1956: On the surface, Rosemary Wilson is a happily married wife and mother, enjoying a perfect life in the quiet suburb of Shady Groves. But the house on Azalea Avenue harbours a dark secret, for Rosemary’s husband Don is an abusive drunk, who vents his frustrations on Rosemary and their three children.
After nine years of abuse, Rosemary finally decides to leave Don. But her plans of escape are interrupted, first by Don coming home early from a weekend hunting trip and then by the appearance of a flying saucer from outer space in the sky above Shady Groves…
This is a novelette of 10400 words or approx. 38 pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.
Content warning for domestic violence.
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Some background information:
- Azalea Avenue is a novelette of 10400 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- Azalea Avenue is part of the series The Day the Saucers Came, which consists of various short stories narrated from a first person POV by eye witnesses to a massive alien invasion (via B-movie style flying saucers) back in 1956. So far, six stories exist, Acacia Crescent, Azalea Avenue, Appletree Court, Lovers’ Lane, Double Feature and Willowbrook Farm.
- In many ways, Azalea Avenue is a companion piece to Acacia Crescent and Appletree Court. Not only are all three stories set in the same suburb, the evocatively named Shady Groves, but Kenny, the boy Rosemary picks up at the end, also happens to be the narrator of Acacia Crescent. Coincidentally, Kenny’s story about a man in a pinstriped suit shooting both his parents before being zapped by the saucer, which Rosemary dismisses as the result of shock, is exactly what happens in Acacia Crescent.
- Earlier in the story, Rosemary also mentions the smell of barbecue drifting over from Acacia Crescent, which is presumably the barbecue Kenny’s father is making before he is killed. And later, Rosemary also mentions hearing shots outside, either the shots that the man in the pinstriped suit fires at Kenny and his parents or the shots that Eugene McGowan fires at Bernie Stetson.
- The pick-up truck that drives past Rosemary’s house, as she is loading up the car, belongs to Bernie Stetson, burglar and protagonist of Appletree Court.
- Hilda Meyers, the nurse Rosemary encounters during her many visits to the ER, and Peggy, the waitress at the Jet Age Diner, are both part of an underground network to help women leave their abusive husbands. I liked the idea that a group dedicated to fighting domestic violence would eventually become one of the cells of the resistance movement.
- The Jet Age Diner is also where the characters from all The Day the Saucers Came… stories meet up. And if you’ve noticed that there are some characters at the diner whose stories have not yet been told, watch this space.
- Rosemary tells her children that they’re going to visit the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which opened in July 1955, i.e. almost a year before the time the story is set.
- The Tiny Tears and Saucy Walker dolls mentioned in the story were both popular toys of the mid 1950s. The sculpting clay Play-Doh, which Rosemary uses to make prints of the keys, was already around as a toy in 1956 (it began as a wallpaper cleaner of all things in the 1930s), though still brand new.
- The songs Rosemary hears on the radio, “Que sera sera” as sung by Doris Day and “The Wayward Wind” as sung by Gogi Grant, were both among the top ten songs of 1956. I chose them both because of the evocative lyrics and because these songs are closer to what a suburban housewife in 1956 would actually listen to than e.g. the various Elvis Presley classics also dating from that year.
- The cover image is stock art by Phil Cold. The typography is supposed to evoke the posters for 1950s science fiction B-movies.