Rachel King’s short fiction has appeared most recently in One Story, Pigeon Pages, Flyway, and Lunch Ticket, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poetry chapbook Between Work and Light is available from Dancing Girl Press. She lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Excerpt from “CD Player”
On the first anniversary of September 11, my dad told me my mom was in hospice. We were eating microwave lasagna while watching the airplanes crash into the towers over and over again. My dad clicked the TV off, then clicked it back on. A commercial for Miller’s. “It’s serious, Trevor,” he said.
I hadn’t felt the effects of 9/11 like adults seemed to. I was only eleven when it happened, and I didn’t know anyone who’d died in it. Hell, I didn’t know anyone east of Idaho. “I’m going to skate,” I said.
“Hold on,” my dad said. He was switching from graveyard to swing so he could be with her early in the day. He expected me to visit her after school.
“Sure,” I said. I rubbed my fingers along the burnt, greasy sides of the lasagna box. On TV, a newscaster was interviewing a kid in New York City.
I skated to Eighty-Second, down to Fremont, then all the way to Rose City Park. I sat on a bench and watched kids finish soccer practice. It smelled like wet leaves and pine needles and car exhaust. I thought about last summer when our old mutt had crawled under my bed and died. I stood up and dropped my board on the sidewalk and didn’t stop skating until I was back on Eighty-Second and in front of Joe’s, my mom’s regular bar. The building’s white paint was flaking off. I wondered if Mom’s friends there knew where she was.
Excerpt from Statement
I babysat, nannied, coached, taught, or mentored kids almost continuously from the time I was eleven until I was twenty-five. Trevor, the main character in “CD Player,” is a composite of different boys I worked with. I had a soft spot for his kind: a loner from a possibly unstable background who had trouble knowing how he felt. I myself came from a stable family, but could be a loner and—like more boys than girls perhaps—had difficulty articulating my emotions. When I found a poem, character, or song that embodied my feelings, I would, like Trevor, read, view, or listen to it over and over.
I wrote “CD Player” during the decade I lived away from my home state of Oregon. Sometimes in winter, when I missed nineties Portland, I would watch the Elliott Smith music video Lucky Three, and the puddles, bridges, roses, and warehouses—as well as the music—would comfort me.