Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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JANUARY 15, 2012 8:58AM

My Nebraska boy

Rate: 21 Flag

When we got her note, it all seemed clear. 

Lacey is my twin, but not my mirror image.  Where my hair and eyes are dark, hers are light.  Even her bones seem different, hollow like a bird’s.  When we were younger, she’d run through the corn fields out back, so fast I could never catch her. I’d imagine her at the end of the run, frolicking with a flock of angels who’d scatter and fly away when I caught up to them.

Growing up, we’d tell each other stories.  Mermaids, maidens, robots, muscle-bound men: the inextricable mix of little girl dreams and little boy dreams.  And it seemed to fit together so well.  Not for outsiders, maybe, but for us it all made sense.  Lacey and me.

The way Lacey’d play her piano, I knew she was an angel for sure.  Her hands caressed the keys with the same ease she had when she brushed her long hair out of her face.  I couldn’t play any instrument. My hands were heavy, and I came to use them, first at school to defend myself, and later at work.

It all started because I was such a dream-filled boy.  My daddy went out and worked the land, and I trailed behind him but did nothing good.  My dreams were peaceful at first, but when I started to get pushed and prodded, when people tried to tear me out of them, then I guess I thought it’d be easier if they were violent dreams; then, when they told me to wake up, I could live out those visions and throw a rock at them, or a punch.  My hands grew strong not from tilling the land, but by hitting the other boys at school when they called me names. 

When I was fifteen, I was outside school waiting for Lacey when a car pulled up near me, nice and sleek, like a shark in those fields.  Out of place, like me since Lacey left.

I won’t tell you the details, because I’m still tangled up in it.  I’ll just say my work isn’t in the fields, drawing up plants from the dusty ground; I beat the money out of men for my boss, the man in the car that glides through the fields like a shark in deep water.

I can do the work, but I don’t want to.  I never did, and the more I do it, the less I can stand it.  But what can I do now?  I don’t know how to farm. I don’t understand the whispers of the stalks of corn, and my daddy and I know it’s too late for me to even try to learn.  Even if I could hold the meaning of school things in my dreamy mind, sure they wouldn’t fall like seeds from a torn sack, I don’t have the money to go to college. 

Lacey got out early.  A music scholarship took her to Omaha, and then she started giving concerts everywhere.  She missed me, I know she did.  I could see it in her eyes when she left.  She never sent letters but she didn’t need to.  We didn’t need words to be connected – we just were. 

As time went on, I started following her in the papers. So I guess now that maybe words finally did become our only connection.  I know that now, now that she’s been and gone again.

She sent a letter a few weeks ago, the first and only letter she’d sent.  It said she was coming back for her Nebraska boy.  I knew I was the boy. I suddenly thought of all I could do. I could help her out there on the road, protect her. I could lift up her piano over my head, I bet, if she needed it.

That’s what I was thinking when she came to the door.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t recognize her from far away.  Her high shoes, her black clothes, said nothing to me of my white-dressed angel-girl.  She was so stiff when she came in, even though daddy wasn’t even home.  It was just her and I. 

But she was stiff as one of those robots in our old stories.  I told her finally to sit at the old battered piano and play.  And when she did, I teased her like I used to, to make her remember, to bring the old angel-girl back.  She laughed and made a false smile, as if looking towards an audience, and jokingly pushed my hand away.

She was so ill-suited for this place, always had been.  Our house was drab and she was like a glowing light or candle flame in its dark interior.  I was happy I’d soon go away with her.  My bag was packed and on my bed. I imagined the sunlight shining on it through the dingy curtains, illuminating it like a spotlight.  I was her Nebraska boy, and she’d said in her note that this time she wouldn’t leave without me. 

“Well,” she finished playing and said, looking up at me with her old lovely smile, “I’ve got to go find Peter.”

“Peter?”  I repeated the last syllable like we’d done when we were real young, only this time I wasn’t playing a game.  Who was Peter?  How had we grown so distant?

“Peter,” she said again, again with the old smile.  “I told you in my letter.  I’m leaving and he’s coming with me.”

