The Writers Guild at Bloomington met Sunday afternoon for a reading and open mic.
Two of the readers, Shayne Laughter and Darja Malcolm-Clarke, read prose set in Bloomington. In both stories, youthful characters confronted oppressive systems, searched for truth and learned about death.
Laughter, a Bloomington native who published “Yü: A Ross Lamos Mystery” and whose work has won honors in national contests, presented “Emmonsburg Road,” a short story from a collection based loosely on her grandfather’s memoirs. Her grandfather grew up in Monroe County.
Introducing the work, Laughter explained the piece was based on the creation of Lake Monroe, which was built in the 1960s. When the lake was built, Elkinsville, Indiana, was evacuated through eminent domain, and the new lake flooded it.
Laughter wove the story of a town’s drowning into the story of a 9-year-old boy in the 1930s.
“This is a time of sin against the earth and the law,” the boy’s grandfather says in the story to a visitor, a man from Henton, Indiana, who has come to tell the family they will have to move away. Henton is a town based on Bloomington, and the boy’s family lives in an area based on Elkinsville.
The boy pretends to sleep as the Henton man tells the father and grandfather that a creek will be damned, that the waters will rise up and flood their home and all the area surrounding it. The next day he asks his grandfather about the man’s visit.
To explain, his grandfather takes him to see the machines tearing up the land to create a hill in the creek. This is government, his grandfather tells him. Each man working at the site has a boss, and each boss has a boss.
As the story progresses, the boy learns more about his own origins, family and the loss of his home.
When his grandfather decides to stay with the family’s land, the boy assures his father, “He kept his own mind.”
The main character in the next reading also kept their own mind when faced with death.
Malcolm-Clarke, an editor at IU Press whose work has appeared in several magazines, presented chapters of a novel she is writing.
Her story takes place in dystopian Bloomington in 2097, and the main character has been chosen to be the bride of a god who kills his wives in succession.
One chosen bride saw the fate of the previous one, and she searches to learn more about the past wife’s death.
When she is chosen, she meets the god and she asks him “What did you do to the bride?” over and over again. He does not answer, but she finds the truth on her own.
Once she has discovered answers, she does not hesitate to tell them to the officials who do the god’s bidding.
At the end of the story, the woman decides the god cannot have her life. She, like the grandfather in Laughter’s story, will not give up her free will.
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