My dad wanted me to be a welder.
When I was sixteen, I wanted a Volkswagen bug more than anything in the world and my dad found one for me and bought it for $300. A three hundred dollar car, of course, generally needs a little work and this one was no exception. It needed body work, which required some welding, and my dad, who expected all of his daughters to attain a certain degree of mechanical proficiency, taught me how to do it myself. And I was good at welding, I really was. It was a satisfying art to learn, controlling the arc and learning to make that perfect bead of melted metal. When I was done, we finished the other repairs and my father, with no small amount of joy, went to the auto shop and ordered up the paint color of my dreams: Playboy Pink. I spent my senior year of high school sputtering up and down the county roads and around my small town square, delighted to be that red-haired girl in the obnoxiously pink car.
A year later, I drove that pink car right out of my southern Missouri Ozarks to the University of Arkansas, where I declared my major in English and, in so doing, crushed my father’s best hope for me. He reminded me that welders made good money and that, as a small, young woman, I could fit into tight spaces that men could not. In fact, if I wanted to make the really big bucks, I could take up under-water welding, go to work out on the ocean, on an oil rig maybe, or something like that. He made a good point (though squeezing into a tight space with an arc welder didn’t sound all that pleasant), but I’d already been lured away by books and writing, my head turned by a prettier boy.
Twenty-some-odd years later, I’m still pretty taken with books and stories and their creation, enough so that I completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. My short fiction is published or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, New South, Midwestern Gothic and other journals (you can find them all up there under “publications”). My first published story appeared in Colorado Review in the Fall 2009 issue as the winner of the Nelligan Prize (it was selected by one of my literary heroes, Robert Boswell); a sequel to that story appeared in the pages of CR in the summer of 2012. The last installment of my tale of drug-dealers, crooked insurance agents, and bobcats was published in storySouth in fall 2017.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend time living in Arkansas and New Orleans, Louisiana, and I now make my home in St. Louis, Missouri, with my husband and two sons and our small zoo of three cats and two dogs (we used to have about a zillion parakeets, as well, but they have all gone on parakeet heaven and I am not looking to replace them). I’m an eighth generation native of southern Missouri, where I grew up on the farm that my mother’s ancestors first homesteaded in the 1830s. I miss it sometimes and I dream about it, the hills and the valleys, the creeks and the fields that surrounded me all those years. And I miss my pink car, too. The engine burned up as I drove home for the winter holidays my freshman year of college. My dad tried to fix it, but it was beyond even his mechanical talents and he sold it for about the same amount as he’d first paid for it, flipping the money back into a Plymouth Horizon, possibly the worst, most unreliable car known to man. It was a sad day, the day he let that pink car get towed away and not just because of the work that had gone into it or because we’d both loved it so. I think it was hard for my father to say goodbye to the car, because it was saying goodbye to me, too, to the daughter who would never be a welder.