top of page

Purple, Purple, Purple: Volume 10 Contributor Jennifer Gunner is Interviewed by Trey Dowell

Trey Dowell, author of The Protectors, and Santa Barbara Writer's Conference workshop leader interviews Jennifer Gunner, Volume 10 contributor of her short story "Purple, Purple, Purple."

Jennifer Gunner, contributor to Volume 10
Trey Dowell, author of The Protectors

An Excerpt of "Purple, Purple, Purple"

by Jennifer Gunner

Tinkling laughter and music fill Sandra’s senses before she knows where she is. Laughing women in frilly chiffon dresses clutch the crooked arms of their tuxedoed dates. A few couples sway on the dance floor as the orchestra plays romantic melodies at the other end of the ballroom.

Above the orchestra hangs a huge banner reading “Happy New Year! Goodbye, 1963!”

A waiter places a covered plate in front of Sandra. She catches sight of herself in the reflection of the silver dish; her smooth skin, her gentle blonde waves, her pink chiffon dress.

She’s twenty-one and glowing. She rolls her shoulders, bends her wrists, cranes her neck. No pain—a miracle.

“It worked,” Sandra whispers. She scans the crowd. Purple, purple, purple.

“Sandy? Did you hear me?”

Her gaze slides from her own image to a handsome face across the table. Ralph looks so young. 1963—he’s twenty-four. Only a boy.

“Sorry. I didn’t.”

He grins that lopsided grin. Sandra almost forgets why she’s here. “I said we should get married.”

Sandra wrings her hands under the table. “I should have said no.”


“I’m sorry, Ralph. It’s nothing to do with you.” She gives him a sad smile. “We had a wonderful life together. I did love you. But I should have said no. It wasn’t fair to you.”

Ralph’s grin fades as Sandra stands and kisses him on the cheek. “I need to go. I’m sorry, Ralph. For everything.”

She turns on her heel before she can see Ralph’s face. She’d hoped to avoid that moment, but she’d have to think about that later. Now her eyes slide over every cloth-covered table as she rushes through the ballroom. Purple, purple, purple, she reminds herself.

A gust of cigarette smoke hits Sandra in the nostrils as she walks by. Another puff swirls around her. I shouldn’t have gotten the Sensory Upgrade, she thinks, letting out an unladylike cough.

She’s nearly at the orchestra when she sees their table. Kathy and Marge are deep in conversation. Judy’s eyes are fixed on her flatware; her hands are folded on her lap. Brown curls fall onto the shoulders of her purple dress. Sandra’s breath catches at the sight of her. That terrible afternoon comes back at once—what Judy asked, what Sandra said. What Sandra wouldn’t say.


The three women look up. Judy’s eyes are rimmed with red.

“Can we talk?” Sandra’s voice rises slightly over the orchestra behind them. Judy nods and stands, the flared skirt of her dress rustling against her chair.

They say nothing as they pass through the tables of chuckling men and chatting women.

“I’m fine,” Judy says as they tuck themselves in the corner behind the punchbowl, the music soft and faraway. “Go back to him.”

Sandra shakes her head, her blonde waves tumbling against her cheeks. “I’m not here for Ralph. I’m here for you.”

“I’m not angry.” Judy sighs and stares at her manicured hands. “I understand. You love Ralph. We’ll always be friends.”

“No, we won’t.”

Judy tilts her head. Her brown curls drift from one shoulder to the other. “Of course we will.”

“Ralph proposed.”

Judy puts a hand to her mouth. Her eyes are unreadable.

“I didn’t know he would,” Sandra continues, the lump in her throat growing. “But I said yes, and after tonight …”

To read more of "Purple, Purple, Purple," which has quite a twist at the end, you can purchase Volume 10, at bookstore or amazon.

Trey Dowell is an award-winning author of both short and novel-length fiction. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Abyss and Apex, MetaStellar, and Mystery Magazine, among many others. He won the 2022 Derringer Award for Best Crime/Mystery Short Story of the year. His debut science-fiction thriller, The Protectors, was published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster.  Dowell also teaches a seminar called The Art of the Query Letter at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference each year.  You can learn more at, or follow him on Twitter @treydowell3.

Jennifer Gunner is a freelance writer, a South Coast Writing Project fellow, and a 2023 Pushcart nominee. Her short poetry and prose have appeared in various publications, including Sundial Magazine and Santa Barbara Literary Journal. She has been a finalist in several writing contests, including NYC Midnight Screenplay and Short Screenplay, and YeahWrite’s Super Challenge.

87 views0 comments


bottom of page