Novelist

Inside ‘Quantum Physics,’ Part 3

We continue today with the story behind the story on the third piece of short fiction from my upcoming collection, Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure. To read previous installments, go here.

ALYSSA ALIGHTS

Backstory: This is the salvaging of another failed novel project. I’d had this idea for a story involving an ensemble of characters: a teenage runaway, a street vigilante, a burned-out newspaperman, a standup cop dealing with departmental corruption. I had a vague sense of how they might all fit together, but as ensembles often go, I ended up writing not one cohesive story but several half-baked ones. Unable to reconcile them, I carved out the likeliest candidates for short fiction and went back to work. This and two other stories from the collection — The Paper Weight and Sad Tomato: A Love Story — were the results.

Here’s an excerpt:

Finally outside the house, she cut a path out of Sidney on side streets, staying well off the main drag, with its restaurants and gas stations. Even at such an early hour, the eyes that would surely see her leaving would give way to the tongues that would surely tell on her. It wasn’t until she neared the intersection of Highway 200 and Highway 16 that she dared skip over to the main road. She settled onto the shoulder and began walking southwest, toward Glendive, where a bus to Billings awaited.

She patted the right front pocket of her jeans, which held a wallet. That, in turn, contained eighty-three dollars, all the money she had managed to save from her job at the M&M diner. The wallet, she knew, was the most important thing she was carrying. Every few steps, her right hand found its way to the front of her pants, and she traced its outline, verifying once more its existence.

A mile out of town, the first semi of the day rumbled behind her, coming from Williston. She turned and thrust her right thumb skyward and smiled. Just as she figured he would, the trucker eased his rig onto the shoulder. When she caught up to him, he reached across and opened the passenger door.

(Copyright © 2012 Craig Lancaster)

Trivia: The constant patting of the wallet is a personal tic of mine. I also carry it up front — mostly because I don’t like the feel of sitting on it — and periodically brush the front of my pants with my hand to assure myself that it’s still with me. Is that weird? It seems kind of weird.

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Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure will be officially released on Dec. 6, 2011.

One Response

  1. Jim Thomsen

    I do the same thing, except I usually carry a fold of cash in the front of my pants. So I look like I’m patting my crotch a lot.

    August 17, 2011 at 10:29 am