John Updike’s story “A & P” is the first story I remember reading that seemed like I could have lived. It’s about a kid who works in a grocery store and three girls about his age come in wearing bathing suits. I worked in a grocery store as a teenager. It was a family owned store called Russell’s Old Trading Post, and one of the things I remember about that was almost no one my age ever came in to the store. In Updike’s story the manager tells the girls they aren’t dressed appropriately. The kid in the story tries to stand up for them, a chivalrous move probably intended to impress the girls. The girls don’t seem to notice the kid’s attempt. They leave. The kid gets fired.
Updike’s “A & P” appears in the collection Pigeon Feathers
Having read the C.S. Lewis Narnia series and a bunch of Louis L’Amour Westerns on my own and then stories like Beowulf and “The Monkey’s Paw” in school, those stories didn’t trigger anything inside me from the standpoint of thinking about the sort of story I might tell. Lewis caused me to check the inside of closets for secret passages and Star Wars prompted me to try and move objects in my room with the force. With Updike’s story “A & P,” there was just the start of looking at the world to see what stories could be told and for what reason.
7 min free write word count: 231
You can read Updike’s story by clicking here.
The first story I remember writing was about a dragon that spit out water instead of fire. I remember this being in the 2nd grade, although that could be off a year or two. On the merits of the story, I was selected to go read my story at the high school auditorium in Logansport, Indiana. The dragon was an outcast. No one would play with him. Eventually he saves the town with his freakish ability to spew water. Now, I can see that the story clearly follows the plot structure of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Looking back, I can see my elementary story was a version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Second grade was also memorable for my teacher identifying what she thought were motor skills problems I had. She said I didn’t swing my arms correctly when I walked. I remember staying after school to draw circles on the board. I’d hold a piece of chalk in each hand and draw circles trying to get my hands to move in synch. Then I’d draw circles with my hands moving in opposite directions. It reminds me of what the mind and body have to do to dribble one basketball high and one basketball low. I just accepted my motor deficiency skills and did what I was told. I don’t know what my mom and dad thought of that teacher, but they mostly were teachers who supported my teachers.
I meant to focus on the story of my reading and writing. Maybe I’ll come back to that soon.
7 min free write total: 243
For the something like twenty-three years since I stopped living with my parents, I have moved a lot. This hasn’t necessarily meant I changed jobs a lot. After all, I worked at St. John’s University in New York for eleven years. I am able to remember how long I have been married by adding one year to my oldest’s age. Here’s to hoping I can continue to remember my daughters. It seems to be getting a little harder to remember my own. With a move to Boone, North Carolina on the horizon, I’m going to try and remember the places I’ve lived since I’ve been married.
- Megan and I started on the top floor of a tall apartment building on Church Street in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- We moved to Milledgeville, Georgia for graduate school and brought our daughter home to a three bedroom apartment.
- My second year of graduate school Megan worked as a resident director of a dorm and we lived there.
- When I got the job in New York, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment under Hell Gate Bridge in Queens.
- Megan and I bought our first house in Stratford, Connecticut.
- We moved back to Queens, this time to College Point where we used to sit in the park and look across the water to LaGuardia airport and watch the planes take off.
- We moved back to Connecticut, this time to New Canaan. It was another Church Street, this one up the street from the library.
- We moved to an old farm house outside of New Canaan where the neighbor offered our land lady a million dollars for the place so he could make it part of his backyard.
- Our family moved to Asheville.
- I also rented a studio apartment in Glen Cove on Long Island. I felt like the Great Gatsby might live up the street.
- Our family stayed another year in Asheville, and I moved from the rental to a different studio apartment, this one in Kew Gardens where the sound of the frequent trains on the Long Island Railroad woke me each morning.
- I’m now sitting in our home in Greenwood, Indiana. It’s sold. We don’t yet know where we’re going to live in Boone.
What to make of all those moves? I don’t yet have a theory.
Kept writing past 7 minutes today. Word count: 383