Miranda Magazine presents a novella titled Restore. This novella is a collaboration between a fiction writer, Michael Brien and visual artist Charlie Lemay. Michael Brien presents this unique collaboration. The hope is that it will inspire other writers to collaborate and connect with creative people around them. Speical thanks to Michael Brien and Charlie Lemay for their hard work.
Restore grew out of the bits and pieces of life unfolding around me back in the summer of 1998. Charlie was going through a divorce, I was weeks away from being terminated from my job, one of my favorite readers had cancer, thoughts of my maternal grandfather (Albert Bergeron) who had died a few years earlier were festering, and my wife and I were caring for a young cousin of hers who had the energy of a nuclear reactor churning beneath the façade of a beautiful, fresh-faced fourth-grade girl.
I’m sure there was more, but on a sunny day on a small square of campus green, Charlie Lemay and I were finishing a shoot, packing away props, when he asked if I’d be interested in writing some text to accompany a series of triptychs he had developed.
A few nights later Charlie and I met over dinner at his apartment and I saw these fantastic images for the first time. I was startled, and through them got to know a lot about Charlie (who I had only known as a fellow faculty member in the Humanities Department of a small New England college). The images as you see here were built from and around Charlie’s fascination and obsession with the minor deformities he had possessed since high school—the bent and misshapened fingers that he had worn like badges of courage constantly bandaged through the four years of his high school football career. The way these fingered figures were created, shaped and reshaped through the magic of digital photography and computer graphics to represent ideas mythic and ancestral, modern and in your face, forced me to spend weeks with them before I could even take to the keyboard.
Meanwhile, I had just completed a short story, “Head Over Heels in Love Over You” that Ann LaLonde, a secretary in the development office of this same small New England college, had fallen in love with. Soon after her reading of it she had come to me to reveal that her cancer was terminal.
When I began to play with how I might “illustrate” Charlie’s images, poetry was the first tool I tried to crack them open—and a series of Galapagos Island poems resulted. Charlie hated them all. He wanted a narrative that somehow joined his triptychs together in a way as free-flowing and startling as he had attempted in joining his separate graphic images into one—forming a biblical trinity of sorts. Section Eight’s introductory scene is all that remains of the poetic reminiscing found in the original Galapagos poems.
It was Anne who suggested I take my short story “Head Over Heels in Love Over You” as inspiration, and find where Albert and Irene’s love might take them. As you’ll see, they led me to Mark Plante’s love affairs with Marie, Pauline, and his daughter Mary Jo. But perhaps most importantly they led me to Colton. But that is for you to decide.
Anne LaLonde died before the task was completed, but I dedicate this task to her.
I worked in my basement, the images displayed on black poster board for nearly a year as the characters began to appear and reappear like spirits between Charlie’s mysterious fingers. There was more than one story to tell here, but it was Charlie’s images that called the attention—so my words needed to be narrative and weaving, not long-winded. This was more a small joined collection of stories, not a novel.
Albert and Irene gave birth to Mary Jo, the vibrant and determined third-grader, and together they helped shape the final story as it appears before you here. I hope they and Charlie’s fingers have told it well.
–Michael J. Brien