Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Get a Grip"

Kathy Flann’s fiction has appeared in Shenandoah, The North American Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, New Stories from the South, and other publications. A short story collection entitled Get a Grip won the George Garrett Award and was released by Texas Review Press in the fall of 2015. A previous collection, Smoky Ordinary, won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award and was published by Snake Nation Press. For five years, she taught creative writing at the University of Cumbria in England, where she created mini-courses for the BBC’s Get Writing website and served on the board of the National Association of Writers in Education. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars in Bulgaria, and Le Moulin à Nef in France. She is an associate professor at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

Flann applied the Page 69 Test to Get a Grip and reported the following:
It was interesting to discover that page 69 of Get a Grip is smack-dab in the middle of “Get a Grip,” the title story – making it the heart of the heart of the book. This second-person narrative revolves around Lisa, who is trying her best not to feel anything for her ex, Jake, a younger man who adores her. This particular page details the moments before Jake proposes to his girlfriend, Keira, the mascot for a minor league baseball team. It’s a moment when there is some urgency for Lisa to acknowledge her feelings to herself. She is sitting in the bleachers with Jake, her best friend Marilyn, and her father, who is a palm reader. A point of tension is that she has never let her father read her palm – she doesn’t want to know what he’ll say. One way Lisa maintains her denial is to refuse to acknowledge the future.
“Hey Luke!” you call, and he blows you a kiss.

Marilyn sighs. “The only reason your old boyfriends still like you is that you never give them a chance to get attached.”

Jake, who is sitting in front of you with your dad, turns around and looks at Marilyn. “That’s not true,” he says. “What about me?”

“Don’t get me started,” she says and rolls her eyes.

You punch Jake’s shoulder. “You don’t like me,” you say. “You’re just using me because I’m so handy around the house.”

“Move over,” says Marilyn. “Here comes Stewart.” She raises her hand, fingertips wiggling. Stewart, Marilyn’s lawyer boyfriend, marches up the bleachers with a cardboard tray of draft beers. You scoot down one row and park yourself on the other side of your father. Stewart distributes the beers and you take a long swill. Your nose tingles.

Keira is doing a handstand on top of the dugout. She walks the length of the roof on her hands, and then she pops up and takes a bow.

You fish from your purse the giant ring that Jake plans to put on the badger’s big cartoon finger during the seventh inning—a concept that was all your idea. You made it for him last night out of yellow pipe cleaners, and the diamond is an ornate sparkly button you found in your father’s junk drawer. How long had it been there?

Just then you can sense your father’s probing eyes studying your hands. You gasp and fumble the ring. It falls underneath the bleachers. “What are you doing?” you say. “Stop looking.”

He looks hurt, like you’ve slapped him, and you regret the harsh tone you’ve used.

“I was looking at the button,” he says.
Much of the story revolves around hands, exploring how we hold on, what we hold, who we hold (or don’t), and why. That’s why it seemed like the right story to unify the collection. All of the characters are grasping for something or someone – trying, with mixed results, to “get a grip.”
Learn more about the book and author at Kathy Flann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue