The Migration of Marion Crane

by | Aimee Oct Day 2

In my other life, the one I never got to live, I’m a silver-haired woman with six grandchildren, and I love them all. Not in the precious, clinging way my daughter loves hers, or the office-manager love my son doles out in little chits, like badges for good behavior. I let all six pile into the back of my pickup, and no they’re not strapped in, and we drive the bumpy beach road to the ice cream shack and we stand in line, shuffling and jostling our way to the front, and if they shove or heel-kick each other that’s all right, I let them work it out, but if they mess around with other people, they get a shoulder shake and a *behave!*

Which they do, for the most part. They’re good kids. I can’t control everything that’s going to happen to them, but I do what I can. The rest is up to them, and luck.

Luck was all that saved me. The chime of another traveler at the desk taking his attention from me for a moment, and I went to the doorway to get a breath of air, and something told me: Leave now.

Maybe it was more than luck. There I stood, in the weak neon spill of the parking lot, with dark night all around me. Maybe a shadow crossed the window in the house on the hill. Maybe an owl hooted. Maybe a mourning dove gave its sad, low cry. A room with flowered wallpaper waited for me, a soft bed and a hot shower to soak away all my sins, but I was never going back to that room.

My grandmother talked about “the sight.” I never believed her stories, but that night I smelled her perfume, the way I’d smelled it when I sat in her lap at the old, knife-scarred oak table and made crayon drawings. That smell, roses and old-lady skin and waxy crayons. And tired as I was, rainy night or no, I got back in that car.

And I’m still here, and my sister’s still here, and that detective, I suppose, but that sad, staring young man is gone, like his mother before him, and like the other girls who never came home.
And you ask if I repented and gave back the money, and yes I did. And you ask if I ever married my married lover, and no I did not, but after him there was another man, not married, and another town, far from desert dust, with wide highways and ocean salt in the air, and drifty cotton clouds that move along quickly, at the speed of forgetting. On a clear day I can see the swallows coming back to Capistrano. On a less clear day I can see the Nixon compound in San Clemente, or used to, and once I saw Pat Nixon at a charity golf game. A lovely lady; I never blamed her for any of that mess.

I’m old now, spare and still strong, and I take a staff with me when I hike these ocean trails. For balance, and for something else. Something I don’t name, though it’s always there. I keep a phone in my bathroom, for the same unspoken reason. I take long baths, do crosswords that sometimes get damp. I could slip getting out of the bathtub, I guess, but I think my luck will hold.

I never take showers.

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7 Comments

  1. Aimee Parkison

    Kathryn,

    “The Migration of Marion Crane” is clever and so intelligent, poetically striking in its allusions to the thriller Psycho. Right away, the beauty of the title, its lyrical sounds captured me. Immediately, the graceful fluid voice and the movie mythology you’re tapping into entranced me.

    I’m a Hitchcock fan, but also a fan of anyone who can illuminate and explore the complex, problematic ways women are treated in his films, especially as victims of thriller/slasher violence in an iconic horror like Psycho.

    In this fiction, you brilliantly subverted the violence against Marion, stealing back the power from the phallic the knife in the shower that obliterated her with your poetic, charming, and subtle exploration of Marion, allowing her a life beyond the shower scene, in this dazzling piece, which is something that will delight any horror fan, film buff, or reader of literary fiction.

    Here are some magazines you might consider sending this fiction to—Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, and/or Wigleaf.

    Thank you for sharing your elegant writing with me! You are so talented! Your fiction charmed me and resonated so much that I had to return to reread it many, many times.

    Xoxo, Aimee

  2. Meg Tuite

    Hi Kathryn,
    “There I stood, in the weak neon spill of the parking lot, with dark night all around me.” “And you ask if I repented and gave back the money, and yes I did. And you ask if I ever married my married lover, and no I did not, but after him there was another man, not married, and another town, far from desert dust, with wide highways and ocean salt in the air, and drifty cotton clouds that move along quickly, at the speed of forgetting” Love the voice, bringing the reader in ‘and you ask..’ So good. Love this narrator and how she gives a little, but saves much white space for the mystery of who she speaks. My only suggestion: delete ‘they are good kids’ because you give that to us through the first paragraph, which I also LOVE! Outstanding!

  3. Sara Comito

    Kathryn, this is so good! An alternate telling with female intuition saving the day (and life, and a generation). The sensory details are beautiful. The narrative strong in the voice of Marion, self-possessed but haunted by what could have happened – and still could. The ending is clever, with the preference for baths over showers. And how generous she’s harbors no blame for Pat Nixon. The resilient are always more able to forgive. Just yay!

  4. AJ Miller

    Kathryn, this is so well done. I love how even and cool the voice of Marion is, how matter of fact. She got lucky and she knows it. I love this alternate version of the original and think you’ve done a great job of really making the voice of Marion work here. The last line is both humorous and yet appropriate. I hope her luck does hold. Thank you for sharing such an entertaining read.

  5. Lucy Logsdon

    From the opening line, I loved this piece! It’s so layered. I had to read it several times to get all the levels. I love the ending line, the way you carry the foreboding all the way thru to the end. I’m more concerned for her by the story’s end than I am at any other point and that’s a very nice touch. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing–I think this is wonderfully perfect and finished as it is.

  6. Trent

    Kathryn,

    this caught my attention. I have a somewhat nerdy confession – I’ve always been partial to the second film, as an underrated
    flick.

    So even though this would cause that whole story to not happen, this is some pretty clever work.
    There’s only one “consider this” thing I’d offer, and that’s maybe a glimpse of something we get from the arrival.
    Perhaps a line or two of dialogue between her and Norman, or something that maybe even makes her feel conflicted about
    ditching a place to stay for the night.

    With or without any change, though, this is excellent! Hope this’ll find some publication.

  7. David O'Connor

    Kathryn, what a solid piece of writing, really enjoyed it, the flow–as exemplified by this: And I’m still here, and my sister’s still here, and that detective, I suppose, but that sad, staring young man is gone–is brilliant. Really great work. Thanks for sharing!

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