Stella’s Radio

comments 29
Fiction

My short story “Stella’s Radio” was published this week by Delay Fiction. It’s a story about love and connection, about the awkwardness that sometimes attends the becoming of who we truly are, and about the way life’s circumstances can propel us into the open, out from the cover of normalcy and safety and little dreams.

I didn’t know these things when I sat down to write it. A story begins with some little nudge of inspiration, a moment that conveys an energetic charge. I feel it in my body. There is a visceral need to start setting some words out onto the screen, to start the process of constructing all the things around this point of entry. It might be as simple as the image of an elderly man shaking hands with a another person. He has a certain look in his eye—a tone that rings throughout his being. A joy settles into my chest. A recognition. Then it’s off to the races. Who is this person? What is he doing? Where does his clarion presence come from? I could spend days envisioning scenes and moments and people, and nothing would grab hold of me, and then out of the blue something will stick. I’ll be dragging the trash cans out to the curb, and it will hit me. The feeling. It’s like being a child and discovering some new trail in the woods. Where does it lead?

Sometimes people ask what a story is about and I find myself taking a heavy breath, as if I’ve just been asked to explain how the world began. I find the essence of a story is just too much to say before attentions wither. And even if I manage to say something simple and relevant, like I tried to do in the opening paragraph here, that’s still not what the story is. How to explain this thing that has no beginning and no end and is part of every story and is the only reason we write in the first place?

We read for many reasons, but we write for only one. A story is a truth you can’t say any other way. It’s a peek at the heart of things, at the point where you end and everything else begins—the point where nothing is missing. To write is to pioneer one of these routes to the world’s center, to enter the whole of things more deeply than usual. You put on some instant, some moment or place or being, like a costume—it’s interesting at first, you could just take it off, right?—but then you discover you can’t go back. You can’t unlearn what you learned when you sat down to write. You can’t forget what you called upon to set those words upon the page.

A story is a vantage. It’s a simple movement usually, from the sandy ground on which we usually walk to the outcropping twenty or thirty feet overhead. We scramble around a bit, find our way up there, and the distance we travel on paper is very short perhaps, but once we arrive, and turn to look back, we discover nothing is quite what we thought it was. Things are renewed, made fuller–ourselves included, as both writers and as readers. How do you say what a story is about, when really it’s this movement, the moment of looking back, and what each of us finds there? I cannot say what you will find. What it’s about depends on you…

Writing is a lovely, challenging, sometimes debilitating process, but ultimately it enriches and sustains me. And hopefully, if you read this story, you will get a glimpse of what I’m talking about!

29 Comments

  1. Many congratulations, Michael, and what a lovely affirmation of these heartfelt processes you so cogently describe. I recognise that moment of beginning which you mention, that visceral charge that impels us to continue into and along some faint trace of an unknown knowingness, if I can put it like that. I suspect everything comes from within, from our conscious selves, from our historical conditioning and our unconsciousness, which makes it all the more exciting in a way, as we come to learn more deeply about ourselves. Well done again! With love and best wishes, Hariod.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Hariod! It is indeed a process of self-discovery. That is part of the joy of if for sure, and the moment when you are witnessing words tumble out of you as if they’d been hiding inside there all your life just waiting for that particular moment to parade across the page, right in front of your view, and you wonder what the hell else is in there? It’s you and not you all at once–that unknown knowingness, which is very apt description I’d say.

      I downloaded Tom McCarthy’s essay yesterday entitled “Transmission and the Individual Remix | How Literature Works” and very much enjoyed it. You may as well. It’s about literature as this sort of individualized recapitulation of signals sent to us, sliced and diced, and re-transmitted. We’re always in the middle of it and there are no beginnings or endings in sight. I think it fits very well with your thoughts on historical conditioning and subconscious processes… I don’t know if I agree completely with his overall sense of things, but I don’t disagree with it. And he writes brilliantly. It’s dizzying in a good way, sometimes, to have your world turned inside-out. Ha!

      With Love
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautifully written Michael! I’m in awe of those who transform themselves and their readers with their words. Congratulations in the recognition of your talent! 😍

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Val! Much appreciated. It’s always a joy to have readers respond as well. This thing we call writing is so interesting to me, and in part because it just sort of annihilates you. There’s always a point in a project when I can’t see the way forward, or I’m tired and uncertain, and it reduces to something almost menial. Putting a sentence together becomes chopping wood, or carrying water, or washing floors, and then finally it’s just the best you can do. And it melts, and I melt. And then something grows from that. But in the process the person I thought I was has been disintegrated somehow…

      Hope you are well!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautifully expressed Michael. Clearly, you are called to be a writer and you allow that urge to express wonderfully. I rarely have a sense of having to write. It’s more I decide to write and force myself to do it and that is why I’m losing my enthusiasm to continue.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, there’s moments like that, too. Believe me! There’s the magnetism of a blank sheet of paper, and then the other side of the wave when it’s like trying to sculpt a block of stone with a toothbrush. But somehow, in ways you never fully understand, a wholeness emerges. Your writing inspires and connects, Brad! I can’t imagine you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing as long as you have without that feeling of love for what you’re doing… and at the same time seasons change… I see you’re navigating an interesection of sorts… Hang in there! Once the stone and the toothbrush fall in love, a whole new thing happens!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Michael, what a thoughtful and grounded piece you have assembled on writing and telling a story, our stories, which in some cases losing our thoughts and stepping off familiar ground. Well done, I look forward to reading your story. I hope your summer has been pleasant – it’s been a good year for fireflies. Your pal, Harlon

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Harlon. Hope your summer has been enjoyable as well. You’re right on the fireflies! Here, too. I savored a couple of evenings watching the wooded area behind our home sparkle… It’s always amazing to me how these various creatures in nature can survive all year, and for such a brief window of time take center stage.

