Thoughts and Inspiration for Creative Writers

-from Chrysalis Editorial

One Author Shares His Inspiration

Posted on | July 26, 2011 | 2 Comments

Fact and Fiction…

“I believe that writing this story helped me see my father for the man he was, and helped me recognize and admit the love I truly felt for him.” – Mark Farrington, on writing “My Father’s Court”

Farrington

We have a special treat for you this week from one of the Confessions: Fact or Fiction? authors. We invite you to read about the inspiration behind Mark Farrington’s “My Father’s Court”. In the following piece, Mark offers his unique insight into how his writing both influenced and was influenced by his relationship with his father. This piece is followed by an excerpt from his story.

My father passed away last fall, a few weeks before confessions: fact or fiction? came out. photo 1He was 88 years old and had been sick for several months, so his death was not surprising. What did surprise me was the intensity of the sadness and sense of loss I felt. My father and I had always been friendly toward each other, but we had never been close.

He was a working man. He served in the Army in World War II, stationed in China, Burma, and India. After the war he worked in a General Electric plant, as janitor of a small high school, and as a “size man” at a paper mill. He finished high school but he didn’t like to read, and I don’t think I ever saw him reading anything other than the newspaper. I was a writer who loved books and art and music and theater. Growing up I played basketball and football, but even here we found no common ground, as he did not care for sports.

I write fiction primarily, and “My Father’s Court” is a fictional story. It’s based on a true situation, in that my father when he was a janitor did bring me to school with him, when I was eight or nine or ten, and he was working in the evenings. Sometimes he brought me to the empty school and I shot baskets in the echo-filled gym while he swept and mopped floors. On other occasions, he brought me to the school to watch a high school basketball game. Although I recall no specific game that unfolded like the one in the story, nor do I remember any particular players like the ones I wrote about, the details of that evening are all based on truth, even the white “S” in the blue circle in the middle of the floor, and the way the bleachers folded and unfolded like an accordion when my father stuck a key in a slot in the wall.

What’s “truest” in the story is the character of the father. I did not intentionally change anything about him, other than his name. (Changing the name was no small thing: my father told me once that he had read one of my published stories, one that was about a husband and wife having troubles, and one for which I “borrowed” events and details from my own parents and their lives. He told me that some of the things in my story seemed familiar, but, he said, “I knew the guy wasn’t me because his name was Al and my name is Ed.”)

Much of my fiction has its roots in autobiography, but most of the things I’d written before “My Father’s Court” focused on relationships between a man and a woman – lovers, or husband and wife, or the relationship between a mother and son.  With this last group of stories, the father was always absent – killed in a tragic car accident, or just out of the house working all the time.  Sitting down to write “My Father’s Court” marked the first time I specifically set out to write a story about a father-son relationship; the first time I set out to write about my father.  READ ALL OF MARK’S PIECE BY LINKING HERE…

AN EXCERPT FROM “MY FATHER’S COURT”

There was a time the boy stood beside his father. Eight years old, ankle-deep in fresh-fallen snow, on the wide concrete step outside the back door of the high school gymnasium. A few straggling snowflakes flitter from an oatmeal sky. The boy’s father takes off one glove, pins it in his armpit, and searches the brass key ring attached to his belt, isolating each key and holding it up to the diffused light of the street lamp behind them, because the light above the back door isn’t working. “Have to fix that, too,” the boy’s father says about the bulb. “I’ll catch hell from the coach if they have to tromp through here in the dark.”

A laugh pops out of him in a cloud of cold air. The same laugh, nervous and childlike, that irritates the boy’s mother so. You won’t think it’s so funny, he hears her say, when you wake up some morning and find me gone.

Recently, the boy has realized he and his father share the same curly dark hair and green eyes. They both like Abbott and Costello, who the boy’s mother calls, Idiots. A pair of clowns.

I don’t think this is it,” the boy’s father says about one key, then forces it anyway. “I already tried this one, I think,” he says about another. But this one turns, making the lock click free. “Eureka, Watson!” he cries. When he jerks open the door, the warm air pouring out stings the boy’s tight cold cheeks. Even his eyebrows feel stiff.

“At least the furnace is working tonight,” his father says. The boy follows him upstairs, imagining the horror of an ice-cold gym. “Here we are.” The door closes, trapping them in the immense dark.

Lights pop on, a row of them, then another, and the formless dark gives way to a high ceiling and walls, and a floor of pure magic. To the boy it’s as gloriously breathtaking as a baseball diamond; more so, because it is a floor and it’s been painted – black lines around the edge and more in front of each basket, and in the center a big blue circle with a white “S” in the middle. Superman, the boy thinks, although he knows it stands for Stanton, the high school’s name.

“We don’t want to cross that line.” His father points to the black border, and the boy steps back as if at the edge of a lake during spring thaw. “Not with our boots on, we don’t.” He laughs. “It’s the law.”

He unlocks a door in the corner that opens to a closet large as a garage. Inside are rolled-up mats, a folded trampoline. He drops the paper bag he’s been carrying onto a card table in front, next to a rack of basketballs, and sits on a folding chair to yank off his boots. The boy tugs his off, too, and when his father picks them up they leave a little puddle of melted snow on the concrete floor.

“You have to wear sneakers to be allowed on the court,” his father explains as they put theirs on. Their boots are lined up on top of the newspaper, the large boots and the small boots matching the way the boy and his father would look if they, too, stood side by side…


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