The Secret Life of a Travel Guide Writer by Stephen Hastings-King

Through a stone doorway left by a disappeared building I look across 200 years onto a patchwork field of alternating shades of green and yellow arrayed around a winding segment of electric blue river where the exiled court of Louis XVI was to have come to turn in a glittering irrelevance centered on wars of position for make-believe commissions in non-existent armies and the hatching of conspiracies. But the machinery never came.

I write from the restaurant on the other side of the parking lot. I am the customer for this and many other afternoons. The waitress looks like Lana Turner. The only other person is the owner and cook. While my lunch was being prepared she led my hand under her dress and whispered: Take me with you.

In between writing these words I look out the window at the movements in the sky above the patchwork field from 1792. Sitting in a continuous barrage of radiation from solar flares, I feel like I’m at the same turning point in many stories that I already know.


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7 responses to “The Secret Life of a Travel Guide Writer by Stephen Hastings-King

  1. Like how you’ve played with time here, the characters almost secondary to the world around them.

  2. stephen

    thanks for the read, susan…the place is in central northern pennsylvania. it’s really lovely and has stuck in my mind of a long time. and i think the resto was there, across the parking lot. or at least its ruins were. i’m not sure how that got linked in my mind to “the postman always rings twice” but i kinda like it.

  3. I agree with the comment about the times almost eclipsing the characters. The bit about the waitress and her dress made me think of similar happenings in the court of Louis from women looking for royal favors… Very cool story. I really liked it.

  4. my own first « aww » at “electric … exiled”, love the language here throughout. later i thought (“lead my hand under her dress”) « you wish! » – great juxtaposition of time and space and historical moments. i didn’t know if any of it made sense until that last sentence, which really, really lifts the piece high up above … i don’t know. gud.

  5. stephen

    thanks for the reads.

    i think there are a lot of lines (storylines) in this–there’s an absent travel guide, a missing story about the travel guide writer, another about the secret/non-secret lives of the travel guide writer…there’s the story of the missing building, another of the place beyond it with the missing court of louis xiv, the machinery of a story involving the court that’s a ghost of a story in a place whose distinction is to be the site of that ghost of a story (which is the story you are reading and this one, the second story) and that of the restaurant next to this non-place and the plotline of the postman always rings twice which isn’t there (but it was in my mind) and the story of solar disturbances and radiation–which is a continuous story that anyone can tell any time (but typically no-one does for some reason) and then the story about having the sense of being at the intersection of all the stories, which happens in between the sentences of the other story about all the missing stories.


  6. Super. I agree — it’s as if the character is background, setting foreground. Peace…

  7. Pingback: Week #42 – Under wraps | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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