I spent a year teaching in Turkey, and the experience was so amazing for me that I felt compelled to write a book about it: The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey. The cultural experience, the travels through historical places, and the dear friends I made combined to make an incomparable year in my life. I also got sick on some travels in Egypt and Syria and felt what it was like to be laid low far from family and home.
This short story has elements from my travels, details, images, though none of the characters. This story is unusual in a couple of ways. First, I started it at a picnic table in a friend’s backyard in Madison years ago… merely as a writing exercise. Every writer has or is looking for ways to get words flowing. I am not sure I have one in particular, but this time I picked a random writing prompt and wrote to see where it took me. “A man walks into Antioch…” That was it. Off I went trying to sort out why he was there, what would happen to him, had happened to him. The ancient city still exists in Turkey, Antakya, near the border of Syria, and I’ve been through there a couple times. There is a famous museum of mosaics there as well.
The second unusual bit about the story was my approach to it: It is mostly nonlinear with a scattering of pieces that gradually make a clearer story. One of my former professors who has read Stealing Away: Stories felt it was the best story in the bunch: “It’s postmodern, but not in a show-offy way; it’s just written the way it needs to be.” This story also appeared in Red Wheelbarrow, a national literary magazine produced by De Anza College in California (Vol. 7, 2006).
I found two beers I liked for this story. Mad Hatter American IPA from New Holland Brewing in Michigan and Mosey IPA from Vintage Brewing in Wisconsin. The Mad Hatter seems about right for two of the characters in the book. One perhaps clinically mad and the other perhaps in a breakdown sort of way. And Mosey is packed with Mosaic hops, so there’s the connection. I enjoyed both, but if forced to choose, I preferred those Mosaic hops!