Tag Archives: short stories

Elwyn (by James Ryan)

As reported earlier, the short story competition was a close run thing. James Ryan’s was the first entry to arrive –

“Ahhhhhhhhhh….free at last.” How many seasons have I been lying under that bush? I hope it’s been long enough so that damned cat is dead. I don’t mean to sound like an animal hater but, it’s hard not to hate someone who buries you under a bush after peeing in your face. Don’t laugh. It was not funny at all. I’m not sure how many seasons went by before the smell left. I suppose I should be thankful that he didn’t do the other thing on me. If he had, I would probably still be stinking. Yuck!

I know you’re wondering what and who I am. My name is Elwyn and I am a Sylvan. Sylvans are associated with trees and bushes. We can be found in any woodland of any size. Our job is to keep the forest in good working order. It was my misfortune to be caught by the cat that day. Normally, I stayed high enough in the trees not to be in any danger. That day I was on the ground straightening an oak seedling that had been stepped on by a large bear the night before. It was a tiring job and when I finished, I leaned against a rock to rest from my labors. The sun was warm and the leaves were so comfortable that I fell asleep almost immediately.

The next thing I knew I was in the cat’s mouth and being carried towards the house in the distance. Talk about being scared. I was sure I was going to be eaten alive. He carried me to the bush in the yard where he played with me as if I were a ball. He batted me around and every time I tried to get away, he would let me get far enough to get my hopes up, then he would pounce on me again. He finally grew tired and went to sleep. Unfortunately for me, he went to sleep with his paw on my chest. I was just glad he had stopped throwing me around. After a while I started thinking about getting free.

The problem was that his foot was rather large and heavy. And every time I tried to move, his claws would extend and keep me where I was. I’m not quite sure how long he lay there sleeping, but it must have been several hours. I didn’t really mind because it gave me time to rest and begin to feel better about the whole thing. So far, I wasn’t dead or crippled up beyond recovery. So, I spent the time thinking of ways to escape. However, as hard as I tried, nothing came to mind.

The cat suddenly sat up, yawned, picked me up and carried me further under the bush where he dug a hole threw me in it and pissed in my face. Then he covered me up and there I stayed until the lady found me.  NOW PUT ME BACK INTO THE WOODS!

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, writing

The Monday Book: THE SOUND OF HOLDING YOUR BREATH by Natalie Sypolt

breathThis book is out from West Virginia Press and I received a review copy for the Journal of Appalachian Studies. (I’m their book editor.) If anyone would like to review it for the Journal, please drop me an email or PM.

The short stories in Sypolt’s fiction debut are engrossing character studies. Most have wonderful characters who drive the plots around them. Siblings who see through each other’s deepest weaknesses. Young people who find reasons to stay or go. Nasty and nice Christians. In many ways, it’s like Sypolt took a classic Appalachian problem and wrote a “what if” story about it: what if you were gay and couldn’t tell your parents, but your elder sister knew because you fancied her husband? What if you were young enough to leave home and old enough to know you’d take your upbringing with you wherever you went?

Although you might be able to read the slim volume in a couple of hours, I recommend savoring. The prose is well-crafted, the words backlit with mountain sunsets. If it sounds like these are bib overall hayseed stories, think again. Stereotypes exist to be played with not to make the stories go. For instance, in one story of summer lake holidays, a boy aware of his beloved elder brother’s proclivities to violence suddenly finds himself seduced by the girl he thinks is pure. These are not easy straw characters. A preacher’s daughter finds nothing redeeming in her dad, but the way the story goes down gets complicated. Nobody gets off easy in a Sypolt short story.

If you are interested in Appalachian politics, culture, and families, you will find much to chew on here. If you like short stories that are well-written and character driven, you’ll love Sypolt’s debut. And remember, order it from your favorite local bookstore, not Amazon.

2 Comments

Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Small Town Writer Tribes

The bookstore, like every small town shop, rejoices in several networks and tribal affiliations. The tribe of writers is just one of these. Today I present three members who have recently published their own work–resulting in some very diverse stories, now available on-line.

Joann Lee

Joann’s mom is the lady my friend Elizabeth and I bought our goats from. (Welcome to the networking hotbed of rural living!) Joann lives where people tend to believe her lifestyle is not okay and theirs to comment on; she balances daily between being herself and flying below the radar. It comes out in her work, a romance about two women from very different backgrounds spending the summer at the beach.

Broken Star is available from jms-books.com.

Sheila Mayes

Sheila is from Pennington Gap and has written a novel based on real events, the story of a young girl from Afghanistan who struggles to get an education in America. In her words, the book “was important, but not a priority. As I was writing, Malala, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head on the way home from school by the Taliban. My writing hit fast forward, the book became a priority and I completed it in March 2013. I am only one person, but I knew I had to do something to help end the violence against women all over the world.”

Sheila is donating a  portion of her e-book’s sales to the Malala Fund to help educate and end violence toward women. Sheila is on Facebook.

Michael Samerdyke

Michael is the writing group coordinator at our bookstore; if you’ve read Little Bookstore, he’s the one who started the group and has nurtured it these past five years. He writes lovely, strange short stories that range from hearts-ripped-out-of-bodies horror, to ripping through your heart with empathy at his nuanced portrayals of how people interact. His snowmen dance, his cat people long for more than blood. http://www.lulu or Barnes & Noble on-line carry Mike’s e-books, both collections of short stories linked by a framing story.

In Featured Creatures: a Phantasmagoria, space invaders, experiments run amok, rampaging dinosaurs and other horrors parade across the Star-Lite Drive-In’s screen for the greatest summer film fest ever. In The Dream Cabinet of Dr. Kino, the mysterious doc travels from town to town showing visions of mad scientists and monsters, vampires and werewolves, and other horrors in his cabinet.

Enjoy!

2 Comments

Filed under book reviews, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized