you and me – POSTCARD #35
Raymond Carver’s early tutor, John Gardner, famously advised Carver to use fifteen words instead of twenty-five. I always loved that. But the first draft of this postcard piece for Eric Westerlind was 600 words, so I had to pull up my drafting socks and get rid of half.
It’s a liberating process to limit my stories to this 300-word count when sometimes they want to go on and on. Liberating in the sense of the discipline of making very single word count, but getting rid of the last ten words was almost physically painful.
The writer Eric Westerlind sent in this postcard. I love his story, Slice of Life in Jersey Devil Press’ Issue Nine. It’s seriously amazing. You should read it and keep your peepers peeled for more words of his.
(Teaser – you may be seeing them sooner than you think.)
If her mother was one of those mothers she’d tell her wasn’t looking after herself. If she was one of those daughters she’d tell her why. But they weren’t, so she’s walking down an alleyway with tears in her eyes and an empty stomach. Rain falls and she offers up her face and it streaks mascara down her cheeks. She smears one stinging eye and looks wild, like she’s wearing war-paint. A suited man with a crisp umbrella looks startled. She ducks into a doorway and looks down at her wet sneakers and leopard-print tights.
Hello, Miss. You like some Tai Yaki?
She turns at the gentle voice and knows she will keep this image with her forever.
His golden bow tie and spotted braces. His gold watch and dad glasses. His crisp chefs hat and carefully trimmed moustache. His warm, dark eyes.
He smiles at the tabby on the bench beside the hotcakes shaped as fish. He giggles as the cat licks its lips in a cartoonish way.
Be quick, Aiko might beat you.
Although her stomach growls and her lips twitch, she shakes her head.
He ignores this and pushes the wooden plate forwards.
You need to eat. They’re good.
She sits at and the cat rubs its cheek against her hand.
I’m sure they’re delicious, but-
No. Not just good.
His tone is serious.
This is Tai, the good luck fish. You eat him and he will bring you medetai.
She doesn’t understand Japanese but she takes a hotcake, her eyes filling with tears again.
She eats and the delicious fish begins to fill the empty pit of her stomach she’d had since he’d left her.
The man nods and the cat purrs as she takes another bite of happiness and decides to believe them.