A long time ago, still living in Southern California, so at least 25 years ago, I wrote a long short story (long because it’s about 6000 words) called, “Betty’s Game.” I don’t write much short fiction — hardly any, really. Certainly fewer than a dozen total in my entire writing life. I never did anything with Betty’s Game, mainly because I didn’t know what to do with short fiction; novels I know about, I’ve written more novels than short stories.
A while back I finished a novel, more or less a sequel to Possessed by Shadows, called “And It’s Only Love.” That novel has just begun making its lonely way around the back alleys of book publishing.
Unable to not write, but also without an idea that could sustain a novel, I piddled around writing screenplay versions of some of my old novels. It’s a good discipline, having to move a plot in dialogue and camera angles. But it’s not the real thing to me — novels are my real thing.
In desperation, I went into the box that holds all the short fiction I’ve ever written and began looking for any shred of an idea hidden in those pages. I got to Betty’s Game last, and knew by the time I’d reached the end that it was more than a shred of an idea, it was the thing itself.
So now I am working on “The Life of Betty”, which opens with a Prologue that is essentially the short story called Betty’s Game.
Here’s the first paragraph of Chapter One, after the 5,200 word Prologue.
First thing Betty remembers, or thinks maybe she remembers, because remembering with more than a little accuracy has never been one of Betty’s slim virtues, or habits, or whatever memory can claim to be, is her Paps — that would be her next door neighbor who told her it was all right to call him Paps rather than Mr. Clinton or Bob — showing her how to ride the tricycle he got from a garage sale for two bucks and a dime and fixed up in his storage shed for her. This happened on the dirt street in front of their side by side mobile homes in a trailer park set up against the business loop of I-10 in Coachella, California, on one of those infamously blistering summer Saturdays when the sky glares back at you white and clear, so clear even each molecule of air seems visible, sparkling like quartzite in the sun’s rays. July 6, 1974. Betty’s fourth birthday.
A picture of Betty’s street after it got paved.