The Story Behind the Story: “Mrs. White in the Ballroom with the Lead Pipe”

I woke up at 2:00 AM one night with the title of this story in my head. I’m usually terrible at titles. I got out of bed, spent the next forty minutes writing the first draft of the story, and went back to sleep. I revised it in the morning, and on later occasions, chiseling it down, but I have never written a story so quickly.

One of Freud’s theories about dreams is that one “leg” of a dream is situated in some event that occurred that day, even if the event is obscured (another of Freud’s theories, condensation, proposes that dreams blend together more than one circumstance). All I retain of whatever the thing is that woke me in the middle of the night is the story’s title. Nonetheless, I do see three “legs” to this flash fiction piece.

1) My family plays Clue a lot. We play Clue more, in fact, than our kids want to play Clue. They have to be dragged. Clue sheets have to be forcibly inserted, sometimes, into their hands.

2) I know this will make me sound like a cranky Luddite, but I find people’s fixations with their cell phones deeply annoying. I am most annoyed by parents and their cells. I hate being at a place where one is theoretically supposed to be watching one’s child play or perform (swimming lessons, the playground), and every adult in the vicinity is instead absorbed in their phones. It’s not the diversion of attention that bothers me; I don’t mind when parents are reading books. But something about the the ubiquity of the swiping and the texting depresses me.

3) My partner loves his cell phone. Our seven-year-old, who is both funny and intuitive, says, “Dad wants to marry his phone.”

So those are the three “legs” that hold up the wobbly stool of this story. That story-behind-the-story is longer than the story itself.

About Kim Magowan

Kim Magowan has fiction published or forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, Atticus Review, Bird's Thumb, Breakwater Review, Broad!, Cleaver, Corium Magazine, Crack the Spine, descant, Fiction Southeast, 580 Split, The Gettysburg Review, Gravel, Hobart,, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Jellyfish Review, JMWW, Literary Orphans, Moon City Review, Oakland Review , Parcel, River City, Sixfold, SNReview, Squalorly, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Word Riot. She is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.

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