Winner! Yay! Goodies!

As usual, the WriMo is coming through for me with awesomeness.  Now, the only question that really waits is which goodies do I want?  Do I want ‘Steaming Cup’:

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Or ‘Viking Ship’?

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Nope, I’ve got it:  BOTH!

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Is this funny? I don’t think it’s funny.

A long time ago, in a land far away, a girl composed a poem about worms.  i can’t really remember much of it, except that it was hilarious.  SO, for my WriMo, I set out to create a similar funny (if not hilarious) poem, to be added into my tale.  Of course, feeling not so inspired for most of the time I was writing, I left the poem for the end, for the last of my creative juices.  The result is less than pleasing:

Digging, delving, ever pinker

Rolling juicy earthworms pant.

Singing gaily of their prowess

Who can tell what makes them dance?

Dancing come they, willy-nilly.

Dancing come they, to a feasting.

Festive garbage, festive eating.

How to move, then, with no feet?


Jiggle-juggle go the earthworms

Jiggle juggle dancing sweetly

Keeping time with rings of gristle

Keeping jiggles as they creep.

In there tunnels none will mark them.

Eating refuse, breathing deep.

So, now I need to make this funny.  Or, if you already think it’s funny (you weirdo, you).  I need to make it funn-ier.  Please help.

3,000 words to go.

I feel like my brain is fried and I will never write again – probably because I’ve been trying to chug out the last words for this foolish thing before vacation.  Yep, that means I spewed out 7,000 words today.  Ugh.

Some of the work though, is still good.  A sample:

Nightmares.  I see a large fat child that eats its still-live victims, that grows red and horned when backs are turned.  A glossy and reflective grand piano chases me, stomping and jangling keys discordantly.  I hear a mewling cry and it is the sound of my heart clawing its way up out of my chest and out through my throat and mouth, a glistening gory red.  Two stoned kids poke at a derelict hat moves oddly in the breeze and a squirrel leaps from it, gnawing away at their faces.  I am pushed over the edge of a cliff and fall and fall and fall, just waiting for the last and final crack.
After some time, I wake.  I am in a white, anesthetized room.  My sister is there, reading to me – Le Trois Mousquetaires.  I breathe the deep oxygenating breaths of freedom.
“What happened?”  I ask her who has stopped reading.  “Tell me everything.”
She adjusted herself more comfortably in the seat, closing her book.  “There isn’t much to tell.  I got here.  You were insensible and losing blood, and your doctor decided to go forward with some procedure she’d wanted you to consider.  I OKed it after the fact, after i got here.  You could have died.  peter did not know what to do.”  She looked at me severely, knowing my heart.  “He’s been very kind.  He’s a good man.”
“You told him, didn’t you?”
“Yes.  He didn’t know there had ever been a danger for you, didn’t know there were heavy risks for you to carry an infant to term.”  She considers me for a moment.  “You didn’t do it on purpose, did you?”
“Do what?”
“Get pregnant.”
“No.  No, I would’ve liked a child, but you know how committed I’ve been to adoption for some time.”
“Do you think it would’ve helped you, if that had been a possibility for you earlier?”
How could I have ever given up a piece of my own soul willingly?  I shook my head.  “No, I think it was the right choice at the time.  I dealt with what happened…better.”  I looked away from myself, trying to find some point in the room that was not bright and stark.  “With Peter, things have always been a little unusual.  I’ve taken risks I normally wouldn’t.  I think I love him.  No – I know I’m in love with him, still.  All the risks seemed like good ones, euphoric and wonderful ones.”
“Until now.”
“Yes.  Until now.”

It is typical for me (perhaps for most of us) to trust in my heart more than my reason.  I like to think that this is due to kindness, rather than self-interest, though there are some that would tell you no person acts other than for their own benefit.  I would argue that those who say so are the ones who are most unhappy, probably because the believe this.  Still, I am aware that I often act in illogical, unreasonable ways and a I do feel some guilt for this.  I often wonder if my best intentions hurt more than they help.  We move among each other, so many ripples in a pond, and even the greatest or deepest of us has little perspective on how wee affect the world around us.  I wonder if the things I do can have any meaning, or if they are gestures helplessly lost in the oncoming waves.
Peter has stayed with me in the hospital when my sister needs a break.  I have no idea how he’s explained away his odd absences from work, and I’m not sure I would want to hear the explanations.  He does not try to talk to me, but sits in silence reading.  Occasionally he’ll share something from what he reads.
“Hey Sam, listen to this.”  He was reading Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath.  “‘Purring is not so different from praying. To a tree, a cat’s purr is one of the purest of all prayers, for in it lies a whole mixture of gratitude and longing, the twin ingredients of every prayer.'”
Otherwise he lets me sit in silence, for which I am grateful.  No explanations or discussions, no thoughts or reflections or moral directives, no inner jihads – I am on pause.  I take each day like a crystal fruit, beautiful, unchanging, sharp, and completely inedible.
Eventually my mind must return to the land of the living, must begin to revolve around what has happened to me, and what I still have to do.  But for now, I am content to wait.  I will need time, and for now at least the bodily scars can be allowed to heal.

