Excerpt from “Little Egypt” by Georgia Jeffries
|Photo by Gay Degani
A scream came from somewhere. Did it belong to her? When she was in the maternity ward panting through twenty-two hours of labor, she never heard her own voice. The other mothers were moaning, wailing, pleading for any painkiller the nurse could deliver. Not her, not then. When her boy was born she closed her eyes and transported herself to another planet far, far away where there was not a weak-willed woman in sight. Another scream wrenched the air. Deeper this time. Primal.
Herbie looked over his shoulder just as the young black man attacked, pummeling his body like a speed bag at Gold’s Gym. Ginger fell back, smashing into a wall of fine spirits and fashionable cosmopolitan glasses on the mirrored display. By the time she found her balance, Dante lost his. Her son lay on the floor, his limbs jerking like a mad marionette.
The first time Ginger saw such a sight was in Vegas when a high roller on a winning streak suddenly jackknifed into overdrive after tipping her five hundred bucks. He whirled around like a spinning top then collapsed on the poker table. Chips sprayed across a surprised dentist from Des Moines who held a full house, but thanks to Lady Luck, was about to win big because the guy with the royal flush suffered a seizure. What were the odds?
The second time she saw that same strange dance her only child almost died because she was too stoned to know what was happening. Tonight, she knew. Kneeling next to Dante, she turned him over just like they taught her. Grabbed the bar towel to elevate his head. Pressed her ear to his heart to make sure he was breathing. And then she felt her hair being torn by its roots as Herbie dragged her from her son’s side.
The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Georgia
What was the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
My weirdest day in L.A. was my first. Almost nine years old and burning to see Disneyland, I arrived in the back seat of my parents’ Buick on our first family trip west. But Sleeping Beauty’s castle had to wait. The premier place on my folks’ travel agenda? Forest Lawn Cemetery. Early in the morning we were at the head of a long line to view the rainbow colored stained glass depiction of The Last Supper. Afterwards we were ushered along with a million other tourists into a vast hallway to see “the largest canvas painting in the world”, The Crucifixion of Christ. In the afternoon we made it across town to ogle the famous footprints embalmed in concrete in front of the Chinese Theater. I wasn’t too impressed with the feet in the cement. But I do remember a beautiful wild-haired woman sauntering down Hollywood Boulevard like she was the queen of the world. She wore tight belted short shorts, ankle-strapped wedgies and the skimpiest midriff top I had ever seen. Wow. Jesus at dawn, Jezebel at dusk. Peoria couldn’t hold a candle to the City of Angels.
Do you have a yet-to-be-realized L.A. dream?
More than one. But dreams are like birthday wishes. If you tell, they won’t come true.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
I love the short story form and those twisted cliffhanger endings that grace the best. Why write? Why not? All those words are mirrors of our experience and hard-won survival techniques on planet earth.
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
I don’t write to theme. I write to character. “Little Egypt”, my short story in LAst Resort, was finished several months before SinC/LA members were invited to submit our work to the anthology competition for consideration. Synchronicity in action.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
All the characters I write about are faceted reflections of people who have crossed my writer’s path. Everything is story material.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?
“Little Egypt” is set in Hollywood – as much metaphor as it is geographical location – until the protagonist decides to escape to a safer place. The “neighborhood” moves with our main characters.
Are there scenes in your story based on real life – yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
A little of each, leavened with a whole lot of imagination. Plus I’d been wanting to write about a mother and son, each wounded by injustice, saving each other.
What came first, the character or the plot?.
Character always. See above.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…?
I like to listen to birdsongs in the trees outside my writing room window. Otherwise, silence please.
Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
Mine: The writing life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.
William Faulkner: “The past is not dead. It is not even past.”
Your writing ritual begins with…
Tall cups of tea, Earl Grey with vanilla almond milk or cherry sencha straight.
About Georgia Jeffries
|Photo by Maia Rosenfeld
Georgia Jeffries cracked TV’s glass ceiling as a writer-producer of multiple Emmy-Award winning series, the first individual woman writer honored with a WGA Television Award for Episodic Drama. She created original pilots and movies for HBO, Showtime, ABC, CBS, NBC and is now adapting the NY Times best-seller, 72 Hour Hold. In addition to her short fiction, she is currently writing the novel, Malinchefor Adaptive Books. A professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, she just completed a supernatural thriller based on the true events behind her aunt’s murder in the Illinois heartland.