by Martha Reed
I’m happy to report that I finished up a new short story yesterday, one that I’ve been working on for yes, five years. I can remember the day I first came up with the idea, walking on the beach in Sanibel with my sister and deciding I’d like to try writing a story set in southwestern Florida because it was so different from my life in southwestern Pennsylvania. For one thing, I have no experience with alligators and I’m okay with that but I took a look around at the Florida retirement lifestyle and thought: what would it be like to live in an older environment (even though our population in Pittsburgh is aging)? There would be advantages like larger parking spaces and well lit street signs but I’ve got enough East Coast in me to want to hurry things along in the check out aisle every once in awhile, and that's rude. So it was a dilemma.
But in those five years since I started the story idea, time has carried me over the 50-year-old yard line, and I think I can bring a better perspective to the story now. My friends and I have started to experience some health issues. It’s been interesting to watch how everyone reacts to them. Some are in flat denial, swallowing ibuprofen or vodka martinis to kill the aches and pains. Others (like me) have gone all Zen, practicing Yoga in an attempt to resurrect our hips, knees, and flexor tendons. But the best part is that I’ve come to appreciate using humor to deflect age because, after all, the joke is on us. We may have gotten older but the definition of mortality hasn't changed.
Which brings me back to my new story, STRANGLER FIG. I have a character in it, 87 years old, who confronts an armed intruder in her home. Scottie is confined to a wheelchair, and at first I was worried that she would sound helpless but when I started noodling around with her character, she turned out to be feisty. A retired Navy nurse, Scottie is tough as nails. She absolutely resisted every attempt I made to tone her down and, in the end, I capitulated. She wanted to confront the intruder and once I stepped out of the way (as the author) she did. It makes for a wonderful story which I believe rings true. I’m sending it out tomorrow to look for a new home. Wish me luck!
PS. In the interest of disclosure I did mean to write old in the headline, not auld. Did you catch that?