Nearly 10 years ago, I was fortunate to be a finalist for North American Review‘s first Kurt Vonnegut Prize for my story “Visions and Revisions”—a little tale I’d tinkered with on and off over a period of about five years, as I recall. The story follows a woman who may be witnessing her new boyfriend abusing her daughter—or maybe not, as it turns out, and there’s the trouble she’s encountering: what to believe or not, and what to do about it. Here’s the opening couple of paragraphs:
Tending the spaghetti, Sandra studied the cabinets on the wall beside her. Their whiteness, she knew, was proof that she had painted them, wasn’t it? After all, they had been brown once, surely. She remembered picking them out with her ex-husband before the house was built, choosing them from the builder’s ragged catalog, and later she had painted them white when the marriage was over, just to make them hers alone. One hand on the stirring spoon, she raised the other to smooth her fingers across the face of the nearest cabinet’s door. It was slightly wet with steam from the boiling pot, and there was a small smudge near the handle. She’d need to clean that up. These too—the cabinets, the steam, the smudge—were real.
Her eyes swept across the kitchen: the sink, porcelain not stainless (her choice); the sponge perched on the corner, sticky with soap and destined for the trashcan; the microwave, the toaster, the can opener; the pass-through window separating kitchen and living room, its ledge decorated with a small gathering of imitation Herend rabbits, and beyond that her boyfriend Curt slapping her nine-year-old daughter Wendy; a spice rack; a series of containers for sugar, flour, coffee and tea, ceramic containers whose surfaces were shaped like basketweave; the jolt of the cabinets as his hand struck her cheek; a stray red oven mitt, just out of reach.
Sandra gripped her thumb and forefinger around the counter’s edge, pressed it hard. Then she turned her attention back to stirring her spaghetti—turned her attention, in fact, more completely to its swirl and tumble in the big black pot….
“Visions and Revisions” appeared in NAR‘s Summer 2004 issue, and this week it’s been given a fresh life, thanks to Leslie Pietrzyk, the editor at Redux, an “invitation-only literary journal of writers’ favorite, previously published stories and poems, not found elsewhere on the web.” You can find Redux‘s “reprint” of “Visions and Revisions” here. Hope you enjoy! — Art Taylor