A bit more…

THE NOVEL continues to come together.  Not only do I have structure, but I think I even (GASP!) have developed a plot.  Of course, at almost 30,000 words, you hope your characters aren’t still bumbling around aimlessly.

A further sampling:

“I’d like to try to get to Zimbabwe.  While Jim is still there.  I want to see all those great stone cairns, all the houses.”
Linda looks up from her reading.  “Have you heard from him recently?  Jim?”
He’d run off earlier that year this the Peace Corps, spreading AIDS prevention materials and attempting to assist in the building of some new clinics.  “I heard form him a few weeks ago.  The guy was hard enough to keep in contact with when could corner him with email, cell phones, and stalking.”
“But he’s obviously making a huge effort if he’s emailing at all.”  She sniffed.  “I haven’t heard a peep from him.”
“Yes, but did you want to?”  I laughed at her.
“Maybe.”
“Face it, Jim gained appeal as soon as he was no longer available.  I, at least, made the effort while he was here.’
“Well, he is one of your best friends.  It’s expected.”
“Just like it’s expected he’ll make the extra effort to email me now.”  I could feel my face freezing into seriousness.  “I miss him.”
“Yes, but you haven’t lost him.  That’s the imperative thing.”

Living in a foreign country at all times carries with it a sense of unreality.  If there were a period in my life clearly marked as ‘without consequences’, those years away from my own family and typical friends and lasting environment would’ve been that time.  Perhaps Conrad is right, that without some civilizing influence, we are all lost to a savage, more primal world, some dark heart that is kept locked within each of us by the proper marked decorum of our familiar world.  But if he is right, and that decorum rests in the delusions and protection of women and the home, then we are already lost, and civilization has failed – this same darkness rests also now in me, dreaming only uncomfortably and shifting in its sleep.
I had lived for two years on the line between propriety and daring.  I occasionally taught in tank tops, exposing bare shoulders to the young and impressionable minds of my male students.  I danced with abandon every time the opportunity presented itself – with other teachers, with students, with university administrators.  I walked in sandaled feet through the winter chill (in Slovenia, every chill was winter chill) and risked my death in the isolated and drafty countryside homes of several of my charges.  I went out, at night, alone.  While my skin could not identify me as a foreigner, my habits did.  As soon as I opened my mouth, my voice did.  My accent and lack of coherent sentences did most of all.  I began to find I was more afraid of the world than I had thought – the risks I knew and calculated and had lived with in another place seemed distant.  In their place, was the odd fear of a system I would never quite understand, that I could never quite use to my complete advantage.  It was a fear I would bring back with me – i began to see my old patterns of behavior as an outsider.  Comfort was scarce, confusion varied.  I was stronger than change, but barely so – my self-image shifted and reformed, melted and rewove, became a fire-flicker of change.  To this day, I am not yet resolved into a single coherent whole.

Discouragement

So, I’m still chugging along at the novel.  i know I haven’t put anything up for a bit, but I’m getting to the point where my directionlessness is a drag.  Yes, I’m beginning to have a better sense of general plot and structure, and the overarching themes have been in place for some time.  But am I really moving forward?  Who knows.

Being around a sicko is like having a small, portable iron lung strapped to your chest.  I know from extensive experience with roommates, boyfriends, and family.  The real problem with lingering in illness is not spreading the disease, or being unable to do certain things.  You get bored.  In particular, if you’re not the sick one, you get really frustrated with the lack of activity until it feels like a great weight or a constant diminished lung capacity.  It’s like climbing in the Himalayas without the euphoria of lightheadedness.
“I hate feeling this way,” Becky wheezes from my couch.  of course, trying to speak at all sets her off into another fit of coughing.
‘And I hate hearing about it,’ I think.  But, of course, it’s not her fault.  “You’ve got to just sleep and get yourself well.  And once this round is done, you’re immedately getting your flu shot.”
“I know, I know.  I just hate being bed-bound so long.  I’ve got to get out and DO something.”
“You’re going to Linda’s game night tomorrow, right?”
“Ugh.”  She flops back onto the couch.  “And Jeff will be there.  Just what I need.”
“Well, maybe all your germs will keep him at bay.”  She just rolled her eyes at me.
Of course, this would be the night that all of us discovered Jeff was Dating Someone.  Her name was Lindy.  In polite company, I could call her opinionated and strong-minded.  The less delicate of us saw things somewhat differently.
“What’s he doing with her?” Linda hissed to me after they’d moved on into the kitchen.
I shrugged.  “Evidently he’s decided he has to settle for bitter, since the nicer ones have proved unobtainable.  She seems to be reasonably intelligent.”
Linda winced.  We both looked over slowly to where Becky was hacking in a corner.  She seemed to be taking it well.  Of course, it was difficult to tell with her already red nose and partially closed eyes.
“Why did Becky even come out tonight?  She’s obviously still wretched.”
“Stir crazy.  When your only company for a week is me, even a girl like Lindy starts to look good.”

