I recently participated in NaNoWriMo – an Internet phenomenon where people try to write a novel, or at least put 50,000 words on paper during the month of November. It’s been 20 years since I’ve written anything creatively and thought I’d give it a shot.
As the calendar changed from November to December, National Novel Writing Month finished. While I didn’t make it to 50,000 words, my writing is however still going strong. Also, I had the blessing of participating in an amazing novel writing class at Women Writing for a Change in Silverton. I got to meet a great bunch of very talented women and learn some techniques and tips that have helped me jump start my abandoned writing dream.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is you don’t have to write a book from page 1 to the end. Right now, I’m working on writing the important scenes, to move the story forward. Then I will go back in and write additional exposition to tie everything together.
The second thing I learn is that it’s very easy for me to write dialogue. The conversations between my characters – or even my main character’s own inner dialogue – just flows from my fingers. The description of things, locations, settings, etc… is more difficult for me.
Since many of you have asked what I am writing or to read what I’m working on, I thought I’d post 2 scenes here for you to read. This is a very rough draft. I’m still working on naming different things, like naming characters, restaurants, towns, colleges. But I hope it gives you a brief glimpse into what I hope someday will evolve into my first published novel. Even if I have to publish it myself.
I hope you like it.
Also, please note, in no way does Callie’s mom resemble MY Mom.
Kneeling on the cold tile next to the toilet, I thought of every horrible vision I could think of, runny egg yolks dripping down my father’s chin into his beard, the bad sashimi I ate at SUSHI place in Chicago and my subsequent trip to the ER, the stench of the homeless guy in the doorway of the boarded up building down the street. Several dry heaves and cold knees later, I realized that I couldn’t vomit away this pain. The pain was not in my stomach but in my soul. How the hell do you clean that?
With one eye barely peeled open, I opened the medicine cabinet to find the Advil. Four or five of these should help, I thought, as they grinded down my throat without the assistance of water. Then, hidden behind the slightly smashed box of Band-Aids and zit cream, I found the solution to all of my troubles – the remaining muscle-relaxers I got last February from my first and only adventure with skiing. The strained Rotator cuff, the gift that keeps on giving.
I poured the precious pills into my hand. Only two left. After the initial pain from the crash into the tree wore off, I used the pills more for menstrual cramps than shoulder pain. Now I just had two. I should probably cut them in half, ration them out, since I would no longer have health insurance in two weeks. Or, I could just take them both and maybe I wouldn’t wake up to need health insurance. Can you OD on two small muscle relaxers?
I popped both pills into my mouth. Using the pill bottle as my cup, I filled it with water and swallowed the muscle relaxers down. I could feel the odd sensation of the water and muscle relaxers meeting the Advil midway through my esophagus. Oh please don’t vomit now and lose the muscle relaxers.
I laid down on the cold bathroom tile, just in case I did need to get sick now. With the way my luck was going, of course I’d puke up the muscle relaxers. I should’ve rationed them out like I originally thought. I pulled a towel off of the rack to rest my head upon. It was still slightly damp from my shower that morning.
The morning had started off so well. It was a glorious early summer day. Looking down towards Lake Michigan, the activity was already buzzing along the shore, runners, walkers, bikers, skaters, babies in strollers. It was still early but I had a busy day ahead. I logged in on my laptop, only to find my email wasn’t working. I suppose I will have to find some time to call IT today. What a pain in the ass. Seriously, can’t they get our damn remote access to work. I have six sales calls today – really don’t have time to deal with this.
Two hours later, just as I was leaving my first appointment of the day, my boss’ phone number popped up again on my cell phone. He’d called me once during my appointment but didn’t leave a message. This time, he left a message.
HR was in the office. The Bank had decided to shut our division down, effective immediately, they had no need for the sales force. This was our two-week notice. Bill’s voice continued but I don’t really recall what he said. I knew that other mortgage companies were closing down, but we were a division of one of the most stable, oldest banks in the Midwest. We never dabbled in that C paper some of the other mortgage companies did. How is this happening to us?
I sat in my brand new Lexus I bought three months earlier. It was a huge improvement over my beat up, nine-year-old Accord. Now, I wished I had that old Accord back instead of this Lexus with its monthly payments. Son of a bitch. This can’t be happening.
The Scene Where Callie moves in with her Mom
Pulling up in front of the house, not much had changed. The maple tree in the front yard seemed taller. The driveway had recently been, well, whatever they call it when you put that black stuff on your driveway. It had been twenty years since I last lived here. Twenty long years and the only things that had changed were the maple tree and the driveway. Thank God for Ativan.