Peter.  Must be Peter McClary, who worked down the road.  She’d always been sweet on him, I remembered, always followed him with shining eyes. 

And then, I don’t know why I did it, but I pulled her close to me, and pushed her against me, my hands under her, I kissed her recently smiling mouth, as if I could imprint that smile onto my own lips. 

It was quick and then I moved back.  She looked at me again with that new mask-like look of hers.  Her eyes had nothing in them, only my reflection. They were cold, like a mirror.  “Goodbye,” she said to me sweetly.  Then she went out the door and back down the dusty road.


This week's Fiction Weekend prompt was to write a story based on an image in the video of Lady Gaga's song "You and I".  

You can watch the video here:





If it didn't show up, here's the link to it on YouTube. 


I was intrigued by the fact that Lady Gaga dressed up as a guy.  I'd heard she was going to do this in one of her videos, and had seen a still in a celebrity gossip magazine, but I didn't know it wouldn't be the centerpiece of a video, or that it would play out the way it does here.  I also wanted to try to find a tie to the other images in the video, and I found that as I wrote, some of the lyrics came into the protagonist's thoughts.  The title should be "My Nebraska guy", but I thought "boy" sounded more intemporal. 


If you feel inspired to write a story, go for it!  And when you post it, please feel free to come by the OS Weekend Fiction blog and announce your piece in the comments section of this week's Stories List

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Surprise ending, something I always compare to an O'Henry ending. Great writing.
Great writing matches great video, music, are amazing my dear!
I think it's up to you to invite Kerry over for dinner.

I only hope he keeps his pants on and hides tattoos.

H can sit on his pretty (gross) behind cheese tattoos.

Maybe Kerry 'ought' to vacation in cold NYC, Harlem.

He may one day be homeless and nap on steel grate.

Some fiends steal manhole covers and wear on loins.
Wonderful writing. The story carried me along with the strong, firm writing.
Wow! Wowsa! Wow! You've met the challenge here. Good read!
Alysa, thanks for sharing this great story! Tales that start out in the Midwest in a farm setting always interest me because the setting hails back to an earlier time in this country when far more of the population worked in agriculture.
Shocking ending and there is something so romantic about coming back for someone. I felt the sadness when she did not take her twin..
This could be a Lifetime movie..:)
At first I thought it was all about you..:)
well done ma cher.
Wow! This story is wilder than the video. I had a feeling it was going to lead to the "kiss", but the foreshadowing was too subtle. You threw a curve when she mentioned the other boy. Excellent read. R
Stunning, Alysa. Grabbed me and held on all the way to the shocker at the docker. Near the end I was thinking maybe she was dead and taking him with her that way, but probly I still had Stephen King in my head. Tour de force, this. Brava.
GaGa - Good, Alysa. The title drew me in, the writing kept me glued.
Nice twisty ending! I feel sorry for the brother, though!

I could help her out there on the road, protect her. I could lift up her piano over my head, I bet, if she needed it.


Something, something about the chase
Six whole years
I'm a New York woman, born to run you down
So have my lipstick all over your face...


nothing to me of my white-dressed angel-girl.

my rage, now?
Wondrous writing. I held on all the way through. Just enough monster; just enough clarity.
applause, applause, applause, Alyssa! Your fiction pieces are refined and draw me right in. Good piece here.
You really captured a sound, a tone here that is so different from your own narrative; I admire that and enjoyed the lyrical way the boy thought and spoke.
This is so awesome! The characters really came to life for me!
Yes. Vivid characters drawn by that Nebraska Boy. I liked the dimensions of his character: dreamy, yet violent when his dreams had been disturbed too many times. His job in the service of "the shark". His simple true-hearted expectancies foiled by the unexpectedly complex "angel". Holy Crap. It's me!
Compelling story, with a good take from the video.
Crime, passion, shifting images of self: all the elements of a hell of a tale. And it was. Good job!
Thanks so much for reading and commenting, everyone! I'm glad you liked this.

James: I think Lacey considers herself a city girl now. And I agree, I think her brother is angry - but I think it might manifest itself in a positive change.