Write, write, write…

Here’s the next portions:

“I’m going to marry Thompson.”  Jasmine finishes drying the last plate, puts it on the shelf, and shuts the cabinet door softly.  I know that you don’t like him, that you don’t think he’s the right one for me, but it’s my decision.  I hope you can be happy for me.”

Her eyes plead, but her mouth does not waver.  “I have absolutely nothing against Thompson.  I wouldn’t marry him, but it’s your life, after all.”

“Yes, but you just think he isn’t good enough for me.”

“Look, you’re the one who said you thought he was boring when you first met him.  You are the one who always complains that he’s just not adventuresome enough. I like the guy.  I’d trust him to watch my cat, or even ‘watch my back in a fight’ if you want to get martial about it.  He’s steady.  I just thought you didn’t want steady.”

“Who knows what I want?”

A thousand questions pop into my head.  Was she just nervous of change and starting school again and being in a new place?  Was she tired of waiting for the ‘perfect’ right one and settling?  Had she finally come to the end of her wandering days and realized it?  Was he going to move with her?  Or were they going to complicate matters further with some long-distance ‘thing?  Or was she putting off school?

“If you’re happy with him, then I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks.”  She put a hand over her eyes.  “You know, you’re the first friend who’s responded in a positive way.  Everyone else pretty much attacked.”

“It’s a big step.  they’re just worried for you and trying to help you make the right one.”  I steadily quashed my urge to question her.  “You did announce it like you were expecting confrontation.”

She just looked at me.

“‘I’m going to marry Thompson even if it kills me’ is not really an expression of joy.”

“I didn’t say it was going to kill me.  I was excited, first.  I guess everyone else has worn me down.”

I smile, take her hand, hug her, and give her a quick peck on the cheek.  “Don’t let them.”

Sometimes I dream vividly without meaning.  I can see myself in Tom’s office as he enters in the morning.  He turns on his computer, hangs his coat, puts down a series of bags, and goes about getting ready for the day.  I see him opening his email, his entire posture changing as he reads – a sagging in the spine, a resettlement of the shoulders, a heaviness to the jowls.  It saddens me, but in the dream this sadness lightens my limbs somehow to the point where I can fly.  So I do, up through the ceiling and out into sunlight and the larger world.

Or, instead, I can see myself at some great height with a glass in my hand.  I slip, or stumble, or begin to fall myself, and the glass drops.  I can see it spinning out, falling and falling and shifting slightly in the wind or tug of some other invisible force.  I don’t know how far it tumbles, but it must be quite far, because I have time to think ‘It’s going to shatter, isn’t it?  It’s going to break all over.”  How long does it take for the eye to process, for the mind to speak, for the brain to send out the message for muscles to clench in fear?  How many seconds?  How many meters to fall?

Or I dream of choices I would never make in real life – an ideal over a friendship; a movement towards, rather than away from, complications.  I dream of the daughter I will have some day – how we will talk about simple things like ‘what life means’ and ‘who we are, really’, and how we will circle around each other and balance each other’s lives.  I dream of the two of us making a bed together and laughing.  I can see her dark brown hair – almost black, and darker and straighter than mine – and the pale oliveness of her skin.  I can hear her laughter-more musical than mine-and see tiny teeth behind her smile.  I know I will never have children.

More to the story…

So I haven’t posted much in the way of my WriMo story recently, so there’s bit more below.  I realized that I don’t do dialogue well.  Oh well.  I finally got a good chunk done, after my first write-in (yay!) today.  Pictures at some point I will try and post as well…

Section 1 – on the phone:

“Good morning, this is Samantha.  How can I direct your call?”

“Hi Sam!  This is Timothy – how are you doing?”

