A Writer’s Notebook: First-line found story (revision)

This is a partial revision of the “found story” I began in last week’s notebook.  And below that, I’ll write a bit about the revision process.

No one was going to believe her, but the dog would not stop barking. That was how Margot put it, a metaphor she’d adopted like a slogan, the dog in this case being her ex-husband, the barking his daily advances.  Text messages, e-mails, phone calls in the middle of meetings — his as well as hers; she could hear his colleagues in the background, some of them snickering.  He didn’t want her back, he said.  He knew it was all over and that’s exactly the way he wanted it.  But he just needed to see her again.  One last time, please.  It would have been sweet in a desperate sort of way if what he’d been asking was to take her to dinner, or to sleep with her in a tender farewell.  But he literally wanted to see her, to look at her, to ogle her in her underwear and shoes.

She was the only woman he had ever met who wore sensible shoes and a g-string. Margot got the idea from an article she read in a woman’s magazine. Nothing revolutionary, but definitely a departure from the high heels in the nudie magazines he — not she — had read as a teenager.  And anything different was exciting.  He got off on the thrill of the extraordinary even when it involved the utterly ordinary.  Different was all it took.  It was an island on no map.

She had started with mules, which had set him off, but she really found his button when she’d bought the white nurses shoes from the uniform store.  Heavy soles in soft rubber, thick arch support, plain, breathable leather.  The man at the store had winked at her when she’d said she wasn’t a nurse.  Was it all men?  A fantasy no one spoke of but all of them knew?  She wasn’t even sure if the shoes would work, if the sex would be any better than it had been with the mules, but the salesman had patted her foot in the shoes as she tried them on and, without her having asked any question, he had said it would be easy.

It started snowing at midnight that Christmas Eve, when she’d last worn the outfit for him. New Year’s Eve was different. He’d become insatiable, and she caught him in the bathroom not with another woman but with a woman’s magazine, a special issue about hard-working women.  Beat cops, librarians, school teachers, postal workers.  He was cutting out the tiny images of their feet, and on the counter beside him was another magazine, unclothed women sprawled in ridiculous poses.  A glue stick.  His feverish efforts to match cut-out shoes to naked feet.

He’d tried to shut the door on her but she’d held it with her foot.  he’d said, Look, you don’t really need to be here.  I can do this on my own.  She’d asked why he even needed them, the magazines, when she had the shoes and the thong in bedroom.  He’d said, Margot, sweetheart, you don’t look anything like the photographs.

But Dave had been wrong, he’d needed her after all, and now he called her day and night begging to let him back in, just to see her in the outfit.  He would bring his camera, he would leave her alone after that.

First: I had to stop this story here, which only covers the first half of the draft I posted last week.  It’s taking a direction that doesn’t yet gel with the “dead bird”/”dead body” bit that used to follow this; I think there’s probably a way to work that element in, but I’d be forcing it in, and I’m not sure I want to do that.

And second: frankly, I don’t quite know what to do with this anyway, or if I want to continue it.  I might — chances are good that some day roughly a decade from now I’ll be working on something that will remind me of this piece, and I’ll dig this up and suddenly know what to do with it or where to put it.  But for now, both these characters are kind of annoying me, and I don’t really want to know where this ends up.

The lesson in this, though, is that you can let other texts lead you to places you wouldn’t ordinarily go, and that can often make from some of your most interesting writing.

Feel free to finish this thing yourself.  Or return to last week’s draft and start over, or pick up where I left off and try to adapt that unfinished text.  The possibilities, they abound.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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