Another lesson in writing and humility from Kristy Webster

Kristy Webster holds a parasol because her writing is sometimes just too illuminating!

Good Evening from Moscow I am delighted to say I am backlogged with stories entered into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest. But I am trying to give each story a little time on our carousel before they get bumped off by a newer entry. Fortunate am I also to have two interns, Bronwyn …

Good Evening from Moscow

I am delighted to say I am backlogged with stories entered into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest. But I am trying to give each story a little time on our carousel before they get bumped off by a newer entry. Fortunate am I also to have two interns, Bronwyn and Candace, to help keep it all organized.

Everyone is permitted up to three entries, and each entry must contain the words “I swear, it’s not too late.” Our first contestant, Kristy Webster, set the bar so very high, and yet there have been so many entries, so diverse, that to use a metaphor that somehow indicates that one story is “higher” than another seems to do everyone a dis-service.

Kristy’s second entry is every bit as haunting as her first, and my apologies if I publish her second entry before some of you have even seen your first one posted. Neither Bronwyn nor Candace are in the office at the moment to reign me in and remind me to follow the sequence they gave me. Don’t tellum!  I couldn’t help myself when I read this.  I just have to post it…Oh! Wait!  Someone’s coming!

Paradise

by Kristy Webster

            I place a novel in my father’s hands, even though his eyes are weak and he only reads the Bible. He nods: he takes my offering quietly. Will you read it? I ask, a vague yes dwells in his eyes but I get no other proof. My father’s eyes are Beautiful Blue, but the heavy folds of skin act like a fleshy curtain; they don’t want him inside these pages.

I ask my father, Have you ever read a work of fiction? Mark Twain? Hemingway? My father rubs the tattered cover of To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t remember, he says. His Bible sits on the tray beside him, next to a can of Ensure, the margins tattooed in his red ink notes.

My father wants me to read it one more time. He thinks I just didn’t try hard enough. His eyes are wet, they are only going to get wetter. I say, I’ve read it front to back, twice. I tell him, I like the Psalms. Revelation scares me.

But my father is talking about Paradise, about Heaven. How I won’t get there. It breaks his heart. He’s breaking mine because I can’t undo what I have learned in this promising but brutal world.

I swear it’s not too late, my father tells me. You can be forgiven. He touches his palm to my head, pats my skull, a gesture I’ve known since childhood. A gesture that says more than I love you, more than I cherish you, it says, I want you to live forever, I want you to seize your immortality.

I tell my father he will outlive us all. He is already ninety-three and I tell him he will live to one-hundred and twenty, at least. He says, I’ll live past a thousand and you can too. If only–

But I cut him off, I tell him about The Great Gatsby, I ask, Were the twenties really like that? Did you ever know anyone like Jay Gatsby? So larger than life, so naive? He shakes his head, but I swear all the pomp, the grandiosity of Gatsby’s story makes him smile. He quotes Matthew, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

I meant to make him see that Paradise is his Daisy. That I don’t fault him for loving The Prize so feverishly, that he would devote his entire existence to becoming a man worthy of the gift of life everlasting. I want him to understand that if he believes he will live forever, there’s a part of me that believes he will, too.

I swear it’s not too late, he tells me again. I smile, I pat the top of his head, I say, You shouldn’t swear. And we each glance at the books before us, like foreign tablets, as if they belonged to separate worlds, as if I am not my father, as if he is not me, his daughter.

He slowly nods off even as the nurses bustle around him, even as the monitor beeps and hums beside him. I take my father’s hand in mine, I say, I am your cannon.

 

(Portrait below by Kristy Webster titled “Back when she was beautiful”)

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My name is Kristy Webster. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from the Evergreen State College where I studied visual art, sculpture, bookmaking, altered book art, print-making and creative writing. Painting and writing have been passions of mine from an early age. This coming summer I will be graduating from Pacific Lutheran University with an MFA in Creative Writing.

I’ve had two artshows in the past year and am working on a new collection. I mostly work in acrylics and pastels.

27 comments

  1. Glclark says:

    Kristy, in this story you have captured everything that was Peggy Dobbs. If Thorne had posted this without your name attached, I know I am not the only person who would have argued that Peggy wrote this.
    To me, your story is all about saying goodbye and trying to stay true to who you are and not who the father wants you to be but at the same time each of you is trying to express your own beliefs and tries to convince the other that it is the right way. (Does that make sense?) Anyway, this reads like it came from the mind of an author who has experienced this very situation. The sensitivity of the daughter to the father’s beliefs, and her longing for him to have the after life that he longs for is so beautifully played out in this story.
    My hat’s off to you for this great, sensitive story. You’re GOOD!

