Creative Nonfiction: Accident

by Nate Liederbach

A late model Mercury strikes the biking wife. No concussion, no fractures, no internal bleeding. Thigh bruising, knee swelling, a bit of a limp. Within two days, plenty of egg-plant real estate and a hematoma lifts along the hipbone. But it’s expected, gravity’s benign larva. Still zilch on the coffee-ground stool, all clear on the pink pee. And fatigue? Necessarily arbitrary. Time to get back on the horse, or be the horse, or horse around. Distant hoof-beats. Lightning pools the foothills, traces the interstate. Out of the shower, onto the bed, towel-wrapped head and the husband’s shaped up—not talc, not corundum, but a solid feldspar—ship-shape that is until it’s time to swap out. Time to lift the gaze, to lick loose and substitute those jogging fingers. But oh no, the scale’s no Moh; no Mohs because he’s suddenly certain he beat her. Not now, not since she knew him, not since he knew him, but sometime, certainly, before cars, yes, before bikes, back when all the sounds in the world had just awoken and fallen in love, had found their lovers, had not yet strayed or jaded or splintered: listen, the panting woman, the tip of the spear, the tip of the spear, the panting woman, the panting tip of the speared woman, and on and on until the late model Mercury strikes the biking wife. No conclusion, no factors, no infernal beeping. High cruising, need welling, a blip of a lint.

Nate Liederbach is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah. Author of Doing a Bit of Bleeding, and co-editor of the anthology Of a Monstrous Child: Creative Writing Mentorships, Nate’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Mississippi Review, Permafrost, Quarterly West, Alice Blue Review, Storyglossia, Versal, Keyhole, and more. Recently, Nate has assumed the role of Managing Editor for the Western Humanities Review.

You also write fiction—and I’m interested in how a “compressed” creative nonfiction piece differs from a fictional one. In other words, is there anything that the creative nonfiction piece has that the fictional one wouldn’t? Is there anything that the creative fictional piece doesn’t have that the fictional one would? And/or how does the process differ in working on a creative nonfiction piece as opposed to a fictional one? This initial response of mine is so pedantic that, ironically, it feels phony to write—but, as that’s never stopped me, and I’m not hung-up on needing to understand my own thoughts, let’s gush: I believe this taxonomy—fictive vs. non-fictive—only exists to placate a psycho-evolutionary need in the human, a need to guarantee a transmission between two beings of whom neither possesses access to the other’s pure intentions, of whom neither has absolute proof of what’s occurring in the other’s mind, and, shit, what then? Well, such an act of transmission is fundamentally an act of faith, and goddamn terrifying. Yes, because admitting the impossibility of the act’s intention (a message purely sent and purely received) could be existentially damaging to the individual and/or destructive to the formulation of relational bonds, so…so humans have constructed said divisions as ostrich holes. As such, to dub a text “fictional” is to announce a license in its construction and interpretation—for instance, one such license may be that the rules of the text are beholden to the text alone. Conversely, to dub a text “nonfictional” is to announce that the text is beholden to some event or phenomenon beyond the text itself, that the text is secondary, an artificial extension, an addendum to something that all (ideally, or, hopefully, at least Oprah) agree could be empirically verifiable. Of course, this rant of mine is but a cursory and underdeveloped analysis, though it’s a beginning, at least, for me. Note: the writing of “Accident” grew from a specific event, an experience, and then I felt my way from there. And so in this way, possibly nonfiction is more inductive than deductive, the writer taking specific information and attempting to explode it into new hypotheses, wherein when I write fiction I generally begin with an ineffable composite of tenors, and try to “capture” these tenors by narrowing them into effable situations, characters, etc., into whatever vehicles will allow me to wrangle a ragingly nebulousistic clusterfuck of feeling and emotion into some [conventional appearance of] submission.

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