Summer Stories: The Woods
A collection of short stories from local authors
For the third year, The Spokesman-Review will turn our Sunday Today cover over to the fiction writers. For 10 weeks beginning July 3, Summer Stories will present short fiction from new and well-established Inland Northwest writers: Stephanie Oakes, Thom Caraway, Leyna Krow, Joseph Haeger, Sharma Shields and Jess Walter among them.
As is tradition, we kick off the season with a story from Shawn Vestal, a Spokesman-Review columnist and author of the award-winning short story collection "Godforsaken Idaho" and the new novel "Daredevils."
So pack up your tent and sleeping bags and join us as we head into "The Woods."
By Jess Walter
Cole met Lola on this new social networking site – Timber.
Timber was billed as Tinder for the Northwest, for Portland, Seattle and Spokane singles who wanted a less predatory, more casual online dating experience. The company was green, sustainable and didn’t use child labor – “all that eco-stuff,” said Cole’s friend Eck.
“Wait,” Cole said, “how would Tinder be using child labor?”
By Stephanie Oakes
Helga had long believed she would die at the hand of the witch of the woods.
Every child in town had heard the stories. Long ago, the witch was said to live inside a Clocktower attached to a train station, a limestone monolith that peered over the smoky town with an ever-watching eye. The clock’s face glowed at night.
By Eli Francovich
Taz peeks over the edge of the building. The street is empty, the sun reflecting off the asphalt nearly blinding. He picks a fleck of mud off his jeans and backs away from the edge.
Missy sits against an air conditioning unit that’s sputtering away in the noon day heat.
“Nothing,” he nods below. “We’re good to bounce.”
Missy smiles, and pats the backpack next to her, “Gucci.”
By Rachel Toor
The President thought it would be a good way to welcome him to the organization. The Vice Presidents weren’t so sure.
“Can’t we just go out for drinks?” asked the Vice President for Infrastructure. “We don’t have to go tramping around –” She gestured with her arm toward the window. “You know. Out there.”
“Nature is good for you,” said the Vice President for Objectives.
By Sharma Shields
Based on a story I was told by the women of Kilroy Bay, Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho
— 1 —
When the witch was a just a girl, living in the middle of the dark woods above the big lake, her mother fell ill with pneumonia. The father refused to saddle his horse and convey his wife down the hillside to the outpost, declaring it God’s will, so the mother grew sicker and sicker.
By Joseph Edwin Haeger
Thoreau didn’t say anything about toilet paper. He didn’t even say what leaves to use. That should have been on the first page, if anything. I didn’t want to use the shiny ones. Those could lead to itching – rashes, I assumed. Gloss didn’t seem like a real-world attribute; too fabricated. Size also played a major role. Too small and my hands would be filthy.
By Kate J. Reed
My husband, Joel, is squatting in a bed of pine needles over the bottom half of a dairy cow.
“Remember, the cow wants to be eaten,” he says, looking up at me. “Gives her purpose.”
Big grin from Joel. His two buddies chuckle at his joke, watching for my reaction. I keep deadpan.
Joel is a nice guy’s name, but my Joel is not a nice guy. He is, in fact, the worst. Joel likes to brag, even four years after the world ended, how when his family was dying, he “kept his cool” and “knew he was a survivor.”
By Leyna Krow
Annaliese wanted to conceive in the woods. We were wild animals, she said, and our baby would be wild too. Its creation should reflect that. So, she insisted we make love in a small thatch of nature about a half mile from our house. We went every night, even though it was winter, the ground frozen and sometimes covered in snow. We brought blankets but they just soaked through and caked with ice. It wasn’t very romantic.
By Thom Caraway
Maybe it was just a moose. Almost certainly, a moose. Or a buck or even an elk. Any ungulate. But not a bear. Not a hungry or angry bear. If it was a bear, it was a friendly bear. Curious. Easily spooked by noise. But make no noise, in case it isn’t a bear. There’s no way it’s a bear. Or a homicidal maniac. Or aliens. Or a mountain lion. Mountain lions are silent. If it’s a mountain lion, there’s just nothing you can do. You wouldn’t hear it coming. You wouldn’t know it was there until it already had you down, disemboweled. Somehow, that’s comforting.
By Shawn Vestal
They were camping, if you want to call it that. A tent you could stand in, tricked out in geometric shapes. Foot-thick air mattresses, inflated with a battery-powered blower. A propane stove with a griddle and two burners, and polypropylene mats so they could walk around barefoot. And the coverage. Holy crap, the coverage was amazing. Full bars, everywhere in the campground.