Title PERIPHERAL VISIONS AND OTHER STORIES
Author Nancy Christie
Genre Literary Short Stories
Publisher Unsolicited Press
“Nancy Christie’s stories open up worlds that exist just off to the side of the ordinary one we all inhabit, reinvigorating the reader’s senses by revealing what we often don’t see in the peripheries of our vision.” Christopher Barzak, author of Wonders of the Invisible World
Second-place winner in the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition
What do you do when the hand that life deals you isn't the one you wanted?
In Peripheral Visions and Other Stories, the characters choose to play the best game they can with the cards they've received. For some, it's making the most of the circumstances in which they find themselves, even if it's not the life they planned. For others, it's following an unconventional path--not the easiest course or the one that others would take, but the one that's right for them. But they never lose hope that life will get better if they can just hold on.
Peripheral Visions and Other Stories won second place in the Florida Writers Association 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition. Three of the stories have earned contest placements:
"I Remember" - shortlisted for Tulip Tree's 2017 Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
"Peripheral Visions" - quarter-finalist in the 2016 ScreenCraft Short Story Contest
"Pandora's Box" - quarter-finalist in the 2017 ScreenCraft Short Story Contest, finalist in the Florida Writers Association 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition
Excerpt from AUNT AGGIE AND THE MAKE-UP LADY:
When Billy said he repaired the gutters, I should never have believed him. That was my first mistake.
If I had checked them myself, I would have realized the job had to be done all over again—but the right way this time. Then, the three-day rain wouldn’t have loosened them from the roof. And I would have been inside the house instead of dangling from an aluminum piece ten feet off the ground, and Aunt Aggie and the make-up lady would never have had their fateful meeting.
Aunt Aggie wasn’t even my aunt but somehow, during the division of marital property, I ended up with her. She was married to Billy’s father’s brother, and therefore, didn’t even have a blood claim to the family, but she always liked Billy and kind of adopted us as her own children, since she didn’t have any of her own.
Everybody liked Billy. That was the problem. Billy was a real likable devil, and women were always falling for his charm and curly hair and big blue eyes. Even when he left them crying over the results of their pregnancy tests, they still wanted him to come back.
I can’t fault the women. Hell, I knew what he was like and I still married him. But after the last time, I just had to draw the line. It was all getting too ridiculous.
Billy was a truck driver, and was due to take a load of beef on a two-week haul across the country. That was his story. But when his girlfriend in Tucson called to ask if he’d left yet, I knew I’d had enough, especially when the fourteen-day trip turned into sixteen months.
So, we split up, and Billy got the tractor-trailer rig, and I got the house and two kids and the mortgage. And Aunt Aggie.
I don’t mind about Aunt Aggie—not really. It took me some time to get used to her appearance—the frizzy dyed red hair, the three-inch coat of mascara on her stubby lashes, the jangly assortment of pins, necklaces, and bracelets she wore from early in the morning to late at night. I often suspected she wore the jewelry to bed, but never wanted to know badly enough to voluntarily enter her bedroom. I needed at least an eight-hour break each day from Aggie and her peculiarities.
Most of the year, Aunt Aggie lived in a small trailer court just outside Vegas, along with about a dozen or so other old people. But every now and then, the urge would come over her to visit her “family,” and she would descend on us like a gambler’s idea of Santa, with poker chips and paper umbrellas for the kids, and sample bottles of shampoo, soap, and sometimes even bath towels for me.
For an old lady, Aunt Aggie had very fast fingers.
In her defense, I must say that her visits never lasted very long, and she can be very entertaining, in a bizarre kind of way. She taught the children how to play poker and gin rummy, and only argued a little when I told her there would be no betting with their allowance.
“But, MaryLynn,” she had said, when I removed the stacks of quarters, dimes, and nickels in front of her, “how can you expect the children to take the game seriously if they don’t have anything to lose?”
“It’s a game, for God’s sakes,” I had answered, shoving the coins back into the piggy banks she had robbed. “I don’t want the children gambling.”
“Life’s a gamble,” she had muttered, but brightened up when I offered to make cocoa and popcorn. Aunt Aggie liked to eat. I had headed off many a dispute by shoving assorted solids and liquids into her mouth, until she looked like a chubby chipmunk gorging before winter.
But anyway, I was telling you about the make-up lady. So here I was, hanging one-handed off the gutter, hollering for my son Matthew to come out and set the ladder back up. I had kicked it over when I reached a bit too far to hammer in that last nail. Then I heard the doorbell ring.
“Shit,” and I let go of the edge and landed flat on my butt in the mud.
“I’ll get it,” I yelled to Aunt Aggie, without really believing she would pass up an opportunity to meet someone new. Aunt Aggie was a very sociable person. She never missed a chance to meet new acquaintances, even when they clearly didn’t want to meet her.
By the time I had wiped the worst of the mud from the seat of my pants and got into the kitchen, Aunt Aggie was already in full conversational spate.
“And so I told my nephew I’d keep an eye on them while he’s gone” (Aunt Aggie never believed me when I told her Billy and I were divorced) “so here I am. And here’s MaryLynn,” and she waved her greasy fingers with a flourish as if she’d conjured me out of thin air. Obviously, the visitor had interrupted Aunt Aggie’s breakfast, which started about nine in the morning and lasted until lunch.
“Can I help you?” I said, eyeing the woman. She didn’t look like a social worker or a humane society investigator. I had met both their kinds when Matthew tied six piglets to the front of his wagon in an attempt to imitate the chariot race in Ben Hur.
It had been Aunt Aggie’s idea for him to watch that movie. But I could never get her to admit to instigating the pig participation.
“Hi,” the woman said brightly. “My name is Sue Ann Burton and I wanted to stop by and introduce myself to the ladies of the family.”
At this point, Aunt Aggie casually removed her upper dentures and dropped them into a nearby glass of water. The lady’s eyes widened but she went gamely on.
“I offer the ‘Lovely Lady’ line of cosmetics and, to introduce them to you, I would like to give you a complimentary make-up demonstration. It will only take about fifteen minutes. Where would you like to sit?”
She was good, I’ll give her that. Aunt Aggie had made many people lose track of their thoughts, not to mention their minds, but Sue Ann wasn’t about to give up a chance at a sale.
Nancy Christie is the award-winning author of Peripheral Visions and Other Stories Rut-Busting Book for Authors, Rut-Busting Book for Writers, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories and The Gifts Of Change. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Florida Writers Association, Christie teaches writing workshops at conferences, libraries and schools. She is also the founder of the annual “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day.
Focus on Fiction www.nancychristie.com/focusonfiction/
The Writer’s Place www.nancychristie.com/writersplace/
One on One www.nancychristie.com/oneonone/
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