The latest offering from Dzanc Books is Kyle Minor's story collection In the Devil's Territory. Syntax of Things is proud to offer a brief essay by Kyle discussing the first story in his collection, "The San Diego Union Poinsettia Bowl Party":
In 2007, my wife and I took a trip to the Ohio State University Medical Center to confirm the good news we thought we already knew, which was that she was pregnant with our second child. We watched him move around, fishlike, on the sonogram. He had blue eyes, I was sure, and he was uber-intelligent, and girls were going to like him. All these things were radically apparent, even on the sketchy black and white computer screen. The nurse typed a message from him to me – “Hi, Dad!” – and printed wallet-sized sonogram images, which I promptly showed to my buddies, my colleagues, the woman at the Tam Tam Chinese restaurant on High Street, the university library’s rare books curator, the towel guy at the gym, the checkout guy at Blockbuster Video.
Things were looking up. I was almost done with graduate school, and my writing career was starting to take off – major anthologies, emails from editors at major publishing houses, a first-rate New York agent, whole nine. Ohio State was in the national title hunt, in a year in which my wife and me had resolved to watch football all day every Saturday, and every last bowl game of an increasingly long bowl season. Our older son was learning to read, and he was newly interested in the milelong walks that culminated in half-hour buying binges at Half-Price Books on Lane Avenue, pizza at the low-rent place across the street from the bookstore, and the long trek home in the dark, him hanging onto my sore back, a plastic bag full of books hanging from each hand.
Then one day my wife called me into the bedroom and said, “Look at this.” The sheets were wet and bloody. We called the ambulance. They rushed us to the emergency room. The diagnosis was not good. Placenta previa, a bad case, they said. Another hour and we would’ve lost the baby. The prescription – mandatory, they said, and no fudging – was bed rest for the balance of the pregnancy, which was months.
Now we had a problem. I was teaching at three colleges, plus online courses for the Gotham Writers Workshop, and I had a thesis to finish. Our son had preschool to attend, and we wanted him to attend, because he was thriving there. And someone had to take care of him while we were gone.
Into this breach, heroically, stepped my parents, and all the more heroically since my mother was still recovering from a major surgery. They cooked, cleaned, cared for my wife, cared for my son, didn’t much complain. But, inevitably, given the stress, there were tensions, and these tensions came to a head on December 19th, a night when my fears that my wife and baby wouldn’t make it, and my resentments, and my parents’ wearinesses, and my wife’s desire that someone, someone, make her some ice cream the way she liked it for once, with hot fudge on top and almonds sprinkled just so, all converged with such force that I feared a psychological breakdown.
My salvation was that December 19th was also the night of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Party, the first bowl game of the year. Good Lord, was it welcome, and we celebrated the best way we could, with steamed crab legs and poinsettias purchased from the Giant Eagle grocery store across the street, and for the first time in a long time, we all of us found something to hope for.
The next day I spent a few hours in the Caribou Coffee down the road and wrote the story pretty much beat for beat the way it happened, and published it as an essay in The Southern Review, and not long afterward, emails poured in from all over the country. We’re worried about you and your family, they said. How is your wife? How is the baby? Is everyone all right? I answered everyone with the good news: The baby came early, but the baby is thriving, he’s beautiful, he’s the strongest of us all.
Last month I received news that the essay had been named to the 100 Distinguished Sports Stories of 2008 list in the back of the Best American Sports Writing anthology. By then, I had already turned it into a short story, making, I’ll admit, minimum changes, and it is the leadoff story in my collection In the Devil’s Territory, which releases this week from Dzanc Books.