The Writing Disorder


amanda mctigue

New Fiction


by Amanda McTigue

AMANDA READS HER STORY (To stop, hit pause button)


      Back off. Keep a clear distance. Yes, move over there by the road.
      There is no story here. None. The casita behind me, it’s mine. At least for the moment. I put money down to rent it. They were not to disturb me. But then they did. Now they won’t.
      And then the girl came. She keeps coming no matter where I go. I drove quite a long way down that one-lane jeep track with groceries. The owners said there’d be water here and there is. Water and nothing else. A bunk to sleep on. That’s it. I came this far precisely because there wouldn’t be anything else here.
      Arrogance. Every story ever written says you don’t get to run away from the dead.
      Her face is bright turquoise. As are her hands and feet. She’s still so pretty, even blue. She’s holding something of mine. That’s my jackal. Carved for me by my mother’s boyfriend, the last one. Out of cedar. Pointy ears. Pointy tail. Rather large in the girl’s little hands. She stole it.
      I catch her out of the corner of my eye. She’s on the other side of the casita, just off the trail, the path of rocks that winds down to the creek. She’s bright, bright blue. Amazing with the paleness of her curls.
      The most important thing for you to know is that there is no story here. To insist that true things, real things, can be spoken of in any way that gives them meaning, that’s arrogance.
      Nothing means anything.
      She runs off. Out of sight. She wants me to follow. That’s why I keep running the other way.
      A shaman sent her. This I know. Because the wise ones say that if you’ve lost something, a spirit must go and get it back for you. How clever of them to send the thief herself to return that which she stole. Tempting me to—what?—think I can get it back? Get her back? Both of them?
      I want to snatch what’s mine out of her hands because she’s laughing, I can sense it. She’s laughing at me. She’s been sent to laugh at me. To get me to follow her down to the creek.
      Well, I’ve already been down there. Many times over the past couple of days. It’s incredibly beautiful. And quiet. The cottonwoods—great big, running the length of the creek—the cottonwoods cotton the sound. You can’t hear birds over the ridge. And the wind, if there is any, goes on way above the chasm. Below, perpetual quiet and shade.
      Cottonwoods have lovely leaves. Like hearts, but round. And yellow green. It’s a green you could eat. It makes your mouth water.
      That’s where the shaman wants me to go. I won’t. Even as I pull on my boots. Even as I take one of the staffs by the door. I don’t lock things. Silly to lock. There’s no one here but me anymore to open a door.
      I won’t go, even as I do. Down the switchback. Planting the staff carefully as the owners of this place advised. How sad of them. As if slipping on the path were the great danger here. They know different now, if they know anything. If one knows anything in death.
      The girl knows. Though she is perhaps nothing but the shaman’s dream sent to tempt me.
      I’m stronger than he is. I’m stronger and brighter. And most of all, I don’t care. He seems not to care. He affects an evenness, the way the elders do. The men anyway. I’ve known shamans who are women. Lightweights. This guy’s the honcho, so they put him on my case. But I’m stronger. I’m brighter.
      I’m walking down the path. No scorpion can get into my boots. The fangs of a rattler cannot penetrate the leather. They’re tooled. In shapes. The shapes of snakes that can’t bite them. Shapes of things writhing.
      I follow the switchback. There’s only one path. Down into peace. Instantly out of the sharp sun, stepping into shade.
      There’s a horse’s skull in the barbed wire fence. And a horse on the other side watching me. Shaking flies off its ears. A horrible existence for a horse alone. No herd mate to stand with nose to tail, to help swing off that plague of bloodsuckers that come out of the creek.
      There are footprints in the mud leading to the water. Not mine. Small. Barefoot. Human. They’re hers. Who knew she’d have enough weight to make them.
      I step exactly into each footprint. Obliterate each one with my boot. Water seeps into the craters my boots leave. And then I’m in the creek. I can see her foot marks even in the water, established among small gleaming rocks, the shatterings of quartz-like jewels she was walking on.
      My boots kick through the stones. Following and obliterating. Which is precisely what I’ll do when I catch her. Which will happen. Shamans don’t send spirits for nothing. Haunting comes for a reason.
      And yet, be aware. Be very clear about this: there will be no story.
      There will be an obliteration. There will be, at some point, the vanishing of the blue girl. There will be my footprints everywhere for a while. And then they’ll be gone. The horse will muddy them in the creek. Birds will disturb them on the banks. Raccoons. There will be what’s left of the owners out in the garden which won’t be much since coyotes lurk. They’re like jackals. They’ll eat whatever you leave around, including you if you’re dead, and howl about it.
      There’s nothing to explain. You can’t explain how a person can see perfectly well the peace under the trees, the neatness of the counter in the casita, the carefully scrubbed bathroom, the thought that went into the hooked rug at the door. Yes, I see that someone carved the staff that I hold. I not only see it, I appreciate it. I know what beauty is. It’s just that I can’t feel it.
      That’s not true.
      I can.
      It’s just that I don’t care.
      It’s just that the girl has my jackal. And the shaman has me. And she knows it. And they are making fun of me.
      But you see, that’s what country like this is for. Back places. Roads that curve over mountains into lane-less valleys. The owners, here, they fancied themselves artists. They thought remote was quaint. You see how wrong stories can be? How much they can get us into trouble?
      The stones in the creek. I look back from the far side. Beams of light are cutting through the cottonwoods, fissures opening and closing for the light that cuts through, dancing on the water and into the water so that it seems like air coming and going and playing over those stones and it’s quite beautiful.
      I assure you, it’s quite beautiful.

Amanda McTigue is an author, director, teacher—and a storyteller on the page and for the stage. Her debut novel, GOING TO SOLACE, arrives in 2012, published by Harper Davis. She’s already got two children’s books, DREAMTIME and ONCE UPON A LULLABY out in the marketplace along with a companion recording of original lullabies, BEAUTIFUL SONGS FOR BEDTIME. Numerous works for the stage include all kinds of works from opera (THE MERRY WIDOW AND THE HOLLYWOOD TYCOON, first produced by the Minnesota Opera) to avant-garde musicals (KRANK, first produced at Sonoma State University) to odd one-offs (CHILDREN WILL LISTEN, first produced at Carnegie Hall). Amanda also works as a concept thinker/writer for international design firms, helping folks imagine, then articulate their vision. Clients include Walt Disney Entertainment, Thinkwell Design and the Hettema Group. She coaches actors and actor-singers through affiliations with the National Association of Singing Teachers and Sonoma State University. There’s lots more information about her at

Here's a link to Amanda reading her story: YouTube

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