“Pretty well.  Did you want to talk to Mr. Bruckerman?”

“Uh…actually, I was hoping you could help me.  I want to get him a gift for all the advice and help he’s given me recently.”

“Well, I could probably suggest a book…”

“Oh, no no, nothing like that.  Do you have his calendar?  Maybe symphony tickets on the 23rd?”

“He actually will be traveling in California that night.  The 21st would work.”

“Right.  The 21st.  For him and Sarah, of course”

“The date looks fine, but I’m not sure about the symphony.  They’d have to get a sitter.”

“That’s right!  There’s a daughter now.  Hm, maybe I should think about a book.”

“Right, just let me know if I can help.”

“Thanks Sam!  It’s always great to talk to you.”

“Thanks – I like hearing from you too.”

It may seem like not much, but friendliness counts.  And individual opinion counts.  Anyone asking mine in something I could reasonably be expected to know something about felt good.  I am an intellectual, yes, and able to analyze my own thought patterns and feelings.  But analyzing a feeling does not eliminate that emotion.  And much as I knew that a part of my reaction to the entire conversation was due to my own frustration with underappreciation and lack of use of my talents in my current job, I still couldn’t help but harbor a certain fondness for Timothy after that.

Section 2: Voting days are no fun

Voting days are the worst days possible for relationships.  On November 3, 1998, my first boyfriend dumped me long distance from the college he was attending two hours away.  He did it, of course, by phone.  He almost seemed guilty about it.

“Uh…I just don’t really think this is going anywhere.  I mean, I still really like you.  I want us to be friends.”

Who wants to be friends with someone like you anyway?  “Maybe.  I just need some time to think about it, you know?”

“Sure.  Do you want to get together and talk or anything?”

“No.”

“Oh.  Well I guess I just don’t know what else to say.”

“There’s not really anything to say.  I’ll talk to you later.”

“Um, ok.  Bye.”

Mabel was particularly defensive about the whole thing.

“It’s totally ridiculous.  I want to drive down there, knock on his door, kick him in the nuts, and then just drive away.”

“Thanks, Mabel.”

“He doesn’t even know what I look like anyway.  And besides, he deserves it for acting like such a- well, I don’t even know what.”

Anger seemed like the best antidote to sadness I had.  “I would like to tie him down to his stupid bunk bed and let him rot there until he realizes the error of his ways.”

Of course, Linda wouldn’t let me linger in it.  “Come on Sammie, that’s just not very realistic.”

“Realism sucks.  I need to build myself a better fantasy world.”

On November 6, 2001, I ran into Issac, the summer crush I almost lost my virginity to.  He was now dating a pregnant woman.  The father of the child had run back to England after getting his girlfriend pregnant.  I’m not sure how Issac had met her, but the entire situation hit me pretty hard.

“So, are you going to marry this woman?”

“No.  She knows I don’t want to get married anytime soon.”

“I don’t know how I feel about you being involved with a pregnant woman.”

“Are you talking about the emotions and hormones?  Because i’m perfectly prepared to deal with that.”

“No.  It’s more of the fact that she has to be looking towards a very specific future.  I feel like it’s too easy to take advantage of that.  I feel almost like you should marry her.  Or that there’s a sense of pity on your part.  I don’t know, it’s weird.”

“I just like her.  That’s good enough for now.”  This from the guy I’d been heartsick over for at least a month after he ran back to Georgia.  Totally stubbornly noncommittal.

“I suppose that’s fair if it works for her.  Still, it’d be something I’d worry about – I am worried about it.”

He stroked my nose quickly.  “You always worry.”

A bit more of the WriMo

Ok, Shan, this one is for you…

“Here’s a question – in space, why don’t all the pencils and other floating things fall into the gravity of the astronauts?  Is ti air resistance inside the ship?”  Jim was staring intently at the pencil he was twirling between his fingers.

“I would guess it had more to do with the distance and amount of pull.  Humans aren’t all that massive, compared to a planet.  I would say even a pencil is too big for them to exert a pull on.”

“I suppose that makes sense.  I like the idea of air resistance better though.”  He looked away absently for a bit, then put the pencil down in favor of a small scrap of notebook paper.  “What about germs? Do you think bacteria are small enough to be sucked in by human gravity?”  He accordioned the paper carefully.

“Maybe.  I’m not really sure of the numbers.  But would that mean bacteria are only found on certain sides of things on Earth, where they are aided by, rather than resistant to, gravity? And if not, what kind of sticking mechanism do they have?”

“Flies have tiny hooks in their legs to let them walk on ceilings.  Maybe some bacteria do as well.”

