I'll try to check in soon, since I have been doing some excellent procrastination, but meanwhile... Cheers!
It's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and for every day I don't produce words, I am extending into December.
I'll try to check in soon, since I have been doing some excellent procrastination, but meanwhile... Cheers!
Practice might not make perfect, but it does generate words...
Story 1 -- Found
She found him well, if a bit pale. Not unexpected given that he'd been underground all this time.
She wondered if he'd turned his face, so like a flower with that hair of his, toward the light that had filtered down there.
What would he see from there? The soles of shoes, the clench of a mittened fist, possibly the odd glimpse up a skirt. And who would have looked down to see him?
Story 2 -- Sentimental Fools
They were sitting side-by-side, the way young men do, not looking at one another. The one with the oversized sports jersey was saying, "I don't even."
His friend, a skinny kid with an unfortunate haircut, repeated the question, "But did you know that she was out there?"
Sport-jersey rolled his eyes at the question. "Like, somewhere my sweet prince awaits me?"
His friend slid his glass around the tabletop in a circle, making the ice clink. He didn't look up from under the rug of his hair.
"Okay, yeah, I mean I was hoping eventually there'd be someone. You know ––" Sports-jersey's voice took on a mocking sing-song diction. "Somewhere, out there."
Sporty took a noisy gulp from his glass, pushing the ice away from his teeth with a pink tongue. The two gazed across the flimsy railing that separated the little tables from the rest of the sidewalk.
After a long pause, Sporty released his breath in a puff and said, "I don't know how I found her, but I was looking for as long as I remember."
His friend reacted with a single hair-flopping nod. They fist-bumped without drama, the glancing connection casual and unthinking.
Once upon a time.
Perspective makes fools of us all, she thought, nudging Rupert with a foot. That elusive, diminishing horizon point narrowing the grains of the planks, replacing the illusion of distance with the illusion of height.
As a girl she'd thought she saw the world clearly with those shiny new eyes of hers. She'd trusted her sight with her heart and her soul. Now she sat, wisdom if not patience incarnate, contemplating trust and the melting of trust, the bitter lessons and the sweet.
Rupert's cold metabolism warmed audibly in the direct sunlight, the creaking and bubblings of a paused fermentation drowning the plash of waves under the dock. The organic sound bringing perspective back to her like a short echo: hunger now outstripping yesterday's meal.
Rupert would require a little something sooner rather than later.
For a moment she was lost in the little somethings available to them: a soupçon, a soup-spoon, a garçon, a –– Good lord, what a racket! –– of what? Maybe cold green beans or a dab of gravy and a chicken leg.
Well let's hope that'll hold him, she thought, big boy like Rupert had an appetite, no matter how you look at him.
My mumsie used to call it "burbling," the sort of cheerful, not-terribly-important chatter that doesn't –– strictly speaking –– require an audience. As nice a term as any, and onomatopoeic to boot.
A propensity to burble was perhaps one of the reasons she sent me to kindergarten a little early. I've always had a lot to say.
I've tacked away from sailing as a topic to burble about (about which to burble?) for the past couple of months here on the blog, but it doesn't mean that I haven't been writing about sailing.
So for those sweet readers who tell me they enjoy this sort of thing, here are a couple of links to the Flying Scot webpage.
I've been doing an occasional column about boat names there for my Bar Harbor buddy Ned Johnston (Hi Ned!), who edits the class newsletter.
"Sing a Song of Sixpence" Page 18 of https://www.fssa.com/files/scots_63_4.pdf
"From Another Shore" page 16 of https://www.fssa.com/files/scots_63_3_web.pdf
"THAT Name" page 12 of https://www.fssa.com/files/scots_63_2.pdf
"What's in a Name" tag 11 of https://www.fssa.com/files/scots_63_1.pdf
The President's Fitness Test. An annual event of anxiety and entertainment that amped up the usual mood of gym-class through my youth.
The opportunities for hilarity –– always close to hand in a mixed-gender high-school class where the gym teacher had a tendency to turn nearly purple with emotion when anyone did anything vaguely teenager-esque –– were legion. I don't remember much pantsing going on, but there was definitely some flatulence (both inadvertent AND deliberate), and the odd fainting.
My buddy, Judy Hall –– she had green eyes and lived in the farmhouse that my great-great grandparents once owned –– was a wiry farm kid, astonishingly fast with the sit-ups, always in the top rank. My own best skill was hanging on. I could suspend myself overhand for what seemed like ages, thinking about something else.
Which brings us, by a wide-ranging path, to a writing warm-up.
*No surprise, since the country grows ever less fit, that the test was discontinued in 2012.
His husband said it over and over: Damont couldn't take a picture to save his life. And this one, the last image on his trusty GoPro, was no exception.
