Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stories within stories: a Snippet from "Snow"

I talked about characters in yesterday's post. How I create them and they tell me the story. Sometimes little pieces of story simply become snippets---a story they told me which influences them but serves as back story, much like "Judith".

I've been revising Rain over the past few weeks but I've also been working on my second project, Snow, with an eye to having them both ready (possibly) for next year's writing conference. As happens with me, a name caught my eye and, while I knew she was important, I didn't or don't pursue that particular story in Snow. It's backstory again. And, yet, I liked it. Another story is folded up inside. Would you like a peek at the snippet? It's unedited rough draft and incomplete (even now my fingers itch to rephrase and elaborate some things). I think I'm going to finish it up as a short story and put it up on Scribophile. The story folded inside? Please tell me in the comments if you see it as well as I do and ,if I wrote it, would you read it?

"Becoming Noona"

“When?”  The older woman asked as she stood at the window, looking out, and trembled.
“Three days ago. Carlotta told me she found out about it this morning when she got to work at the hospital. The name ‘Johansson’ caught her attention. When she was told the mother’s name she called me. Oh, Maria–our Angelina! So beautiful . . . so young.”
The younger woman began to weep without reservation but the older drew a deep breath and stilled her trembling.
“And the child, Bianca? What of the child?” Behind her she could hear her cousin’s efforts to stifle her sobs.
“A boy, Maria. He lives.”
A boy, Maria thought. My grandson. Not my only grandson but motherless, vulnerable. Angelina’s. Dancing, laughing Angelina. She squeezed her eyelids against the threatening tears.
“He is with his father, then?”
Of course he was. She didn’t need Bianca to tell her that.
She could still see the determined and defiant look on their faces that day. The tall dark-blond man and her daughter standing in front of the family, their arms around each other, announcing their clandestine marriage. Angelina’s grandfather, her father-in-law, erupted in pure rage and ordered them out of his house, disowning her. Angelina’s eyes sought hers, brimming with tears and love, but she lifted her chin and looked up at Michael who drew her closer, nodded without a word at the still raging patriarch, and they left. It was the last time she had seen her daughter, although she heard of both of them from time to time–Angelina’s pregnancy only a couple of months ago.
“Oh, Maria.” Her cousin took up her sobbing again. “You have lost her twice now.”
“Yes,” she answered and turned from the window. “My only daughter died without her family around her because one old man would not accept love has its own rules and eyes. And I sinned, too. I allowed it without a word. Enough!”
“What can you do now? She’s gone.”
“Her son lives. My grandson lives.”
“Maria! What are you thinking?”

A soft but insistent knock on the door roused Michael Johansson from the worn armchair where he dozed. Little Aaron slept at last, too. All night he cried. The formula the hospital discharged him disagreed with him, his father was sure of it.
He stumbled to the door and opened it without looking through the peephole. A petite Italian woman with white wings in her hair stood there with two suitcases sitting beside her. Mike shook his head to clear it. Angelina’s mother? What?
He stood there in a daze with his hand still on the open door as she picked up the suitcases and pushed by him.
“Where is he? Where is my grandson?”
Mike shook his head again. She sat her suitcases down with a thud and glared at him.
“He’s asleep–finally,” he croaked just as a thin cry came from the middle bedroom.
She veered toward the sound with a speed that astonished him. He followed her close behind but she reached the crying baby before him and snatched him up to her, murmuring in soft Italian and rubbing his back. Aaron gave out a very audible, long burp and his crying diminished into whimpering.
“Better, little one? What have you done now? Where are your manners? Greeting your grandmother by throwing up on her? Hush now–hush. It’s all right. Not your fault. It needed to come up.”
Mike watched the little scenario in amazed fascination, unable to speak for several minutes as she wiped the baby’s mouth, ignoring the moist white deposit on her shoulder. Aaron, quiet, stared up at her face with a little frown.
“Mrs. Cavallaro, what are you doing here?”
She looked up from the baby and stared at him. For several moments they looked at each other.
“You need a shave,” she replied at last. “You’ve been up all night with this little one, yes? Go. Take care of yourself. I will take care of him. You have another bedroom here? Take my suitcases there.”
Mike started to say something but the fierce look on her face and the way she cradled the baby made him step back. The possessive hands curling on Aaron’s bottom and the back of his head, supporting it. He had the sudden notion she would spit and claw at him like a cat if he reached for his son.
“Mrs. Cavallaro,” he began again.
“Go,” she interrupted, turning her back to him, laying the baby down. She started to remove his soiled diaper shirt, her fingers slow and gentle. “We will talk, Michael. We will talk.”
Mike left the room without a word.

She fastened the clean shirt around him and picked him up again. He squirmed in her arms as she sat down in an oak platform rocker with him. With some satisfaction she smiled at the dark eyes looking up at her. Dark eyes, sleepy eyes. She wrapped the blanket more securely around him and began to rock.
“Your father is very confused,” she told him in a soft voice. “Perhaps your grandmother is as well. I did not even ask him your name. That’s alright. Your mother’s name was Angelina. She was my angel and now she is God’s angel. So you must be my angel now. What do you think, Angelito?”
The baby did not answer but his eyes closed as he fell asleep. She continued to rock and hold him close as the tears started to fall without restraint.
“Sleep, Angelito. Noona’s here. Sleep.”


  1. I really enjoyed your snippet. To me, "Becoming Noona" works well as a stand-alone short story. You should publish it! :-)

    1. Update: Actually I have rewritten this little story and it appears as my second story in the anthology, "Anything Goes 2", with the title "Becoming Nonna". I'm quite fond and proud of it.


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