Susan Tepper: Darryl, you are known primarily as a poet, so it was with some surprise that I discovered this fascinating little story you wrote called “That Kind of Body“. It’s a story that begins with a notion then takes the reader on a far flung journey.
Darryl Price: Anything that happens to me in this life happens in a story for someone else. We are constantly surrounded by these incredible stories of life. In this one I was trying to present the huge amount of assumptions we are so quick to pull out when confronted with something out of the ordinary. And just like in the photograph you are only getting part of the whole story, which is still unfolding anyway. So in a way it’s a lie, or a false notion, to begin with. It’s the appreciation you bring to it that can transform the experience of it into something more incredible. Because it’s a tiny mirror of the larger universe. Truths can be found and viewed.
Susan: Yes, totally, the appreciation you can bring is transformative! In this story your narrator first brought to mind the character of Holden Caulfield. The story reached back to a more innocent time in America’s history, when things still felt alive for discovery.
Darryl: I think that’s simply the fact of youth. Your canvas is purer, larger. The possibilities haven’t narrowed so much emotionally that you’ve begun to give up on your dreams. But sooner or later you run smack dab into the physical reality. And that means people- people who might not necessarily think like you or act like you or even want the same things like you. It’s a harsh awakening. I find humor helps. And of course poetry!
Susan: Poetry helps me hugely with those kinds of issues.
Darryl, you begin your story: “I was thin young. There’s a kind of freedom to be found when walking around inside that kind of body that allows you to have in this world what’s known as a presence.”
A presence. Though there is a sense of ego here, I did not find the story to be ego-centered around your narrator. Quite the opposite. This was simply factual information he was supplying about his personal take on the world at large. And from this beginning, the story springboards into something remarkable, also image-driven.
Darryl: This young man by the very fact of his existence is present, even more so than those around him, because he is not yet tethered in the conventional sense. He moves freely through the world of things and the freedom of his own immediate ideas.
Susan: “…so I went to the state fair with my dinky camera and my money to see what I could see.”
He went to the state fair. Such a throw-back to early Americana. Your character’s sweetness and innocence stun me. Now I’m getting Cal in East of Eden. And your guy, he saw plenty, right?
Darryl: Right. The word dinky is important here because it implies not a lot of money but still enough gumption to do the best with what you’ve got. He engages the world — even if it is with a ragged enthusiasm. And he’s open to what he might possibly see. That sets him up for the experience to follow. And the level on which he will experience it as it happens to him. He’s willing to open doors where others are happy just to leave them shut. They experience what they choose. But there are unexplored options to the obvious. Courage is required. And a sense of excitement for the unknown worlds within the ordinary.
Susan: So you are saying that our experiences are more self-driven than we understand them to be at the time. I agree. For instance, your character goes to the state fair and encounters “a freak.” He has free will. Yet he chooses to go to that particular freak tent, or whatever, and be with this freak-woman. If he had gone, instead, to ride the roller coaster, would he grow up to be a different kind of man?
Darryl: Absolutely. Because his courage would never have been tested in this way. It would have remained dormant. He met someone extraordinary because he stepped out of line so to speak. It was in a free wheeling moment that he changed direction and chose the tent. Like you said he had free will. He could’ve walked on. But didn’t. The once in a lifetime moment grabbed him and spit him back out all the better for it. It can never be repeated. It can never be found again. It’s already gone. It can only be lived once. If you are lucky enough, find your courage on the day when opportunity asks: Why not go this way today?
Susan: Yes!!! And you write:
…when a voice called out to me, “I can see you there boy, don’t run away from me, this is something you’ve just got to see for yourself if only to tell your grandchildren about it one day, only fifty cents, the head of a beautiful woman and the body of a hideous snake, don’t pass up this opportunity of a lifetime, take a chance, only fifty cents!” What could I do?
Readers, you will have to find out for yourselves. Such a wonderful story! So life-affirming.
Read “That Kind of Body“ by Darryl Price
Monday Chat is a bi-weekly series in which Susan Tepper has a conversation with a Fictionaut writer about one of his or her stories. Susan is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review, fiction editor of Wilderness House Literary Review, co-author of new novel What May Have Been, and hosts FIZZ, a reading series at KGB Bar.