Laurel Beckley’s story “Tell the Crows I’m Home” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 22 October 2021.
I wrote the first draft of “Tell the Crows I’m Home” in March 2021, when the waves of hopelessness were crashing into me. I’m a bit of a late comer to all things, so the loneliness of the pandemic was only finally hitting—I had left a stressful, toxic workplace to take some time to write before we moved (again), and was in between projects and packing and in transition. Throughout this shifting, I just felt lost, and I wanted to go home, and home, to me, is Elkton, Oregon, a place I have not lived since I was thirteen. For the first time in a very long time, I sat down at my computer and started writing a mood piece to capture how I felt. I had no plan, I just wrote what I knew and tried to tie my melancholy to a place.
I had somewhat intended the story to be about a payphone that people picked up to listen to the ghosts of their loved ones after a disaster, but it morphed into something else. Nicole emerged from the space between the river and the highway, inspired by Amal El-Mohtar’s “Pockets”, the myth of the old woman in the woods, and the stories we tell ourselves to cope with loneliness. What I ended up with is (fingers crossed) an intrinsically queer story of acceptance and the breath-catching fear of change and new things, and, above all, hope.
The story takes place in the mid-2030s, in a dystopian world rocked by climate change and the aftermath of The Big One (that Oregon boogeyman that is coming…some day). I have a feeling a lot of people who know me will think this is autobiographical, but it’s not (the two exceptions being semi-estranged from family and the spitting incident). Many of the locations mentioned exist in real life, although the farm and the people are all fictional, and the townsfolk of Elkton are much nicer and more welcoming than they are in Nicole’s mind. There are several track records that were set in the late 1980s that have yet to be broken, however, which was a surprising discovery (calling all enterprising Elks looking to make history), Highway 38 does wash out quite a bit in very rainy winters, and the Umpqua River is a lot of fun to float (pro tip: be careful around the rapids by the high school).
All told, I wrote this hoping a part of myself that was lost would magically appear, when instead I should have been like Aubrey, actively seeking, connecting and driving over impossible gaps in the road. I can’t say I’m there yet. But maybe I will be someday.
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