Inside the Book: Stealing Away #9

The stories in my collection may seem a bit diverse, set in places from the Midwest to the Mideast, with plots dramatic and dark to light and reflective, but what unifies them are the characters who have arrived at a point at life that they aren’t entirely comfortable with, and they struggle with whether they should just dig in and deal with it or get the hell out. Such is the case with “Maple Seeds,” the shortest and gentlest of the bunch, about a man who’s still single but surrounded by couples and suddenly conscious of it as he waits for friends and notices an intriguing woman in the distance.

I love to incorporate setting and ordinary objects into a story. As an author I am contriving that I suppose, but in real life I find these coincidentally appropriate elements almost unbearably common. Something happens to you — a breakup, a promotion, a sunny day — and the perfect song comes on the radio the moment you start the car like the soundtrack to a movie. Or maybe your mind, cued up with the emotions and thoughts of something personal, filters your surroundings to notice that discarded item at the curb, to zoom in on that particular billboard or seemingly familiar stranger passing or that relevant brand of snack or soda you swear you haven’t seen in decades yet there it is, right at the moment your memories from that era have resurfaced. “You couldn’t make that up!” we say. From one of my favorite cult movies Repo Man, this is the “lattice of coincidence that lays on top of things.” And I’m a big fan of it.

Maple seeds are as common as anything in the Midwest, helicoptering down everywhere in the summer, scattering in the wind. Perfect for a metaphor, and not far off from a New Testament parable about seeds that fall by chance on rocky soil vs. those that find themselves in good earth. Perfect for a fellow contemplating his lot in life too.

And here’s an appropriate beer to pair with it. From Collaborative Arts Brewing’s joint effort with Mikerphone Brewing: Origin of Darkness: an Imperial Stout aged in Maple Syrup Bourbon Barrels with Walnuts. Big and rich in a small can, and a little goes a long way. It should leave you mellowed and contemplative, much like the narrator of the story pondering a stranger in the distance, imagining another life.

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