#Publication: “Siren Song”

Image shows two young men singing in the Enosburg Falls High School band room, 1974.
My younger brother is on the right. My classmate on the left shall remain nameless so he won’t sue me for using his image without permission. (Not to mention, a piece of his life.) Photo Attribution: 1974 Echo, Enosburg Falls High School

I am very pleased to share that my short story, “Siren Song,” has been published by Adelaide Literary Magazine.  Please read on, and I’ll tell you all about it!

The Inspiration

The inspiration for the story was a conversation between a high school classmate and me about the breakup of his youthful, ill-advised marriage.

I remember the conversation very clearly. It was the summer of 1975, and we were standing in front of my parents’ house on Maple Park in Enosburg. The more he talked, the more I knew I would steal his story–all the while thinking, You should know better than to tell this story to a fiction writer–but please don’t stop.

The other elements of the story came from own experiences: living in the East Ocean View section of Norfolk, Virginia in the 1970s before urban renewal, the ill-fated headquartering of the Cousteau Society in Norfolk, and living in Berlin, New Hampshire for a year in the early 1980s. The duplex in the first Ocean View photograph is very similar to the  place I lived; mine was dirty yellow cinder block rather than dirty green.

The Alchemy of Story

Berlin, New Hampshire

Image shows a mountain and houses in Berlin, New Hampshire.
North Main Street
Image shows exterior of Androscogin Valley Hospital in Berlin, New Hampshire
Androscoggin Valley Hospital, where my dad was chaplain. Photo Credit: avhnh.org
Image shows Cote Block, Main Street, Berlin, New ampshire
Main Street
244 Main Street (Still in business)
Image shows dilapidated building in Berlin, New Hampshire, with paper mill in the background.
Main Street, Paper Mill in the Background

Former James River Paper MillFormer James River Paper Mill

Siren Song: Calypso

Image shows Jacques Cousteau's research ship Calypso on the open sea.

Norfolk, Virginia: East Ocean View

Furnished Apartment: $135/Month (Credit: Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority)
Granby Street (Credit: Facebook)
Just Another Dive Bar (Credit: Facebook)
Buy Today, Ride Today! (Credit: Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority)
East Ocean View Avenue (Credit: Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority)

The Story!

There is one line in the story that I took verbatim from my classmate that day in front of the house on Maple Park. Can you tell which one it is?

SIREN SONG by Elizabeth Gauffreau

141 thoughts on “#Publication: “Siren Song”

    1. Thank you so much, Dave! It seems that depressing fiction is how I roll. (When I was in grad school, a classmate and I had an ongoing rivalry to see whose story could out-pathetic the other in workshop that week.)

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I enjoyed reading your story! It kept my interest the whole way through. I love happy endings, but this story does leave us with some hope. His parents may not put out the welcome mat, but, they will probably not leave him on the doorstep! Congratulations!!! The story has that powerful sense of immediacy where readers feel they have stepped into the story…great description! You have created a story that touches the readers hearts…we do want this young man to be okay! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hi Liz, I could tell this was a 1974 photo before I read the description. A flashback from the year I graduated high school. I greatly enjoy the photos you share and help build a framework around your story. Your introduction draws me in and I find myself holding my breath. I love the multi-layered title.

    Very powerful, Liz. Especially the paragraph that begins “He looked out the window.” Interesting about Galen wanting to become a marine biologist yet never having been to the sea.

    Your question about Galen’s words stayed with me while reading this story. He could actually have said many of the words in this story. Possibly “…I had nowhere else to go.” Or “We can get married if you want.”

    A wonderful, engaging story! Surprisingly, and possibly not a surprise, we have heard variations of this story play out with friends from our youth. Thank you for taking me along. Now, my question is, what happened to the rest of Galen’s life?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI, Erica. What surprised me going back to my old yearbooks after a number of years was just what a scruffy-looking lot we were and how economically depressed that village was. (It still is.)

      Galen’s wanting to become a marine biologist came from the prevailing attitude in that area of that area of Vermont that Florida was The Promised Land. I wrote another story that played off the same theme: https://lizgauffreau.com/2019/09/04/publication-the-night-the-billado-block-burned-down/.

      I’ m so glad you enjoyed the story. The two lines you cited are fiction.

      You’re right about variations of this story playing out with a lot of friends from our youth. For some reason, they wouldn’t listen to any of the dire warnings from those older and wiser.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe it is a matter of caveat lector, Liz. Re: your 2019 post – early on you have indicated it is fiction inspired by real life. You brought me right along in this story. Congratulations on the publication.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful story, Liz. I thought it was sad, and though he made the remark about his heart being broken, I don’t think it was because I don’t think he was really in love. He was drifting through life, and he drifted into marriage. He fell in love with the idea of marine biology based on what he saw on TV without ever seeing the sea or knowing anything about the field itself. I suppose that is a siren song. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments, Merril. At the time the story is set, Berlin was just an awful place to live. It was a mill town, and the smell of sulpher from the mill permeated the entire place, including the buildings. The way it’s situated in the White Mountains, you feel like the walls are closing in every time you leave the house. People Galen’s age would follow any siren song that offered a promise to get them out of there.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a wonderful tribute to your writing skill that I didn’t like any of the characters, including Galen, yet couldn’t stop reading till the very end. The photos helped hook me too.

      Congrats, Liz. Well deserved. And thanks for sharing the story and its background with us.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Such a great story, Liz! You have a talent for character and scene – and dialogue and inner thoughts. Okay, you’ve got it all. My vote for the line is having to come home – strung out on drugs. Very funny. Who would say that to their parents?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A true-to-life story, Liz. It shows the pathos and humour of being immature and starting out on all those miserable life lessons. I’m impressed that you intended to use that classmate’s story even as he was telling it to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I enjoyed this, Liz. I loved the authenticity of it. My attitude towards Galen see-sawed between pity for the bad luck of breaking his foot and the way his wife cheated on him, and near-contempt for his apparent feeling that life owed him a living. Great stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed this story Liz and felt sorry for Galen. Though I hope his parents weren’t so harsh finally. I also enjoyed your little paragraph about the inspiration 😀😀
    So was it I broke my leg and my heart on the same day? Sounds like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Sonia! I’m delighted that you enjoyed the story. Although Galen’s parents weren’t happy to see him, I think they took him in and helped him get back on his feet because, well, they were his parents. You’re close with your guess!

      Like

  8. Great story Liz. Life can be a bitch at times. I confess I have no idea which line is the actual original one. That demonstrates the writer’s great skill in weaving the story together. Happy Writing

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very engaging story, Liz. Poor Galen. He just can’t catch a break. I’m going to guess either this line: But I want to start studying my major now! OR I broke my foot, and I’m leaving.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful story Liz, I love the way you engage the reader through the characters, nothing static here, and left me wanting the next chapter 🙂 I was intrigued by the question as to which line, because so many would fit a verbatim response or dialogue. I’m going with “We didn’t have any classes together.” (or, “It wasn’t what i thought it would be.”)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great story, Liz. Congrats on the publication. I felt so bad for Galen. A bunch of reckless choices and bad luck. I’m going to guess: “I broke my foot, and I’m leaving,” as the verbatim line. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Diana. I felt bad for Galen, too. Kids growing up in Berlin, New Hampshire have two strikes against them from the start.

      You’re right about the verbatim line! Give the lady a silver dollar! (As my dad used to say.)

      Liked by 2 people

          1. Rather crazy. Bikes and electic scooters everywhere. on the sidewalks, burning red lights… Plus the health pass which is a pain. But it’s all right. We’re two blocks away from the Seine. Off to the river after lunch.

            Liked by 1 person

                1. I’ve never minded a summer rain in New England. The cloudbursts in Florida, though, were pretty bad, particularly when I was driving. It was like driving the car into the deep end of a swimming poor.

                  Liked by 2 people

  12. Friends need to be careful around their writer friends. They are bound to be in a story and they may not be as flattering as they believe themselves to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My concentration is poor at the moment, but within a few minutes I was totally immersed in the story, Liz. Great storyline. I did not expect that ending. I had a good deal of empathy for Galen and the reason for his initial return to Berlin and his subsequent impulsivity. Great character development and sense of place.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I honestly don’t know, Liz. In our seven major cities in areas that were previously industrial, property developers soon move in.to whack up apartments and housing. In our larger regional areas tend to look quite lively. These are centres where there are lots of passing highway trade. Also, many are located near mines, hence the mining sector has such a big influence on local and national politics. Outside these areas away from the coastal fringe and in remote communities, there are more signs of communities struggling to stay afloat. Increasingly, the number of homeless people continues to grow right across Australia. However, we don’t have the extent of urban decay and wide scale impoverishment that are typical of the images coming out of America. Doesn’t mean it is not there, we just don’t see it.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you for the information, Tracy. I’m always interested in learning more about Australia. As far as hidden impoverishment goes, I remember my dad remarking on it in the 1970s: Vermont hid its pockets of poverty very well so as not to turn off the tourist trade.

          Liked by 2 people

  14. I enjoyed reading your story Liz, well done! I like how you used so many characters authentically in a short story. Unlike some of your readers I found the story quite funny in places, especially the sailor! Hmm.. what does that say about me.
    I believed your story, which has nothing to do with the source, but your skill in relating it.

    Liked by 1 person

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