About Unfinished Stories by J Brames

Pretty soon, I'm going to quote someone famous. It's because recognizing a clever line is as brilliant as thinking one up. That's totally true, I read it in The New Yorker or somewhere.

A few years ago, Gramp was in the hospital, recovering from having a third of his cancer-chewed lungs removed. It was all fun for him, as everyone who's reserved an extended stay in any of the finer sick-hotels would guess--experiencing air leaks under his skin, puffing out like a Ghostbusters villain, having to be shunted while screamingly conscious. Good times. And while he was enjoying his vacation, he wanted someone to stay with Gram. I had dropped out of college and was working retail in the evenings. That pretty much volunteered me.

I was glad to help, of course. And it was there, staying up late, that I really got into writing stories.

Gram and Gramp's house is on a rural road. A very twisty, hilly, Albertish road. 55mph speed limit, but I drove it like I was being clocked. I drove it like I had to pee. And it seemed that every time I'd leave my stomach at the top of a hill, it would catch up just in time to turn at the sight of some mangled, gory wildlife corpse festering at the very soft shoulder. I mean, seriously, can't deer read signs? Can't they cross right in front of the black-on-yellow picture of them, so we know where to slow down? Can't skunks pick up their waddle just a little, and, I don't know, maybe keep their ninja-uniform fur off the blacktop in the middle of the frikin darkness?

Or maybe we drivers could just slow down.

Nah. Gotta pee.

So I was discovering I liked telling stories rather more than I liked being sensible, I was looking for stories to tell, I kept seeing possums (or were they opossums?) playing their last possum, turkeys gobbled up by truck tires, squirrels with exposed nu--you know, I'm exaggerating, but there was a lot of roadkill, and it got me to thinking...

Because I like animals. I'm the sort who watches thrillers and goes, "No, not the dog! Don't kill the dog, psycho! Kill the lady! She's got it coming--she drives too fast on rural roads!" I'm responsible for the deaths of many, many critters, of course: I mow them, I squash them, I windshield them. I eat them. I eat the hell out of em. Give me a goose that lays golden eggs, and a week later I'll have six golden omelets and a week's worth of sandwich leftovers. No, when I say I like animals, I'm talking about, you know, furry ones. Cats, dogs, bunnies (how can you even say the word "bunnies" without at least thinking AWWWWW...), even skunks and squirrels. Majestic deer. I long to hug a woodchuck, but they never go for it. So, I guess that's what clicked. Dead furry animals lying roadside, abandoned. Sad. Let's use fantasy to bring them back.

Also, I guess I, you know, might have wanted to heal someone.

I wrote the story several times. Seems I always have to. It was a mess, it was simplistic, it gave away too much. I workshopped it under the mediation of the brilliant (if not too fantasy-oriented) Lynne Tillman. I rewrote it. Still eh. I re-rewrote. Getting better. I wrote it from scratch, keeping only the two lead characters' names, the road, and the mailtruck--and the Hansel story, sort of. I added animal lifespans, which were invariably wrong and had to be corrected by the painstaking research of Issue 4's trailblazer Julia Bernd and the rest of the GUD editors--who are too modest, and are, in fact, GREAT. If you like this story, thank them, because their careful editing is what makes the disbelief suspendable.

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So, now, the quote. It's appropriate. It's timely. It elucidates and resolves the postmodern reenvisioning of classic fairy tales with the nose-wriggling astuteness of our furrier counterparts viz-a-viz Pixarian mergings of the anthropomorph with the mythology of cult familiars. To wit:

"Hansel? HANsel? Hansel. HANsel? Hansel. HANSEL?"--Bugs Bunny