, you may have noted that I should be closer to having published 32 or 33 posts by now. Yes, I’m slacking. I have, though, now gotten through a rough stretch at work and now have also put some other stuff behind me, so hope to pick up the pace over the next couple months to get back on schedule. This is also the first year (out of six) where I’ve committed to posting about every single one of my fifty two stories, and, as usual, I may have overestimated my stamina here. 🙂
Note: Wakefield pic above found at hoosierhistorylive.org