And so it was that The Wordstock Ten attained its je ne sais quoi, since the ordering of stories was determined by the order I received them and plunked them in for page layout. There was no time for the “concept album” treatment. I was too busy reading, re-reading, sending out and retrieving proof pages to and from authors. There wasn’t time to sit down and look at the big picture ordering of things. Themes . . . transitions . . . segues . . . DEADLINE.
So this raises the question—what if the Tom Editorial Brain (TEB) had been introduced in this process? Would the ordering of these pieces be “better”? Hindsight being 20-20, I can say quite definitively: No, I think not. The core material could withstand any ordering, actually, and this extra bit of effort may have yielded simply a different arrangement, no better and no worse than any other. I think it’s safe to say it wouldn’t have mattered to George Jones, anyway.
So the randomly-appointed second story in The Wordstock Ten was not awarded second prize, but it is—as if some hand of genius were actually guiding the process—another coming-of-age story, one that fits very easily as a twin to accompany “The Creek.” K.Fann’s “Little Herons” is also an American Pastoral, but it brings in heavier elements of the three S’s: surrealism, symbolism, and eroticism. Or hold on—that’s two S’s and an E, isn’t it? How about sensuality? Better.
K.Fann adopts the voice of a young girl who, with her sister, follows a mysterious Huck Finn–type character named Audubon out to a remote place to learn about the enigmatic tar fruit tree. Do I need to add that the bitter, sour, inedible tar fruit gets its sweetness from mixing with human flesh? As the three youths learn together, the fruit will not reveal its delectable secret unless it is licked from the skin.
What does this mean? The symbolism of the tar fruit runs deeper than you may think, and any more about it here may just put ideas in your head. Or further reveal the limitations of the TEB.