A Tourist in the Land of Plenty: Opening

Thought I would share the opening of “A Tourist in the Land of Plenty” for those interested. If you’d like to read the complete story it will be appearing in The Southwest Review and also in the short story collection A Stranger in the Dream House.

The opening appears as follows:

The story went like this: the barn had been set aflame. The fire could be seen across the fields and by the time the police arrived the skeleton of the thing stood framed in hot light. Heat so strong the air quivered.

Campbell, the owner of the house and the one who had set fire to the barn, stood in the driveway, arms folded, stoic as a roman sentinel. He seemed to be looking inside to the heart of it, as if he were waiting for something to emerge, to flower there at its hottest point. They took him by his shoulders and pulled him away, his face blistered, hair singed, wearing the expression of an ecstatic.

Those were Tomas’s words. Stoic as a roman sentinel. And he said all this with a grin as he moved back and forth between table and counter, counter and sideboard. A very good looking man, like a movie actor in the last spasms of a career. The room spotted with people, some of them listening. Others had obviously already heard this one before but he still held their attention. He spoke to all as if from a stage.

Gregoria remembered it vividly and not just as a bystander, not a part of the audience. In the intervening years it had become her story. She was the one standing in the driveway watching the flames. She was the one who the police took by the shoulders and placed in the back of the patrol car. She was the one who did the insane thing, the thing worth talking about. She could feel the heat on her face and the madness in her skull. But she held a baby in her arms, stroking its wet hair, moving through her house from room to room and singing a song her mother had sung to her. A ridiculous song from an American TV commercial for Alka Seltzer. Oh what a relief it is. Everything scrubbed clean, the leftovers from last night’s dinner placed in colorful Tupperware in the fridge, delicately arranged even in that hidden place. Flowers and open law books on the dining room table. She moved from room to room as if searching for some little lost thing.

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