The early version of the story “No Better” was longer and titled, “Concrete.” “Concrete” was published on the Liars’ League NYC website and it was read by Ryan Ervin in 2013 at KGB Bar in New York. You can hear the performance and read the complete text here:
Below is the first page of an early draft of “Cards for All Occasions,“ back when it was a first-person story, more directive, and before the form changed from a traditional narrative to the pseudo-drama form it has now:
CARDS FOR ALL OCCASIONS
Annie couldn’t get over the fields of tall grass as we got off the freeway. She’d never been to southern California and she never expected to see anything so natural and untamed just south of L.A. It almost reminded her of Kansas, she said, except the fields looked more like a swollen prairie, undulating as we drove into Laguna Canyon.
That’s what I wanted the weekend to be for Annie, new and exciting, and I thought staying at my cousin Walter’s place in Laguna Beach would be perfect for that. I could leave Annie there all day Saturday while I was at the convention, the Seventy-Third Annual Greeting Card Association of America Convention. Being a senior writer with Hallmark means you don’t have to be there the whole time, just the right times. I’d already dragged Annie to the opening luncheon; I didn’t want her to suffer through Saturday as I fought off the sycophants from print houses who want a long-term deal or fought with the guys from the small card houses who say you’re out of touch.
It would have all sounded pretty terrible to her if I’d said what it was really about, but the convention got us from Kansas City to California, our first big trip together, the first time I’d seen Walter in two years, and close enough to see first-hand what exactly was going on with Walter—whether he’d gone completely nuts or was just suffering a mid-life crisis.
Five minutes down Laguna Canyon Road there is a sign that says you must turn on your headlights, day or night. It’s where the birch trees initially sprinkled about the fields by the freeway start grouping, inching closer to the road and clustering alongside it until your view of the hills is obstructed. But it’s not the trees that make it dark in there; it’s those swelling hills drawing closer to the road and rising until they’ve turned into canyon walls and you’re not even sure when it happened…