This post is part of our monthly collaboration with Spiderweb Salon in which they show off the best of Denton's literary artists. This month, they're sharing the work of April Murphy.
Artist introduction and photos by Courtney Marie.
April Murphy is a writer who strives, like many of us, to create and not starve. She writes mostly creative nonfiction, though she sometimes dabbles in fiction, poetry, and songwriting. She’s been told that her writing is matter-of-fact and tends toward black humor and sentimentality. If you’re an emotional person and sometimes find yourself looking for anatomical charts on Etsy, there’s a good chance you’ll like her stuff. Murphy is currently working on a nonfiction book entitled Shrouded. It is a collection of essays weaving together her family history, the funeral home industry’s treatment of women, and exploring life and death as gendered spaces.
Before moving to Denton, Murphy spent much of her life in rural outposts of the chilly North East and Mid-West. She’ll tell you how the four years she’s lived in Denton have warmed her heart – she has found a great community of writers and artists here, and says it’s hard not to stay inspired in such a supportive and interesting place. She is currently finishing up a PhD in Creative writing at UNT, but won’t limit her professional ambitions to the academic world. She wants to always be writing, publishing, and performing, and hopes her first book will be published in the next few years.
In cahoots with Denton’s artist collective, Spiderweb Salon, Murphy has agreed to share an excerpt of her short fiction with us. This excerpt is from a larger piece entitled “Partners.” Other accessible works of hers include “Puppy Tail,” “Vanilla Bones,” and “The Caves.” Check it out and be sure to keep up with April’s involvement in Spiderweb Salon, where she has presented multiple readings and performed her music as well. Some of her original writings will appear in the next Spiderweb zine: The Collaborative Issue, to be released this Friday!
-Excerpt from “Partners”
Despite the unconventional cases he took, Mr. Percy had a strong conservative streak, like all those in the funeral industry. The only unorthodox thing about him was the fact that he was a Braves fan in upstate New York’s Red Sox territory. He’d inherited the team along with the funeral home and the Republican Party from his Southern grandfather.
Maggie wasn’t lucky enough to have family in the business. Her parents, both English teachers, had never understood her aptitude for sciences. They had supported her through 4 years of pre-med and did the best they could to understand why their daughter was never interested in the books they sent at Christmas, why she only responded to their pages long emails with a short paragraph. When Maggie failed her MCATs, the relationship with her family strained. When she brought home Krystal, the pretty blonde she’d met in a cadaver lab, it broke completely. So much for books opening the mind.
For a while after that, Maggie worked days as a barista and evenings as a grocery store clerk, too busy with affording her shitty apartment and paying back her college loans to allow herself to really feel as scared as she was about the rootless life she was leading.
Krystal was there for it all, quick with a kind word but busy with double shifts and EMT training. They didn’t see each other much, and when they did both of them were usually too tired for conversation.
Maggie applied for a temp job as an embalming assistant with The Percy Family Funeral home around their two-year anniversary. Mr. Percy hired her because of her background in anatomy and paid her enough so that she could leave the coffee shop and Price Chopper. After about six months, satisfied with her reliability and resourcefulness, he offered her the apartment above the home and sponsored her through her associates degree in mortuary science.
She never asked him why he did it. She was nervous, afraid that if she drew attention to her good luck it would go away, she’d have to start over again.
Mr. Percy seemed to think that adding her to the staff allowed him to start over too. He liked to joke around the office that after three generations of Percy and Sons, it was about time the funeral home had a lady’s touch. Maggie suspected that his sons, no more interested in the dead trade than she was in Shakespeare, had broken something between them too.