by L. Annette Binder
Issue #141 • October 15, 2010•Buy Now!
Edited by Pei-Ling Lue
Freda weighed eighteen pounds when she was born. Her feet were each six inches long. At ten, she was taller than her father. Five feet eleven and one-half inches standing in her socks. I can’t keep you in shoes, her mother would say, and they went to Woolworth’s for men’s cloth slippers. Her mother cut them open up front to leave room for Freda’s toes. She’d stitch flowers in the fabric to pretty up the seams, forget-me-nots and daisies and yellow bushel roses. They sat beside the radio and listened to The Doctor’s Wife and Tales of the Texas Rangers while her mother worked the needle. Some of your daddy’s people are tall, she’d say. Your Aunt Mary had hands like a butcher. By God, her grip was strong.
Sometimes Freda felt her bones growing while she lay in bed. This was when the sensation was still new. Before it became as familiar as the pounding of her heart. The house was quiet except for the planes out by the base and Tishko, the Weavers’ dog, who barked at the moon and stars. That dog’s got a streak in him, Mr. Weaver always said. I bet he’s part wolf on his momma’s side.
L. Annette Binder
L. Annette Binder was born in Germany and grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Bellingham Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Avery Anthology and others. Her work was a finalist for the 2010 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is a student in the Programs in Writing at the University of California, Irvine.
Q&A by Pei-Ling Lue
PL: Where did the idea for this story come from?
LAB: A few years ago I read a newspaper story about a young woman (I think she might have been in England) whose bones had started growing when she was a teenager. Her family and her doctors didn’t believe her at first when she told them something wasn’t right. She was on crutches at the time the story was written, and the available treatments had slowed the growth but hadn’t stopped it. That was the kernel of the story. But it wasn’t until earlier this year when I came across a 1979 Guinness Book of World Records that things began to come together. My parents had had that particular edition at home when I was a kid, and I pretty much knew it by heart. As I reread it now all these years later, I found myself back in Colorado, and Freda was there.
PL: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
LAB: Staying true to Freda and not making her the object of pity. I needed to trust that she’d guide me through all the things that happened.
PL: How much research did you do on gigantism and what challenges did you face writing about this topic?
LAB: I did a fair amount of research on gigantism and the treatments that might have been available in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, but then I let all of that go and just focused on Freda and Teddy. One of the big challenges is knowing when to stop researching. I often struggle with that one.
PL: The details of mountains, nephilim, giants, and the setting of Colorado tie together so well in this story. Did you plan to write about nephilim with Colorado and the mountains in mind or was it a happy accident?
LAB: It was a happy accident. I’ve spent some time in Colorado recently after a long time away. I saw those mountains every day when I was a kid, and I’d forgotten the pull they have.
PL: Despite Freda and Teddy’s deep connection, there is also a distance between them. How did you come up with the idea for this relationship?
LAB: As soon as I started to write about Freda, Teddy came to me. I heard him say “Lady what’s your problem?” and I just followed them together. Writing about Freda’s mother also helped me understand some of the reasons for Freda’s reticence.
PL: I noticed throughout the story that you rarely used Freda and Teddy’s names. You refer to them mostly as she and he. Was this intentional?
LAB: Yes, it was intentional. It just felt right because there wasn’t anybody else in her world but him.
PL: The last scene of the story is so powerful. Despite the love Freda feels for Teddy, she cannot open herself up to him. Did you know when you started writing this piece that the story would end this way? What does Teddy feel as he walks away from Freda’s house?
LAB: I didn’t know how it would end when I started, but by the time I wrote the scene with them in the kitchen together I had a sense of how things would go. Teddy feels sad, I think, because he knows what’s happened and because he can’t see her one last time. And I think he feels sad, too, because it’s a hard thing to come back to your childhood neighborhood and see how things have changed.
PL: How long did it take you to complete this story?
LAB: This story took less time than most. I spent about three months writing it.
PL: What are you working on now?
LAB: I am working on a collection of stories and on a novel about a young boy in modern-day Colorado who speaks only ancient languages and nobody understands why.
PL: What is the best bit of advice about writing you have ever received?
LAB: On particular things I’m working on or thinking about, Michelle Latiolais and Ron Carlson have been really generous and insightful. They’ve taught me to keep at it. Still, for general writing advice, it’s hard to beat Miss Snark: “Write well and query (submit) widely” (http://misssnark.blogspot.com
). Most of the time, I’m pretty sure I’m good at the submitting widely part.