Hello again, readers. Welcome back to a work in progress. This time you will read about the dreaded back story. Too little can cause the story to deflate the narrative, too much can lose the reader’s interest. A little goes a long way. For the short story, some editors and readers prefer no back story at all unless it boosts empathy for the characters. I tend to agree with that but also have a blind spot when it comes to judicious pruning, too. The excerpt below is the result of removing over half of the back story.
Body, Mind, Spirit
By Ann Chiappetta
When I realized Cole was sticking around, I started taking him seriously. We talked and joked during inventory counting sessions. One Afternoon, while we were sitting on our stools folding fifty cent napkins, The Most Boring Job in Linens, Cole said that he had broken up with his girlfriend.
“Why?” I asked.
Cole stopped folding and looked at me, “Well, she’s still a virgin. And we weren’t alone long enough to find out if she wanted to change her mind,”
I blushed when he looked at me. I wasn’t a prude, but at that time, I hadn’t been alone with a guy in over a year.
I caught his smile, and I smiled back.
It wasn’t a shock when, after that conversation, we found ourselves alone together. Cole and I walked through town one fall evening after our annual inventory. Sometime after the first mile he reached for my hand. As we made our way under the I-95 overpass, we were arm-in-arm. We came out from under the overpass and I stopped, facing him. “Do you like me, Cole?”
He smiled down at me, “Yes, very much.”
“Then make a move.”
His hands cupped my face and we kissed. His touch overcame the loneliness I’d been feeling for a long time and I gave into the passion. Sometime later, I showed him to a private spot known to a few of my friends by the town reservoir. We jumped a low fence and I led him to the spot. We cleared the rocks and twigs from the grass and laid our jackets down, spreading them out end to end. Suddenly, I felt like it was the first time I’d ever slept with anyone. It felt as if I’d gone back to being 16 again.
He came back from relieving himself and knelt down in front of me.
“This place is perfect.” I said
He pulled me down next to him and kissed me
“Amy, I’ve wanted this to happen for so long.” He said, “Let me show you what you’ve been missing
We dozed off around 4 a.m. and awoke with the coo of the mourning doves. It was then that I saw the scars. The pre-dawn light revealed them. I had felt them during our loving session but seeing them gave my stomach a tug. I didn’t ask him about them, but couldn’t get them out of my thoughts. We parted at the fence and got ready to greet the day with only a few hours of sleep. But it was worth it.
When I walked into the linen shop at nine that morning, Cole was already there sweeping the floor.
“Hi Amy,” he smiled. We just stood there staring at each other, goofy grins on our faces. He broke the silence.
“Did you get enough sleep?” His hazel eyes danced with mischief.
“Not enough, how about you?”
“It was rough, but I managed some on the bus ride this morning.
I went down to the basement and put my purse and jacket in my locker. Miriam was at her desk crunching yesterday’s numbers, manicured nails tapping on the calculator keys. She glanced up, her eyes narrowing as she watched me get a cup of coffee and sit down on a chair.
front’s done, do we have any deliveries today?” asked Cole, standing in the doorway to the office.
Miriam was quiet, her shrewd gaze taking in first Cole, then me.
“Thank you, Cole, the delivery sheet’s upstairs behind the register.”
He nodded and turned to leave, both of us watching him go.
She waited until Cole was out of ear shot then playfully shook her finger at me,
“Just remember to be on time when it happens again.”
“I wasn’t late today.”
She looked up at me, then glanced at the doorway where Cole had just been, a knowing smile on her Madonna red lips,
“Trust me, you will be.”