Mary Morris’ story, “Flux,” appears in our Spring 2012 issue, guest edited by Nick Flynn. “Story” opens with these lines:
Anthony Baron steps outside and takes a deep breath. The air is fresh with the scent of loamy soil and budding trees. The snow, except for a few icy patches, has melted. At last it is spring. It was a long, hard winter. For months it seemed as if all he did was dig out of drifts. An endless barrage of snow. Then just after New Year’s, Alice left him and, two days later, Phantom died. In many ways losing Phantom was harder than losing Alice. He had to put the dog down, while Alice only moved back to her place in New York. Still, it had been an adjustment. Then last month he lost one of his grants from a foundation that fell victim to a Ponzi scheme. He had to let two lab assistants go.
Here, Mary Morris describes the inspiration for “Flux”:
Many years ago a friend told me that he had contracted dysentery somewhere in the world and in its final stages was going blind. And that, as a last ditch measure, he found a doctor who made an educated guess that saved his life. This story stuck with me for a number of reasons. I was young and not sure it had really seemed possible to me that life can turn on a dime, a roll of the dice, and we might win or lose. There was something else about this friend. His adult reality as I knew him bore little resemblance to the childhood he’d lived. At any rate I filed this away in the archive of my mind where stories linger and gather dust – often for decades. Then last year I began writing a novel in stories. It is about four cousins and their connections to one another. How they grow up and what happens to them. At some point I wrote a story about the mother of two of these cousins in which as a young woman, before she married, she gives up a child for adoption. No one knew about this child – not her husband and certainly not her children, but she’d never forgotten him nor stopped thinking about him. Then it came to me that this child needed a story of his own and “Flux” evolved out of this. Often my stories start from a real place – something I’ve heard or that has happened to me. And then they morph from there. While the skeleton of the story had been in my head for years, the one that came out on the page bears little resemblance to its origins. It became a story of identity – an effort to understand what makes up the construct we call a self and how fragile that self can be.