A few months ago I was lucky enough to review the short story collection Traveling Left of Center by Nancy Christie. Now, in honour of her birthday, Christie is having a blog tour of her book to celebrate! Visit her website to discover other stops on the tour or you can check out my review of this great collection!
There are some people who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.
TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER AND OTHER STORIES details characters in life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. Their methods of coping range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”).
The eighteen stories in TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER AND OTHER STORIES depict those types of situations, from the close calls to the disastrous. Not all the stories have happy endings—like life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.
In these stories, the characters’ choices—or non-choices—are their own. But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash?
(From “Traveling Left of Center”)
“Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.”
Mama was always saying things like that. She had a phrase for every occasion, and would pronounce them with a certainty that, in my younger days, I accepted as gospel. But that time, I didn’t pay her no mind. I just went on painting my nails “Passionate Purple,” hoping that the sexy polish would catch the doctor’s eye.
I was justifiably proud of my hands, especially since, at that particular time, they were the only part of me that was skinny. A girl’s body sure takes a beating from having a baby. It had taken me at least a year to get my shape back after Robert Nicholas, and it looked like Rebecca Nicole wouldn’t be any kinder to her mama than her big brother had been.
(From “The Sugar Bowl”)
Chloe would tell men that the slightly battered and tarnished sugar bowl was a legacy from her grandmother.
“Granny,” she would say, her eyes fixed on a distant spot in the small apartment, “had to sell all her possessions to keep my mother fed and warmed. But she saved the sugar bowl for better times. And when she died,” here, her voice would quiver and a brave smile would slip across her face, “she left it for me, for my ‘better times’.”
The story always worked on those older men who would bring her home after a pleasant dinner in a quiet, expensive restaurant. They would listen to her story as she poured freshly-brewed coffee into delicate porcelain cups, her light brown hair falling softly around her face.
And they would be overcome with feelings of protectiveness for the young girl, so unlike the hard brittle career women they were used to. It would be almost obscene, they would find themselves believing, to think of taking this fragile flower to bed.
Instead they would kiss her chastely on the cheek and then leave, never understanding that it had all been carefully orchestrated—the dinner, the story, the quiver in the voice.
And if they should call again, she would be politely unavailable. Chloe could not support a return engagement. Her story was only strong enough for a single run.
(From “Watching for Billy”)
The sound woke her from her usual afternoon sleep. One of the curses of old age was the need to nap at odd hours of the day, coupled with the inability to stay asleep during the dark hours of the night. And since Roger died, it was even worse. Agnes found herself nodding off at mid-morning while the game shows played on the television screen, during the afternoon courtroom dramas, after the soup-and-sandwich dinner that almost always constituted her evening meal. Why not? There was no one to talk to and nothing else to do.
Brad said that she wouldn’t be bored if she moved into one of those retirement homes. But she didn’t want to leave her home and go live among strangers—even if sometimes the loneliness was more than she could bear.
“I’ve lived here more than 60 years and I’m not leaving now,” she had told her son. “There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind.”
“Fine,” he answered, an unmistakable note of irritation in his voice. “But if you won’t move, then you need to at least have an alarm installed. There have been too many break-ins in your neighborhood lately.”
Agnes agreed reluctantly… was dutifully attentive when the technician explained how the alarm worked and what each noise and light represented.
During the long summer days, she didn’t bother to activate it until bedtime, trusting in the safety of daylight to keep thieves and robbers from her door. But as winter drew near and the days grew shorter, she found herself turning the alarm on at the first sign of dusk, feeling for the first time a little unsure, a little vulnerable, in the house where she had lived for six decades.
About the Author
Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as Wild Violet, EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.
A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG) and creator of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio.
You can purchase Traveling Left of Center via the following
*February 2015 only — Birthday Blog Tour Sale Price [Click here for link to BIRTHDAY SALE OF AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK]*
Focus on Fiction www.nancychristie.com/focusonfiction/
The Writer’s Place www.nancychristie.com/writersplace/
One on One www.nancychristie.com/oneonone/
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