20 March 2013
The Present is Tense
I am happy to report that the new issue of The Strand Magazine is out. I haven't seen it yet, but unless the editors are playing a cruel joke on me, it features "The Present," by yours truly. This is my first appearance in The Strand, and I think John Floyd is the only other member of our little band to show up in those pages so far.
So, what's the story about? A woman named Maggie goes to the mall to buy a birthday present for her son, and while there she sees a couple of people and -- well, she gets a sense that I think parents are particularly susceptible to; namely, that something is wrong with this picture.
I remember attending a science fiction convention when my daughter was about six. Such conventions tend to be very friendly places and at one point we were in a hospitality room and my kid was chatting pleasantly enough with a stranger. I had to leave for a minute and I turned to my wife and said "See that guy? For all I know he's the nicest person on earth, but don't leave him alone with her."
When I got back my wife told me she had gotten the same creeped-out feeling about the guy. I have no idea if it was justified.
But that feeling is not where "The Present" comes from. It actually grew from the last scene, a scene that I suspect is played out a number of times in this country every year. I wanted to write a story that allowed me to use that last scene. If you read it I think you'll understand what I'm talking about.
One more thing about "The Present." It is the first story I have ever written that my eighth grade English teacher might like. You see, it's full of Meanings.
Now, I have occasionally used a bit of symbolism in a story, but in this one I went hidden-depths-crazy. Rest assured you can enjoy the story just fine without noticing them, but if you want to unleash your inner English teacher out, here's a chance to give him or her some exercise.
In any case, I hope you enjoy the tale.