STORY OF THE MONTH
The Logic Is In The Kindness
by Alex P. Harvey
Max believes in God. God does not believe in him. This he knows, this he believes.
It saddens him to think this. To think he was made by the same hand which threw him away. Or maybe just didn't catch him. He doesn't really know. But both sadden him.
Picking at the molded leaf sticking in the hole of his shoe he makes himself smell the Autumn of it. He closes his eyes to the sounds of colors and the sights of motions slowing, waiting for him. This leaf delivering gifts of dirt and cold dampness. Max does not see it. He only thinks of the memories. A smile in the sadness.
He looks up to see the fogged, glaring lighted glass panes of a bus which does not want to be in this part of town. It runs empty and quickly. It has to get though here to get to somewhere better. Max thinks he is very poetic when he thinks this. Max likes to make fun of himself. He is a good friend. The bus smells like Philadelphia.
Max sits on the bench alone but gets up to let Miss Mary have his seat. He points to the vacancy and she smiles and sits down with 80 years of gentility and worn out grace. Mary thinks Max is a man who struggles to be a gentleman though no one is hiring. He knows the exact distance to sit from his companion. Miss Mary must be relaxed but respected. He smiles as he thinks that "Miss Mary" is a name for a child's doll or a very young kindergarten teacher. Maybe she has been both. Max thinks Miss Mary might tell his mother he has good manners when she dies.
He watches a dog long ago thrown out. She eats but cannot hide the bones of her hunger. Max feels the wretched, garbage flecked tongue licking sweet smells of hay onto the back of his hand. He runs his fingers through matted fur moving softly in time to her gait as she runs after the cattle. This dog once family now stranger is once again loved. Max can do that. His heart can do that. He wishes he had a job for this shepherdess but he has no direction. As his companion she would find love but no purpose. Max spares her the sadness of the choice. He walks quietly away.
He turns up the collar on his coat. Max walks very fast so that people will think he is a doctor. People do not have enough time or words to tell who they are, where they have been, who they loved. They tell each other fragments, inconsequential in a world gone cruel. The meanness they woke to on the street quiets the need to tell more. This makes him sad. He tells great and glorious stories of a life never lived. Max believes the truth is in the telling.
At the table of rusting folding chairs; antique armchairs of veneration, the old women sit gingerly and matronly. He smiles at the long ago generosity of these maiden aunts and matriarchs. Generously heaping themselves onto a future generation which would never exist. Max believes it is his great privilege to serve them hot meals prepared with the care befitting such grand ladies. He solicitously tends to their every need, leaving his meal cold and tasting of Styrofoam. This taste, proof of the soft joy of his fair companions, is a gift from God. This Max believes. This he knows.
Max greets every stranger by name. Not to do so would be rude. He addresses all bus drivers by one name and taxi drivers by another and another for window washers. He never forgets a name. To do so would be impolite and cruel. Max believes the logic of this is in the kindness.
He studies Chinese. Or recalls it from some past enthusiasm. Emperors who believe in soul robbing peasants sadden him. Although the physical makes this improbable the spiritual makes this impossible. Max believes that folly and cruelty are not so far apart. He carries this belief in his pocket into the library each day.
Max believes in the great and decaying buildings of the city. Their lives born of memories and long gone energies of the soul. His bare cheek finds comfort against the molded rot of forgotten purpose, of humanity. He believes the resurrection is in his remembrance.
Max knows the monsters of childhood wait under beds with no covers. Feared and familiar they stand watch over the nightmares of the city. He tells stories of the wondrous feats of these good and terrible sentries, guardians of children in beds with no covers. Max believes in the fierce kindnesses of the city. The children sleep.
Ancient pews long past their venerable warm glow of age, splintering signs of poverty. Max finds no coincidence in the wooden sacrifices demanded by the church,of crosses and shards of wood in threadbare trousers, signs and confessions of belief. The gifts of sacrifice. Pious expressions from people gone silent and poor.
Max believes in God.
This he knows.
This he believes.
Alex: I am currently a writing and film studies student at Manatee College in Venice, Florida. My short stories have appeared in the annual university literary publication and I have written and directed several award winning short films. I am anxious to have a wider and more varied audience for my work. Contact Alex.
Alex P. Harvey
I was born in New Jersey, though Virginia is my adopted home. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology. Soon after, I began graduate studies in Sociology also at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Since then I have participated in numerous writing workshops and creative writing classes while attending Manatee College in Venice, Florida, where I currently reside.
Almost exclusively I write narrative stories. A degree in Sociology and the study of all facets of human idiosyncratic behavior provides seemingly unlimited subject material.
I have taken various film classes studying history, criticism and production of motion pictures. I wrote a short story and subsequent screen play, which was produced as a film awarded at a Student Film Festival.
Apart from all the biographical vital statistics, it is writing which makes me feel alive. As melodramatic as that sounds, it is nonetheless true.
The study of film, as an obsessive student, or ardent movie goer is another love of mine. Seemingly ironic is the fact that I cannot express the wondrous emotions I attribute to this art. Then again I often experience the same shortcoming when attempting to write about writing.
CONGRATULATIONS, ALEX! WE LOVED YOUR STORY, NOW TELL US ALL ABOUT YOU!
Q. Let's start. What would you want our readers to know about you?
R. My name. This is not meant as a lame attempt at humor. What I write is the most interesting part of who I am.
However when advising new writers, knowing something about me might explain my biases.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
R. I would have to say I write mostly narrative fiction. In that respect a story can fit any genre description.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
R. Having enough affection for your characters to develop them fully. An introduction to readers who will care about what happens to them. Caring enough to add their vision to yours. The basic story, your story is always the same but it changes with each reader. That is what makes a good story.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
R. No set formula as such. If the piece is plot driven I concentrate on that aspect then develop characters to create the story. Often I create the characters first but at times I cannot find "their stories" and put the piece aside. This is a formula only in that it works for me.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
R. Watch an incredible amount of films. Mostly film noir and silent pictures. I am attracted to the silents. If they are good enough you can write the dialogue and develop characters, making a short story of them. I like the fact that it is the opposite of a good book; you can visualize enough to make into a film.
And of course I read at least two or three books at any given time.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
R. Reading short story collections inspire, humble, and ultimately inspire me.
Having someone you respect who gives honest criticism (thoughtful,constructive, and at times intense) of your work and will vigorously argue that you do in fact have talent despite mounting rejection letters. In other words lucky enough to have someone like my brother Bryan.
Q.Are you working on any new projects right now?
R. Working on a series of short stories about people who live on the streets. Hopefully not stereotypical catalogs of everyday events nor expected accounts of who they are, who they were (before becoming homeless). Letting them tell you who they are through their relations/reactions to other people. They are telling you their stories. And sometimes they don't tell me anything so I have to wait.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
R. When I cannot make an idea (a really good idea) into a story. In other words I forget, ignore all the advice I have written here.
Most rewarding is when I read my story and can "hear my voice". Not in terms of any message in the story but as the reader the cadence, sentence structure, words and images are familiar traits of a writer I know.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
R. First write down the idea. It is as simple as that. Don't get ahead of yourself. Write fragments of sentences, descriptions, sweeping generalizations, minute details of characters you know nothing about yet. Anything you type about your story IS writing.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
R. As you write more and learn the discipline of drafts and brutal editing you gain the confidence of a talent not exclusively born of lightning strikes of creativity. When you are convinced you have nothing to say , and no way to say it, reread one of your stories you love enough to write one more.