I was still griping the steering wheel when the door opened. Mom, or Janet, as she preferred me to call her now, was standing on the porch, wearing what I can only assume was a knock off Roberto Cavalli leopard print blouse. Certainly she couldn’t afford the real deal on a college professor’s salary. It was only 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon and my Mom looked more like she was ready for an evening on the town. The hair perfectly coiffed, makeup flawless, I bet she even had her acrylics filled to celebrate my return.
What if the car locks jammed? Or if some unknown blacktop monster gobbled me up? I wasn’t sure the Ativan alone was enough to save my sanity.
She started tip toeing down the stairs. I swear her feet were shaped like a Barbie doll’s, in that permanent high heel, pointy toe deal. It wasn’t until I was six, that I realized women could wear flat shoes.
“Darling, oh there you are!” she exclaimed.
One last deep breath for courage, I opened the door and was enveloped in a cloud of Chanel #5. “It’s the only thing Marilyn wore to bed!” My mother told me this with every spritz, as if I had forgotten that she told me the exact thing the day before.
“Hey, Mom,” I said, hugging her back. Trying hard not to breathe.
“Janet, please darling. Janet. I’m so glad you’re home. Why don’t you grab your things and we’ll sit down for a nice chat.”
God forbid she would actually bother to grab one of the boxes out of my car. “So hard on the nails, darling,” her usual excuse.
Grabbing the first box from my back seat, I walked up towards the house, along the marigolds that lined the sidewalk. Marigolds stink. I can see why deer don’t like them. I miss the smelly homeless man.
Inside, the house hadn’t changed much either. The décor was mostly the same mishmash of cheap leather and brass. Clearly, Janet missed the memo that Miami Vice was canceled and the 80’s had ended. There was a new TV, flat screen. My hope over that was diminished when I saw the remote control placed on the end table next to her chair, perfectly aligned with the corner of the table. How sad that such a lovely TV would only experience the never ending cheesiness of the chick flick. Maybe, if I can sneak down here late at night, I can thrill you, darling flat screen, with some danger and intrigue, or at least a Bond movie.
An hour later, all of the boxes were piled on my bedroom floor. The twin bed was tucked under the window between the dormer ceiling. How many nights did I sit in this same bed and vow that I’d get out of College Town some day. Now I was back and my room hadn’t changed a bit. It made me wonder how much I had really changed since my last night here.
“Darling, I made some tea and have some scones. Let’s chat. I have so much to share with you.” It was actually kind of comforting that my Mom hadn’t changed. Here I’ve lost my job, my high rise condo, my entire life and it was still all about Janet. “And please take your hair out of that pony tail. I’m sure it’s fine for driving, but men like their girls to dress up a bit, put a little flair into your appearance.”
Sitting in the living room, drinking tea and picking at a cranberry orange fennel scone, Janet regaled me with the adventures of her latest man. He was a visiting professor from out east. In the History department, she said with the faintest twinge of disdain. He was in town doing research on a local Underground Railroad stop. She went on and on telling me about Grant, while I forced down the scone. It was a bit dry. But it had the exotic “fennel” seed in it. I didn’t have the heart to tell Janet, she’s been eating fennel seed for years in sausage.
“So, darling, what is this nasty little business with your job?” She actually put her tea down and looked at me. There were times I almost believed she was sincere.
“Well, the mortgage industry has basically self-imploded. The Bank had to shut our division down.” It’s odd, trying to explain financial concepts that I myself didn’t think made sense to my PhD English professor mother. I went on for another few minutes, talking about Wall Street investors, CDOs, and subprime mortgages. She let me have those precious few moments to vent before she went to fix it mode.
“Well, you should talk to Frank McTavish. He’s the manager at the Bank of College Town. We went out a few times years ago, but we’re still close. I told him you were back in town and he said he has an opening for a teller. It would be a great way for you to meet someone. Not Frank, of course. He’s too old for you and he’s dating that horrible Peggy Buckwalter, from Admissions. She looks like she’s been rode hard and put out wet.”
I’ve been home 145 minutes and Janet has decided the answer to my life is a man. She is evolving. Typically, she introduces the Man Cure after 60 minutes.
“OK, thanks, Janet. I don’t really have much experience as a teller but I will talk to Frank. Maybe they have some loan officer positions available at the bank. I started out as an LO, I could always get my license back and do that. I was also thinking about looking into getting my Master’s at the U and possibly teaching, like you.”
I had already lost her interest. She had fixed my problem and was moving on with her life. “That sounds wonderful, darling. Oh dear, look at the time. I must go get ready for my date. Grant is taking me to that new B&B on the lake. It used to be the old Helmes place but some big shot from New York came here and turned it into a B&B. If you meet a man who takes you out to dinner there, he’s a keeper.”
I picked at the rest of my scone in silence as Janet completed her toilette in her bedroom. It was times like this I wished my father wasn’t an alcoholic jackass. I could really just use a hug from a real Dad and to hear him tell me everything was going to be OK.