Saturday 19 December 2015

Day 19: Episode by L F Roth

“Episode”, like many of my stories, started out from a situation that was partly experienced, partly imagined—and situations, if I find them interesting, will give rise to characters. Mostly I have no specific ending in mind when I begin, but allow the characters, as they develop, to take me places. Roads open; roads close. This is also generally the case with another type of story that starts out not from a situation but from a phrase; the phrase can be one I have overheard or one that has come up in an imagined conversation. Again, one or more characters will appear and conflicts develop, internal or external. A white cat that seems to be following two people in a snowy landscape can result in a story about a woman who has suffered a miscarriage. How? That, unlike Dupin in Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, I find not worth investigating.
My stories are often in the seriocomic vein. However, this is not true of the two that have been brought out by Bridge House Publishing. Both “Cat in the Snow” in last year’s anthology and “Episode” in this year’s deal with trauma, with no element of comedy. Besides a handful of short stories, and, in a different context, nonfiction, I have had only a few poems and pieces of flash fiction published.

Best wishes


An extract from Episode 

There is no beginning. I am simply there, looking at the man beside the taxi. It is no one I recognize. The back door is open. Another man is lying on the seat, his feet sticking out. That is my father.
    The stranger’s voice is slurred.
    “You take his legs.”
    I hesitate. “What’s wrong with him?”
    “You could say he’s had one too many.”
    “You from his office?”
    “Nah. His lodge.”
    I don’t know what a lodge is.
    “He’ll tell you. How old are you?”
    “Will you manage? Your mother looked stronger.”
    I shrug. “I’ll manage.”
    I do, but I have to rest on each landing.
    And that is it. Not only is there no beginning—there is no ending either. It is as if I had abandoned my father on the top landing, outside the flat where we lived, the four of us, my mother, father, younger brother and I, forever excluded, no longer part of my life.
    Now, years later, I can supply some of what is missing. Although it left no imprint, my father must have been home to dress for the event, his first appearance, perhaps the only one, at some lodge, which in all likelihood took the form of an initiation ceremony. By bedtime, that is, my bedtime, he was probably already nearing the limit of what he could take. Another glass or two of whatever he was having would have put him out. He wasn’t that much of a drinker.
    But the lack of a proper beginning bothers me. The man who brought my father home must have come to the door—how else would he have known that my mother looked stronger than me? What had he said? Your husband’s outside in a cab. He’s out cold. You’ll have to give me a hand. Would that have been it? And what had been her reaction? Had she been angry? Upset? Disgusted? I just don’t know. Neither the next day nor at some later point did she so much as allude to the incident. The fact that she didn’t go down herself but sent me suggests that she wanted to have nothing to do with it. Nor can I recall what words she used when she came to wake me. They would have constituted a command and not a plea, of that I am sure: You have to get dressed. Your father needs help—the reference would be to “Your father” even at that point, not Dad or Daddy. But this is pure speculation. You would expect something so out of the ordinary to remain imprinted on my mind in all its details, but there is nothing there except the taxi and the slow climb up the stairs.
    My father didn’t talk about it either. For all I know, he may never have learned who carried him upstairs.

About the author 

Alongside a few poems and shorter pieces, stories by L F Roth have appeared on the web Segora (2012) as well as in anthologies brought out by Biscuit Publishing (2011), Earlyworks Press (2012, 2013, 2014) and Bridge House Publishing (2014).



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