The 2007 edition of New Stories From the South has just recently been published, edited by Edward Jones and the incomparable Kathy Pories. I have a story in it. I probably wouldn’t be mentioning the book if I didn’t have a story in it, this blogging commentary being the only place I can talk about myself and all the awesomely wonderful things I do without feeling as though I’m drawing attention to myself, because if you’re reading this now the attention has already been drawn. The story is called “A Terrible Thing.” Here is how it starts. If you want to read the rest, you know where to go.
Before I met the woman who would become my wife, I went out with women who were in some way disfigured, girls to whom terrible things had happened, things which were apparent to anyone who looked at them. Not all of them were like that, but a lot of them were – many – maybe even most. One of the women I went out with was missing a hand. Another had been badly burned in a fire. Celia had a birthmark planted on one whole side of her face like an immense, permanent red welt.
There were others like that. I was drawn to these women in a way I could never put words to then. I guess I was some kind of freak myself, though I didn’t think so at the time and I don’t think the girls (none of whom knew about the others) thought that either. You might assume because these days it’s natural to assume that it was a sexual thing, that somehow I got off on the scars and missing pieces. But (though we did have sex sometimes, the same as anyone) this wasn’t true. Or I took pity on these women who if it weren’t for me might never have been with another man in their entire lives. But I don’t think it was this either. I think it was simply their observable difference that was intriguing to me – and the degree to which they were able to live a happy and normal life with it. Not that all of us don’t harbor some sort of distinction, that thing that makes us us rather than somebody else, but with these women it was obvious, and clear, exactly what it was.