THE TRIPTYCH STORY
THE TRIPTYCH STORY: Combining three associated artistic, literary, or musical works with the intention to be appreciated together has been around for ages. At its best it is able to create a singular and surprising reaction from three somewhat disparate elements. In terms of story possibility, see what happens by assigning a specific place, theme, or other narrative association to tell your story.
Bedtime in Thorpe Village, Leicestershire, England
Thirteen-year old Nancy is sitting on the bridge, listening to the trickle of the stream in the dark. She can see nothing here in the shrouded countryside, can only feel the wooden slats prickle against her thighs and hear the burble of the water and the owl’s low cry. Even when she squints at her hand, she still can’t make it out...and, realising she’s invisible she begins to breathe easy. Truth is, her body usually feels fake, her limbs unfamiliar, plasticky and hollow; but now, they’re all hers, right here, in the dark – not her uncle’s at midnight, when, beneath her sweaty sheets, his fingers make her both exist and not exist.
Nine-year old Tommy stands in Thorpe Village Church, staring at the vaulting of the ceiling above where the cold lights hang like ghoulish orbs and the gargoyles peak and grin. He thinks it’s miraculous that, in cold, stalwart England, churches are often left unlocked – not out of sloppiness (he, of course, is sloppy) but because they are holy shelters. At home – a corner bungalow where the village roads meet – his father and mother are still fighting. “Dear God,” shouts his father. There’s the crash of a glass. “I won’t let you do this. Jesus.” But as Tommy stands here in his scuffed Converse boots, between the quiet pews, beneath the yawning vaults, he knows things are bound to turn out fine. Because he always says his prayers, never interrupts, and at school he writes so neatly that his words don’t seem like his.
Next door to the Butcher’s Pub, Rosemary is climbing out of the window, while John snaps the curtains shut behind. She knows she’s ungainly, a plump sixty-eight year-old, fumbling to get her bottom on the sill before landing, barefoot, onto the flowerbed below. Behind, she can hear Rita, John’s wife of twenty years, arguing about the state of the kitchen, where an hour ago, John threw Rosemary over the table, binding her wrists and taking her from behind – oh yes, the table bashed against the wall, the wine-glasses tumbled, and the calendar fell. But now, as she creeps across the grass in John’s dressing gown, Rosemary feels fresh and free. She finally has a secret. A full-blown fib. And it makes her so present that her whole body tingles, gloriously real.
- Sue Williams (originally published in SmokeLong Quarterly)
SUE WILLIAMS has appeared in Narrative, Night Train, Smokelong Quarterly, Salamander, Redivider, Greatest Uncommon Denominator, Hint Fiction: A Norton Anthology of Stories and numerous other books and magazines. She works as an Assistant Book Awards Editor at Narrative Magazine and is a writing instructor at Grub Street. She also publishes erotica under a pen name and has a story in this year’s Best Women’s Erotica. Sue’s awards include first place in the 2009 Carolyn A. Clark Flash Fiction Contest and Glimmer Train’s Best Start. Find her online at www.suewilliams.co.uk
Stace Budzko has been published or is forthcoming in Blip, Southeast Review, Versal, Upstreet, Necessary Fiction, Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Press 53, PANK, Hobart, elimae, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, The Collagist, Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, Brevity & Echo, Quick Fiction and elsewhere. The screen adaptations of his stories have received numerous honors and showcases as well. At present, he is a writing instructor at Emmanuel College and writer-in-residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.See other articles by Stace Budzko