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It Will Be All of These Things by Ruth LeFaive


Ruth LeFaive’s “It Will Be All of These Things” is one of three winners of the 2020 CRAFT Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.


“It Will Be All of These Things” took my breath away when I read it through the first time, and has everything I look for in a story. Nostalgia and sweetness and sadness. Wildness. Heart. Mystery. From the very first line, it feels like a song I want to listen to over and over again. There’s so much happening here between what’s on the page and what flashes back to us from the future and I can smell and hear and feel and touch and taste it all. Brilliant. And most importantly, I want to press Pause. I want to stay here, but I can’t because it ends. It ends, but just like a favorite song, we can go back to the beginning and feel that way all over again (and again).  Leesa Cross-Smith


 

Nine of us cram into Brad O’Neill’s dad’s Buick, a girl to each lap, and Gulp’s snugging my middle before all the doors crash shut. I look back to see his tanned cheekbones; it’s really him, Gulp North, under and around me. He nips my bare shoulder, eyes wild. I wince and wonder if the rumors are true. Buckle in, buckaroos! Sully’s up front howling again, typical, a mastiff of a midfielder in a letterman’s jacket, spilling laughter between bays. Mitch and Sarah are here in back with Sebastian between us, stolen gin in paper cups. We’ve been at it since sundown. It’s too early to think of how we’ll get home. For now, we’re loose. One day, I’ll look back and marvel at how bleak these fields are, how hungry the grass, how battered the barns, fleeting by faster than eleventh grade, heavier than O’Neill’s foot on the gas. He’ll come out in a decade, will bring a man to our ten-year reunion, but tonight he’s got one hand on the wheel and another on Terri, her Catholicism his excuse for restraint. My best friend Kara’s on Sully’s knee next to Terri. From where I sit, they’re a jumble of wagging heads, nodding to the Beasties. We’ve got nine years before Kara’s city council run, twenty-nine before Sully’s chemo fails, four before Terri goes full force police academy. But tonight, we’re still young in the dark with our legs bunched together, anticipating every naked first. We’re past the skating pond, over the big hill when Gulp clutches my hips, locking me closer. I wish he’d kiss me like Mitch is Sarah, their shadowy push and pull nudging Seb into us. Later, Sarah will say she wasn’t into it, it hurt, it was okay, it wasn’t bad. O’Neill takes a curve too swiftly and we all wrench left, then right, and the only way not to spill onto Seb is to press up and down at once. I’m a vise: my palm pressing the roof’s unexpected velour, my lower half nestled with Gulp’s, my middle taut, braced, a seed unfurling. Baby, he says, not sounding like someone who’ll land his wife in the ICU. Baby, with a tenderness I want. I want. Sully barks at a possum in the road, and Kara laughs, and O’Neill guns it and none of us knows where we’re going, but we will find out.

 


RUTH LEFAIVE’s stories and interviews appear in Best Small Fictions 2018Little Fiction, Longreads, Split Lip MagazineThe OffingThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her work recently placed 2nd in the Fractured Lit Micro Fiction Prize. She lives in Los Angeles where she is working on a collection of short stories. Find her online at ruthlefaive.com.

 

Featured image by Mohammad Hoseini Rad courtesy of Unsplash

 


Our Twitter micro-interview with Ruth LeFaive:

Author’s Note

I drafted “It Will Be All of These Things” during one of Monet Patrice Thomas’s famous writing challenges. Anyone who has followed her on Twitter for the past few years may have noticed the hashtags: #TheBJChallenge, #TheKinkChallenge, #TheBigO; you get the idea. Participating writers have a month to generate a flash-length story or essay. All entries must include a literary portrayal of sex and fulfill a prompt Monet keeps secret until the official start date. The prompt for this challenge was First Time. #FirstTimeChallenge. So I spent thirty days thinking of teenagers.

I had a seed of a premise. I could see the love interest vividly. I gave him a boring name and a dew-graced setting. I accumulated notes. One was: Maybe it should make me feel better about the world, but it doesn’t. Did I mention this was March 2020? Even before lockdown, I tweeted about what a difficult time I was having with the piece. I posted a photo from my journal with the giant letters B-A-D scrawled over crossed-out paragraphs.

With two days left to write, I didn’t have a story. All I had were thoughts of teenagers. I needed constraints. I turned to one of my favorite flash stories, “Peggy Park, August 1992” by Bryan Washington, which first appeared in Hobart before landing, retitled as “Peggy Park,” in his brilliant collection, Lot. If you haven’t read this story go read it now. It’s magnificent. It’s under 900 words and has more than twenty characters, most of whom have futures laid out in the exposition. The dramatic action is complete and triumphant and funny, too. I love every sentence of that story. So, desperate to turn in a draft, I decided to experiment with the form. Put another way: I stole the structure. Shamelessly and poorly. I packed nine kids into a car and never quite achieved a plot or a fully drawn sexual interaction, but I sent the piece to Monet at 11:59 p.m. with a minute to spare. And then I tweeted a gif of Winona Ryder from Heathers, post-explosion and sooty with a cigarette hanging from her mouth.

I revisited the draft in August, determined to finish something I could feel good about submitting to a magazine. While I searched for the story’s aboutness, one character’s miscarriage became a city council run; an EMT changed into a police officer. I cut the boys’ dialogue and let Sarah talk instead. My super smart first flash readers, who I met thanks to Kathy Fish’s classes, helped me turn “pilfered” into “stolen” and a mongoose into a mastiff. They hinted that I consider eliminating Sebastian, but in uncharacteristic decisiveness, I clung to him. Revision after revision, the piece remained about 400 words, like maybe it knew what it wanted to be, like maybe I was just along for the ride. In every draft, Gulp got more dangerous, and the car’s destination remained uncertain, sort of like the world. In every draft, the narrator became more aware of her desires, sort of like me.

 


RUTH LEFAIVE’s stories and interviews appear in Best Small Fictions 2018Little Fiction, Longreads, Split Lip MagazineThe OffingThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her work recently placed 2nd in the Fractured Lit Micro Fiction Prize. She lives in Los Angeles where she is working on a collection of short stories. Find her online at ruthlefaive.com.