“I don’t think it works quite the same for single-celled organisms.”  I took the sheet out of his hands and propped it between the salt and pepper shakers, making a little house.  “Maybe they exude some kind of oozy stuff for sticking.”

“Maybe you just think germs are oozy.”

“Well, they are.”  I pick up a paper clip – it would make a nice person for our home – and began twisting the wire.  “Just because my beliefs reflect the natural world doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”  My eye’s are on the twisting, so I don’t see him holding his hand out for a minute, but then I place my half-finished creation in his palm.

“You know, women have more bacteria on their hands than men.  It’s proven.”  He finished our person and puts it in the house.

“Really?  Well, then now you have my cooties.”  I wipe my hands all over his, and he smiles.

He catches one of my hands in his, warming it.  My hands are always cold.  “Most of them are benign, anyway.”

It’s odd the way touch affects others.  The current of life runs along the skin of our bodies, occasionally magnetizing, occasionally switching polarities, occasionally repelling.  The salamander, regrowing its tail, drives electric currents away from the re-forming growth, electrifying itself a la Dr. Frankenstein.  The tip of a finger, once lost, may one day again hold the magic of current and sensation.  I am reminded of the past, of my hand facing his, of only our fingertips touching.

A little tidbit.

Today is a better day – for writing, at least.  Tomorrow I may actually have time for a real post, if things aren’t as crazy at work.  Here’s a sampling of the good stuff:

“Why do you keep walking around behind me?”  Jim said over his shoulder to me.
“I’m trying to keep you between me and the squirrels.  Those things are dangerous.”
He snorted.  “That great for you, but I’m hardly much of a defense.”
“Well every little bit helps.”
“You know, I was thinking about squirrels the other day – how they get overfed and have relatively sedentary lives.  Does their health suffer, or do they live to a ripe old age?  And what happens when they die?  You never see a dead squirrel body.”
“Well, I’m not sure about the death issue, but they seem reasonably healthy.  Maybe bigger, but still they’re quick on their feet.”
“I suppose competition for resources still applies.  You have to deal with people and other dangers -”
“Like lawnmowers.  I mean, look at their chewed-up tails.”
“Yes lawnmowers.  But yeah, there are still dangers.  I think the tail thing is genetics though.”
“Really?  I thought it was situation.”
“Well either way, do you really need a big bushy tail if you aren’t in trees that much?”
“I guess not.  About the dead squirrel issue though – don’t the groundspeople pick them up?”
“I don’t see why.  They don’t do leaves.  But maybe dead squirrels are considered ‘trash’ rather than ‘yard waste’.”
“I did see a dead squirrel once though, down by the river.  I think those things deliberately stretch out when they die.”  I could see all the pinkening viscera in my head still, the leafy tangle of matted fur and detritus.
“Down by the river?  What was it doing all the way down there?  No trees at all.”
“They’re city creatures now, almost fully adapted to urban life.  They go where the garbage goes.”

NaNoWriMo has begun!

November is National Novel Writer’s Month.  So far, I’ve had two days, both of them weekend days, to compose and I’m already sadly lagging.  I’ve written 2,958 words, and I should be at 3,334 words.  What does that mean for you, dear reader?  Most likely that in the coming weeks I’ll be ridiculously slack about posting things to my blog.  However, as recommended here, I may also begin posting extra-juicy story tidbits for your reading pleasure.  It seems like a reasonable idea…

Anyway, hope your Halloween weekends were grand!  For Gina, here’s a short tidbit:

For Halloween Mabel decided to be a unicorn. We don’t know how she stumbled upon the ridiculous idea. She had no predisposition towards that particular creature – I was the one who had collected them as a little girl. She thought it would be easy I suppose – get a white horn, wear a white outfit, and you’re set. Not thrillingly creative or corny, but fun enough for her. Mabel tended to stick to more traditional costumes anyway.

Of course my childhood interest meant I had read and researched and generally knew much of what there is to know about the mythical beasts, so I was able to ‘help’.

“Did you know that actually unicorns can be made?”

“No, but I really don’t think it’s that relevant to the costume.”

“Well, evidently the ‘horn’ of many animals, such as cows, is really a tooth that turns and grows upwards. If there’s some genetic variation or disease-related reason that one of the teeth doesn’t grow like it’s supposed to – poof, instant unicorn.”

“Where do you think I should look for a horn, anyway? The Garment District? Or would someplace like I Party be better?”

“It happens quite frequently among deer. Maybe it’s an issue of poor nutrition.”

“Really, Sammie, FOCUS. I need assistance.”

I smirked. “You could always just cut the horn off a stuffed toy.”