Author Name: Christopher Cantley
Title of Short Story: My Orange Karen
In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about: This is a magical story about an old farmer who discovers a lost child in a storm, and their next few years together.
How did you come up with the concept for the story? Well, I’ve always been a big fan of the fantasy genre, but there are other inspirations for the story too. Karen DeLabar’s illness provided a key plot point. Much of the middle of My Orange Karen was an exploration of being a father. The final third or so was about Mrs. DeLabar being a strong fighter in her time of trouble, and all our willingness to help.
What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology? Initially, it was my friend, Stephanie Fuller, who posted the project on Facebook. I really enjoy writing, too, so I figured I‘d give it a go. I also wanted to do this in honor of my mom. She’s a Karen, as well. Ultimately, though, it was the encouragement and support of my wife that made it possible.
Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio: I am huge movie buff, and ran a Quote of the Day contest on my Facebook page for quite a while.
What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Wow. This one’s tough. I’ll choose the orange of a flame, especially candles. Firelight always helps me relax.
“Would you light my candle?”
If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? I’d ensure everyone would have a safe fire source, and no one would have to be cold again.
Who inspires you? Why? The person who always inspires me is my late Grandpa Keen. He was always willing to listen, and never had a harsh word for anyone. We would spend hours just talking, or playing some silly game I’d invented. I hope I make him proud.
In the years after that tragedy, my fiery-haired daughter redoubled her efforts at hunting. With Lucille gone, and my age rearing its ugly head, farming was nearly impossible. It was only Karen’s sojourns that kept food on the table and money in our purses. Sometimes she would be gone for a week at a time. I knew she was working hard to keep us going, but I couldn’t help feeling sad at her absence.
During Karen’s last trip, I noticed something amiss. I would awaken in the night, feeling as though a steel band was wrapped around my lungs. Not long after, the incessant coughing started. When dark blood joined the coughs, I knew what was wrong. It was the same Deathlung sickness that took my first daughter. As much as I hated to, I had to send Karen away. Two nights later, she came back all smiles. I was sitting by the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket.
“I’m home, Papa!”
I had to smile. All grown up, yet she still called me Papa. I tried to greet her, but a fit of blood-filled coughing silenced me. Karen came into the living room, orange hair pulled back into ponytail.
“I found some boars yesterday,” she said hanging up her bow and quiver. “They were really tough but—”
She went quiet when she finally turned toward me. The smile faded from her face, but when she tried to step forward, I waved her back.
“What’s wrong, Papa? What’s happened?”
I struggled to take a breath.
“I’m dying, Karen. It’s Deathlung.”
“No,” she shook her head. “No! You can’t be dying!”
“It’s only a matter of time now, child. And you have to leave.”
Karen stumbled backwards, pain flaring in her eyes.
“You’re sending me away?”
I nodded as another fit of coughing wracked me. The young woman stood taller, hands balled into fists at her sides. She was furious.
“Why? Why can’t I stay and take care of you?”
“Because you could get sick, and I can’t allow it,” I said, voice straining to be heard. “You’re grown now, and you need to find your own life. Please go.”
Bio: Christopher Cantley is a factory worker residing in Lapeer, Michigan. He’s a devoted husband to JoAnn and father to Samantha, Tabitha, and Andrew. He also has four fur kids: Mickey, Tinkerbell, Ninja, and Abbie. He heard about this project from his good friend Stephanie Fuller, aka The Book Hipster, and leapt at the chance to contribute.