Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Linnet's Wings/Gary Cadwallader/Antonios Maltezos/Flash Fiction Review

Nominating Editor: Marie Lynam Fitzpatrick

The Linnet's Wings is published from Co. Leitrim in the Irish Republic. Her editors are based in Ireland and the US. We're a small team, and we publish poetry, micro, flash, short stories and creative non-fiction with an occasional script and classic.

One of our main aims is to ensure the time that our visitors spend on our site is enjoyable. But when I started work on The Linnets Wings in 2007, all I was clear about was that we, as a team, wanted to create a literary ezine.

Our editors know that literature is about well-executed poetry and prose that shows the whys and wherefores of society through the eyes of the writer. Our authors are prepared to take a chance with vernacular and syntax as they develop their ideas to build their stories, and our poets understand their discipline. Both our poetry and prose writers know that words have the power to affect their world, their reader and their society, just as they have the power to curse or heal.

Although no one on the team at Linnet's Wings is paid, we believe that there must be an exchange of energy, a give and take in all Linnet's Wings transactions. So we spend many hours, reading, editing, sourcing and working with photographs and art as we slowly build our publication. In the first two months of our autumn issue, we received over 300,000 hits and hosted 4,700 visits.

As we enter 2009, we're in the process of designing our first print issue with the intent, after spring, to run a print issue each quarter alongside our ezine.

And while we're concentrating on creating something beautiful to showcase our contributors' work, we're putting in place modules, which will allow Linnet to fly successfully in whatever skies she chooses to wing her way through.


The request was simple enough; I had to ask an editor to nominate a story from our archives and write a blurb about it. As our fiction editor Yvette was on a break, I decided to run with our flash and short story section to see what we had. We spent a week re-reading our archives, once again critiquing what we had already published in an effort to find a story that fit the bill. It was no small chore as I was constantly amazed at the talent that we have attracted since our inaugural issue in September 2007.

I was reading for voice, pace, style and characterization. Could I hear music in the soul of the story?

Cadwallader's "Thunderhead" kept making the cut. And it was a little like judging the finalist in American Idol, as each story had already made the grade as far as we were concerned. But we kept paring back since this was as much about who we are as an ezine as it was about our writers. And in the end it was "Thunderhead" that edged through.

From the first stroke of the conductor's baton, I could hear the reader's silence, the muse being stroked in the title. I was then drawn into his story.

From his first line I knew that I was reading about relationships. "How boring," one might say. Another relationship that hit the rocks as a writer wallows. But not in this case. For Cadwallader's narrator knew the score.

Within the body, we meet a bright man, a man willing to work at a relationship, to take the care required within the home. But a narrator who prefers to beat himself up with his choices by refusing to move on. His first paragraph ends with... "He loved her like some people love wounded birds."

And he starts the second by showing the texture of his past relationship with Lesley, building an image for his reader with a few strokes before he explores his unraveling relationship with Magnolia.

So who is this guy who waits for the woman to ring? Who is this guy who considers whether she may be suffering from hypomania as she puts her life in order and he goes home alone?

Is he a man who transfers his demons onto his partners and convinces himself that they have the problem?

Is he a man who'll move on to find another wounded bird to fix?

Or a man who knows better? or not?

All these questions bubbled up as I read the story. Towards the end, I mused as I sat on the porch with Jerry, watching the stars accept the inevitable.

After I finished the story, I thought about Jerry, Lesley and Magnolia. As I go about my business I'm sure to meet them in the street, in the restaurant or out walking. And maybe I felt just a little of their emotion trapped within myself, for "Thunderhead" is a story that transcends gender. What feeling will "Thunderhead" evoke from you?

To find out you'll have to read for yourself. "Thunderhead" is published to The Linnet's Wings Autumn Issue 2008 and it's a story written by a talented writer who developed his idea and spent many hours getting his presentation right.

Our thanks to T.J. Forrester and Five Star Literary Stories for their invitation, to Gary Cadwallader for giving me his permission to discuss his story in this forum, and to our readers and contributors for sharing in our small successes over the last year.

Nominated Flash Fiction: "Thunderhead" - Gary Cadwallader

Reviewed: by Antonios Maltezos

Gary Cadwallader wastes no time giving us a central point of focus, the clothing that’s scattered about. That clothing could just as easily have been the description of a hometown left behind but not really; a whiskered aunt who gossips too much because she’s just so bitter for never having found the right man; the bully we spied from across the street; the bicycle we rode like the wind; that family gathering – ‘nuff said; the weather. But this isn’t really weather-speak, is it? Well, it is if you figure we’ve all had to stoop to look under the bed at least once in our life for that errant sock that missed the laundry hamper. It’s more than just that, weather-speak, a span between neighbors that arcs to clear a fence, or the writer simply drawing us in with the familiar. This is a Cadwallader opening. This laundry speaks volumes. It’s clothing, “scattered everywhere,” a life dis-organized, without purpose or foresight, dirty and used because it been “balled up” and “tossed,” something a self-respecting person wouldn’t do. It’s even “yellowed by cat piss.” It’s dirty laundry with a story, out of the hamper and exposed. It’s the dirty laundry in the expression: don’t air your dirty laundry in public.

