On August 24, a story from The Bigness of the World appeared in the online literary journal Five Chapters. This is my first time appearing in an online journal, and I can’t imagine a finer one to have appeared in. Each week, editor David Daley presents a story, parceling it out over five days (thus the name). From August 24 through September 7, Dave has been experimenting: he has instead been presenting a story a day in a series called Infinite Five Chapters. My story, “And Down We Went,” appeared on Day 2, August 25.
For those of you who have looked around my website a bit, you know that, on the Book page, I have excerpts of four stories from The Bigness of the World along with backstories for each. The backstory is my little musing on how the story came about. Here, then, is the backstory for “And Down We Went”:
This story started, I am quite sure, with the first line, in which the narrator states that she has been defecated on three times in her life. When I wrote this, I too had been crapped on by a bird at least three times, and I suppose I was thinking about how that felt—while not as unlikely as being hit thrice by lightning, it still seemed statistically unusual, and I had to resist the impulse to imbue it with symbolic meaning. The second time that it happened, I was staying with friends in Morocco and had accompanied one of the sisters to her school, a girls’ school that seemed to operate around an extended curriculum in home economics. The school was housed in a beautiful building with a courtyard in the middle—an open courtyard—and as we stood with the teacher learning about sewing, it happened. It was big and weighty, and it hit my head and my shoulder, making quite a mess, so there was no way for me to pretend that it had not happened. Still, I received far too much attention and assistance, for Moroccans are notoriously hospitable. The lesson was halted as all of the girls leapt up from their machines and rushed to help and commiserate.