      Thanks for the visit and kind words, Harlon!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “You put on some instant, some moment or place or being, like a costume—it’s interesting at first, you could just take it off, right?—but then you discover you can’t go back. You can’t unlearn what you learned when you sat down to write.” This also goes very much for reading. I know because I’ve been yelling “READ YOUR FUCKING SHAMU BOOKS” at my friends for like a month.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! Thanks, Andrew! I really appreciate your dropping by, and for supporting this story. Yes, it certainly goes for reading as well. I’ve learned a lot reading–not just facts, but nuances of being and perception. I can even think of a time or two when something I read came back to me when I most needed it, in real life, and made a difference. We are more fluid beings than we think; there’s this uncanny transmission through language… We rub off on one another, infuse one another with new knowing. It’s beautiful.

      Even the FUCKING SHAMU BOOKS!!!

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The way you describe writing a story, the nudge, the visceral need, the revelation while taking out the trash, I’ve felt twinges of those things with writing, but much more clearly with painting. When I’m painting, I lose all sense of time. Both can bring on altered states when things start to flow. Your story sounds honest and intriguing. I look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, JoAnna. I can see that with painting–it probably varies person-to-person what activity draws us into that expanded, liminal state. Whatever it is, it’s worth it! Your paintings are beautiful and carry the traces of your connection to this “place.” It’s clear to see when looking at them. I do hope you enjoy the story, and thank you for sharing as always!

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just finished your story and loved it – especially the depth of it – stories within stories. I’d like to read it again to savor the detailed imagery – something I need to work on in my writing. I highlighted this part for myself: “I pictured a gaunt man in need of a shave standing on top of a hill, holding a satellite phone up to the sky. I had to act quickly, before the Earth rotated, or ash petals the size of maple leaves rose up from the burn piles of old growth forests to obscure the beams.” Beautiful writing, Michael.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Many thanks, JoAnna. I appreciate your taking the time to read this. And I’m glad you enjoyed the language. I have a tendency to get overboard with description sometimes, so it’s nice to know when it hits the mark. It’s kind of a balancing act–moving the story onwards vs stumbling back into poetry. Ha! There are some lines I wrote a hundred times, and some that came out in one take, and I think that section you highlighted was one of those single-take-passages. It just came out that way, and it never changed… 🙂

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  7. So beautifully expressed Michael. I’ve never written fiction and doubt I ever will but you make it sound the way I feel when I’m dancing at our sacred long dances – it’s not me dancing, but rather I’m being danced. Off to read your story now.
    Alison

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Alison! I love the way you said that you are “being danced.” It expresses this sensation well. I have been thinking about the difference between writing (or dancing) and other activities in which I “lose myself.” I lose myself at work all the time, for instance, but that’s when I’m navigating big spreadsheets or trying to solve a complex problem. It’s not quite the same for me as writing, because while I enjoy it, and do sort of get lost in the shuffle, it is still very much a head-space exercise. But writing, and your dances I imagine, maybe even more with your dances, are a purity of expression. It’s a wider territory to explore, and it brings the heart’s knowledge into it. That changes everything, doesn’t it!?

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you… Words don’t really carry the reply… It’s amazing when people resonate with work like this. It is life-affirming in a sense. I can’t explain it. Like feeling one with the fabric of it all, and knowing we can communicate, each-to-each, about things that are outside of language, but which we share…

      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow, Michael… First of all, Congratulations!!!!!! I knew this story would be published sooner or later. It’s a gem. ❤ I love love love both your story and this piece about writing. I will be re-reading this a few times. I know the feeling, like a child in the woods, who finds a new trail. 🙂
    My 11 year old homeschooled daughter is taking a creative writing class. It's such an excitement for me being on this journey with her. During the first day of class, the teacher gave us, both kids and parents, an assignment of writing a brief creative bio of ourselves. WHO we are. I was not able to do it… and neither could my daughter so far, and I don't want to press her. How do you describe a miracle and a mystery and magic of oneself? Sometimes all you want to do is sing and dance, to give self space and air, as it has no beginning or end. Same with your story, it's so alive. There are words in it, magnificent flow of words, but there is also the feeling and mystery that threads much deeper than any words can.

    All the best to you, Michael. I am so happy for you. We need to catch up. Take care.
    Kristina

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Kristina,

      I love that story about you and your daughter. Yes, that’s it! What can you say exactly? I think that’s where fiction helps me out… In a way, it’s my answer to the question you two received. And the answer through fiction (or poetry) is always unique. Each story has its own tone, flavor, meaning, timeliness–whatever it is… It’s unique to that slice of time. Anyone who creates in whatever way probably looks back at some point and says, I did that? There is so much in each of us… and aren’t we all of this???

      I look forward to catching up soon. Hope you are well and had a nice summer!

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m in awe! is indeed an understatement, I loved Stella’s Radio Micheal!…the words rang through for and I enjoyed that very much. You ‘re very descriptive and I appreciate that also in the above narrative, you captured the exact essence of what a mind goes through, the whole process was quite edifying… Poppy

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a brilliant piece of writing, Michael. So intricate and yet not self-indulgent -such a delicate balance. “What do you call it when a person trusts you with her life, looks up to you, and is even endeared to you by the very knowledge you’re full of shit?” This is my favorite line of all. This story has stirred my inspiration, which has been so absent for too long. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie. Knowing your inspiration was stirred reading this is perhaps the greatest compliment I could imagine. Your pieces speak to me that very same way. It’s resonance, I think. A particular flutter that demands a response. I greatly appreciate both your reading and your writing, Julie! I hope you find your way to a fresh piece… Hope you are well.

      Michael

      Like

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