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John Palcewski's Journal

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Gull as Metaphor

At Barnegat Light the professor realized that his life had become a dreadful cliché. Mid life crisis. Separation. Divorce. A small apartment, a sports car. Excruciating dates with women no less desperate than he was. Awkward, aching visits with his uncommunicative son.

Nothing at all original about any of it.


When he made the announcement, his wife thought he was just going through a phase. But finally he convinced her. She got very calm and said, all right. But don't expect me to tell the kids. That's YOUR job.

The best course, he thought, would be to tell them separately. Daughter first, then his son. A prepared speech. You see, honey, sometimes people change. But that does not mean that it's your fault or that we don't love you.

He was taken aback by his daughter's economy of language.

"Fine," she said, and walked out of the room.

The session with his son was somewhat different. The boy looked at him, tears welling in his eyes.

"Why?" he asked.

Well, there had to be a way of explaining it. But all that ever came out were banalities, clichés.


At Barnegat Light he and his son silently looked at the water. At the sky.

The gulls, the professor decided, were metaphors.


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Another excellent piece. Just curious, have you submitted any of these to Granta? From what I've read of their journal, they'd dig your work.

Eric, Many thanks for your comments. No, I haven't tried Granta yet but my literary agent in the US is currently peddling my imagestory collection "Who Do You Think You Are?" as a book proposal, along with my imagenovel "Vittoria's Island," and I suppose down the road she'll be marketing individual stories to various magazines like Granta.

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These father/son resonances go deep, don't they?

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I've found that what I don't know about my parents or grandparents I can very easily create in my fiction. Not just a fabrication, but the truth as it might emerge from scanty evidence. The goal is to create an honest story that might account for the behavior of a mother or father that at first glance might seem unpardonable. The purpose of art, after all, is to impose an order on chaos.

If you wish to speak to your father, pick up your pen and write down the faint whispers that come from deep within. When you're ready, it will happen, and you'll be surprised--and comforted--by what he tells you.

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