Magnolia is an impulsive woman, having left once before, her laundry strewn about then, as well. We can draw inferences about this woman. We can’t help it. Magnolia is like the junkie, or that alcoholic or impulsive gambler who comes around once every couple years for a bail-out, that one person you can never reach, never rein in like a wild horse even if your arms are strong enough and you have the right amount of caress in your whisper -- even if you have a stronger will than the beast. She’ll always be at arm's length from this narrator, who still wears his wedding band, who doesn’t mind collecting her clothes, washing them, packing them in boxes at her ready. If she’s ready. She, Magnolia, is of an ancient genus, according to Wikipedia, having evolved before bees appeared. Is that even possible? She’s been around forever, then, and if you’re a man, this could only mean one thing – the dreaded Eve! Always one step ahead of man. Even if this is a stretch, her sole purpose in life, as far as we can see at this point, is to torment our narrator until he can say, “Come on, cat. We’ve things to do.” Time to move on as if it had been up to her all along. She’s to blame. And this is the question that lingered for me as I traveled through the story. Was she really to blame for his life that seems to have stalled? That “he loved her like some people love wounded birds,” doesn’t explain it. That’s his reasoning, a way to feel useful, his self-worth intact as long as she’s a mess.

It’s this inter-dependence that’s so beautifully alluded to in the first paragraph, the laundry, which allows us to continue on as if we’ve been insiders all along. She may be searching for a purpose in life, but he’s the one who’s unwilling to take off that wedding band. It’s an unhealthy union, one that may have had a purpose but only as a stepping stone to get to the other side. But who’s more determined?

‘She'd shaved her entire body and when he stared, she said, “I made myself ready for you.”’

There’s desperation in this act, as there was the last two times she left without her clothing, leaving it where it lay as if some strange pulse bomb had gone off, killing the people but the things were unharmed. But he doesn’t get it, does he? “It was some kind of sexual ritual, he thought.” And that’s when this story becomes more complex than a simple retelling of the story of Eve and how, along with fire and sea, she was to be feared by man, and becomes about us and our reluctance to stare long and hard into the mirror lest we recognize who is staring back.

Maybe Magnolia’s dirty laundry scattered about was a testament of her resolve to recognize the unhealthiness in the relationship, to love herself first, everything else was secondary. A courageous act.

‘“Yeah, baby. I love you,” he said.’ This, after she’d informed him that she’d enrolled in school. Yeah, baby. I love you, as if he didn’t believe her new-found zest for life would lead anywhere. Yeah, baby. I love you, as if to say he’d be waiting, still not ready to go on with his own life if she wasn’t there. Yeah, baby. I love you -- what those words must sound like for a person trying to escape an unhealthy relationship.

We have to wish her well, at this point, as our thoughts turn to him and him alone, and how he will cope when it all finally sinks in. Is there a glimmer of hope in the lightning reflected on his wedding band? Or is it in his need for the outside, the open air? Is it the thunderhead like some great omen off in the distance? Or is it a combination of all of the above, as in life, when things slowly fall into place?

It is time to move on, after all, and I choose to believe his final words to the cat, which speak volumes like the laundry of the beginning. “Come on, cat. We’ve things to do.” We get the sense that when he’s ready, there will be much to do. There’s a thunderhead off in the distance, after all, the inevitable upheaval of a life turned inside out, though for the moment he chooses to focus on the clear sky overhead and the “hard lights” of the stars. That’s okay. As long as that thunderhead is looming large and dangerous, there’s hope.

Reviewer's Bio:

Antonios Maltezos is a member of the Canadian Writer's Collective, and a first reader for Vestal Review. He is presently working on a novel, A Train Runs Through Here, as well as several smaller projects, most notably raising his four daughters. He has stories both online and in print at such places as Per Contra, Dogzplot, Nighttrain, Mindprints, Temenos, Ink Pot, Pequin, Elimae, and Smokelong Quarterly.

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this flash fiction.


bevjackson said...

Wonderful story, wonderful review, and astute editor! Loved the whole thing. Cadwallader always makes me
smile before I cry.

T. J. Forrester said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Bev. Nice to see you.