My story Lysis Complete is published this week on 42opus in Fiction. My thanks to the editors of this lovely site.
This story is interesting to me because it comes out of some writing I did in what feels like another lifetime more than 14 years ago. I had been working with François Camoin at the University of Utah, and at his suggestion, signed up for a workshop with Phyllis Barber. Most of this story comes from pieces that I originally wrote for her in that workshop.
But perhaps most strange to me was the tangible rush of memories that opened up when I came across the draft of this story about a year ago. My life was in shambles at the time of Phyllis' workshop. I was in the throes of a failed marriage, in between jobs and had applied to the writing program at the university - surely if I could go back to school I could pull my life back together.
The workshop was in Park City. I couldn't afford to stay at the conference, so I was staying at my parents' home near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, driving up and back through the canyon each day.
One night I had imposed myself at some party, passed out in my '76 Camaro, and then, still drunk and shored up by a little pick-me-up, I headed down Parley's Canyon. It was early morning, cold and there was fog like there is in the mountains and little traffic - the occasional semi-truck heading East to Cheyenne.
I came fast around one of those sweeping bends through a bank of fog, and my headlights caught the most enormous porcupine I had ever seen, illuminated by fog and headlamp to appear completely white. It turned its head towards me. Then I flashed by, swerving hard into the far lane, banking back again to adjust and readjust for my panicked over-correction.
I didn't stop. I doubt I even slowed.
Some psychological theory somewhere will explain how memory imprints most clearly under duress. The burst of adrenaline that implodes at chest level and then drops to churn in your stomach also binds the detail of every silver tip of porcupine quill and the round, dark eye just above the curve of its face, childlike in the headlights.
I carry more than a few memories from those long, bad years, set, as they were, by duress heightened with adrenaline, fear and pain. Even now, with resolution for the greater burden of guilt and shame, the images remain unfaded, ethereal and vivid, with crisp edges and the faintest taste of regret at the back of your throat like bitter almonds.