  2. tlrelf says:

    This is a powerful story, and I agree with GL Clark that Peggy would have quite a bit to say about this one. That the father was in the hospital surrounded by monitors, etc. was skillfully placed toward the end. I definitely believe that the proverbial “it’s not too late” has more impact as a result.

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    Your words are much like your painting above. The lines are clearly drawn staying on purpose. The colours like your words are rich without dominating the storyline as in the face. Your conclusions are reflective, solid and focused to meaning much as the expression of eyes, tears and slant of lips. There is a combination of beautiful expression of thought with carefully clear and logic to your story telling. Both your stories have been gentle to absorb with importance in meaning. It is a priviledge to have read your stories of such crafted and understandable characters; while retaining the sensitive, insightful and dramatic interactions of the fuller human experience. Thank you. I am humbled by your abilities as both a writer and artist.

  4. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    A beautiful story about the encounter of two worlds, the finite and the infinite. It’s a tale of an old man’s absolute faith in the God of the Bible and of his daughter who is comfortable in the world according to Garp and Gatesby. Like a good father, the old man worries about his daughter’s salvation; she worries about losing him to dying. I love this story. It has a sensitivity about it that had me reading it again.

  5. Michael Stang says:

    Outside of what the story is about (and I know Peg is up there trembling with pleasure-her words not mine), the talent level of the writing is off the charts. My dear Kirsty, could you just go away? Pretend the site was a dream with no reality? Could you, could you? No. I understand. Guess it is back to the drawing board for us mortals. I meant us as in me.
    Outstanding!

      • Michael Stang says:

        I am being silly. I never, ever want you to go anywhere but stay here and write until the cows back up to the back yard of forever. Thank you for your talent.

  6. FJDagg says:

    Lovely, Kristy–thank you. Love the whole thing, but I was particularly taken with this part: “And we glance at the books before us, like foreign tablets, as if they belonged to separate worlds…”

  7. One night this past summer, at an Anti-Social Writers gettogether, Russ Shor asked me (when I said I was born again) whether or not I have a second birth certificate. I said, “I didn’t wanna do the paperwork.” We all laughed heartily.

    You present this dichotomy well.

    The love, and the love. Thank you for treating both sides with such care. Both your characters are gentle and sweet, and the love is so tangible between them that when I read the part about the nurses I got sad and scared for the father and the daughter. A wonderful read.

    • Kristy Webster says:

      I really appreciate you taking noticing that I wanted to treat both sides with a soft and gentle hand. Really means a lot when readers can see that, thank you!

      • I studied dualism as part of my Master’s study. I try always to (when possible) present (not represent) when I see more than one side. I don’t want it to make it seem as if I have no opinion when my opinions are quite strong, but I can say again that you presented the humanity of the ‘argument’ and made them both bittersweet through the father-daughter relationship. The archetypes are frame well, and given equal footing which is not done often as far as I can tell, especially of late.

  8. Stars Fall On My Heart
    Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    I certainly relate to this. I relate to having a religious parent, worrying just as much about my spiritual health as my physical health. These two are literally not on the same page. And I liked the correlation between Daisy from “The Great Gatsby” and to heaven. Awesome job as usual <3

    • Kristy Webster says:

      I’m really glad you liked it and that it was something you could relate to. I write my experiences in hopes they will touch someone else that has been through something similar.

  9. Kristy Webster says:

    I would just like to thank everyone again for their generous and kind words. Each of my stories are thinly veiled autobiographies of sorts. Sharing such personal experiences can be very scary, but I trust this writing community so much, I felt comfortable going there. This story in particular, inspired by my relationship with my father, is still a work of fiction but it is emotionally true. Thank you for putting me in such good hands, Thorn.

  10. Diane Cresswell says:

    How beautiful a story of sharing between a father an his child. It is very moving and very insightful. Brilliantly done.

  11. Mike Casper says:

    I completely second the sentiment Mr. Stang so well expressed. Go AWAY. We mere mortals (and if you haven’t read Mr. Stang’s contributions — heads up, he’s several steps up on the ‘mortals writing’ food chain than most of us) don’t stand a chance when you upload such magnificence to this site. Excellently, marvelously, superbly written. Sigh.
    Hey Thorn, when’s the next contest? This one’s over….

    • Kristy Webster says:

      That’s plain silliness. Thanks for the compliment, but the contest is full of some really amazing writing by phenomenal writers. Plus, we still have a write-off to do which is what the contest will actually be based on…

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