Our Lives Became Unmanageable

Jackie Craven


October 2016



Winner of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Prize

An advertising copywriter searches for her missing reflection. An artist tries to sculpt clouds. A businessman fades into the atmosphere while an old man drifts over rooftops, his gravity broken. Eleven narrative strands fragment and reform to weave a story of other-worldly ailments and compulsions. As the befuddled narrators cross paths, their lives grow increasingly unmanageable. Told with wit and pathos, the linked tales are comical and strange, yet heartbreakingly familiar. These are the confessions you might hear at a 12-step meeting in a universe of fairy tales and dreams.

Among many amazing entries to the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest, I was struck immediately by the precision and ethics of “Our Lives Became Unmanageable.” Here, the reader inhabits a reliable world where voices are pink, dads float on ceilings, and defective mirrors hold bodies and souls. The world is this world. The world is a sad world. The world deserves kindness. The world will take us to difficult places. I love the fairy-tale mood in these pages. From department stores to apartments to beaches, the narrator takes us down the path of her problems, putting first always her care with the problems of others. Jackie Craven is a wonderful storyteller, and I really can’t wait to read more of her fiction.

Kate Bernheimer, judge of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Contest

About the Author

Jackie Craven’s stories and poems have appeared in many journals, including Berkeley Fiction Review, Chautauqua, The Fourth River, Limestone Journal, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Nimrod International Journal, Pearl, Salamander, and Water~Stone Review. She holds a Doctor of Arts in Writing from the University of New York at Albany. Passionate about historic preservation, she fixes up old houses and writes articles and books about architecture and home design. She lives in Schenectady, NY, Cocoa Beach, FL, and online at JackieCraven.com.

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Sure, the rope is narrow. That’s not what makes walking it so hard. It’s the height—the staring down so far and seeing faces stare back like so many fried eggs. No sound up there.

You don’t hear the monkey playing its calliope or the Clydesdale horses shuffling their oversized hooves. Even the babies, long overdue for their naps, hold their breath. Suspended in all that silence, mingled with the scent of popcorn and elephant dung, you step, balance, step, balance. The balance swings inside you like a pendulum.

Even so, you imagine a missed step, the sensation of empty air. You see your bare foot groping for the rope, you see your arms spinning and your legs peddling, you see yourself twirling like a maple seedling, tutu over your ears. The scene spools through your mind in slow motion, a silent film with flickering shadows and tumbling dust and then a blinding white light.

You shut your eyes. You forget there is a net.

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