According to several witnesses, Damont was attempting a selfie, holding the camera at arm's length, squinting into the sun. Possibly hungover –– he was vacationing in the Keys with his family after all –– his hand wavered visibly, so his last expression is lost to us.
And then came the curious chain of events that led this tourist from Detroit to his unlikely demise at the fangs of a spray-painted king cobra on the beach in Key Largo early one Easter morning.
"Ain't that the truth," Theresa said as she snapped the picture.
Susan snorted dismissively, but Bobbi laughed with her usual abandon, one big hand on the straining knot of her sarong, the other inching down her sloping belly. Catching her breath after a long minute, Bobbi managed to wheeze out, "Falling! Coconuts!"
Theresa shrugged, but Susan could tell that she was inwardly pleased. Theresa played tough, but the woman loved an audience.
"Cuckoo for coconuts over here." Theresa made as if to order drinks from the non-existent pool-boy. Bobbi was inching the sarong back up her formidable front and didn't hear the quip. Susan pretended she wasn't listening. You couldn't just give her the laugh.
"Ooh, look!" Bobbi said, pointing with her free hand. "Freaky pool float!"
Later, Susan thought it might have been the funniest and most gruesome thing any of them ever said, but then Theresa was running into the water, yelling "Call 911! Call 911!" in her paramedic's voice, and Susan was pawing at and then upending her straw satchel, trying to find the goddamn phone.
As some visitors have noticed, I have been away from the keyboard. Thank you for coming back after the long, not-planned hiatus.
Turns out that when you have a wedge of time to work on a dried-in (squeeeee!) building, you make use of every waking moment to work on said dried-in (squeeeee!) building.
And what about that "building"? Is it a cabin? A camp? A cottage?
We're going to try calling it the Woodbee. Maybe a twee moniker option, but there is sits, a 600-square-foot building in the midst of the Would-Be Farm. The Woodbee. Buzz buzz.
I'll return to other topics of interest: Mr. Linton's fishing and sailing adventures, for instance, and what books I am currently reading, but not quite yet...
Horses on the beach.
It's kind of a dream vacation activity, especially for those of us who resented being called horse-crazy even when that shoe actually fit...
This photo and adventure came from CPonies.com in February of 2019. That's me with the goofy hat by the Skyway. My sister (not a horse person. funny story.) in the ball cap. Her friend KB just off the right ear of the horse in the foreground.
But rather than report about it (big beautiful horses, dreamy setting, DOLPHINS!) let's just rift off it for a writing warm-up, shall we?
Story 1 – Shallop
I named him Shallop.
You know, for the boat, but also because of galloping, which is what I thought we would do all the time, non-stop, from morning till night.
I also thought that my very own horse –– not My Little Pony, but –– would be more affectionate, like a dog, but they are not the barking, panting, paws-on-your-trousers animals.
The affection of a horse is more like an ungainly boat bumping against a dock. Shallop would sidle right over me, trampling toes. He left dusty and slobbery streaks on my clothes and sideswiped me with his enormous face. He habitually covered himself with mud for me to brush. He would sometimes not allow himself to be caught.
But we galloped, and his long mane rippled and the sound of his hooves was like thunder.
Story 2 –– Horses in the Sea
They were not making the crossing between Assateague and Chincoteaque.
They were not straying from the tidal flats of Neuwerk.
They were not navigating a deep patch in the marshes of Carmague.
They were swimming on a beach somewhere while others were adrift in snow. They were scented with horse and coconut oil. They had nothing in their heads but what came in through their ears and eyes. They were riding and swimming and the air was soft with salt.
Some warming-up exercises from my writing day.
Story 1: Got an Eye on You
They might be watching from the most unlikely of places: from your own wristwatch, a smudge on a painted cinderblock wall, the unfurling tendril of kudzu.
If it looks like, it looks.
An eye for an eye.
You might speculate, but how will you ever know what thoughts –– or if thoughts –– drift across those observer's minds. They are made to watch, certainly, function following form, but by whom and for what possible reason?
Story 2: Fisheye Lens
Fish always look surprised when lifted from the water. Well, not all fish: Sharks aren't so much surprised as continuing to look as if they are hunting, cat eyes blank in those smooth faces. But most fish tilt a that sequin of an eye and flex a jaw, possibly astonished by the wide airy world that has taken them.
Maybe it's gravity that surprises them, even more than the suffocating air: the sense finally of the earth pulling on every cell, unsupported guts tending downward, gills crowding one another in a single direction.
Are they at the apex of surprise when hauled alongside a boat? Is there further astonishment at being unhooked and slid back into the sea? Surely even the most inexperienced of baitfish can not be surprised or outraged when the rigging hook circles a spine and the wire leader dictates their way. But no, that feels false. We all treasure secret ambitions. No baitfish knows for sure that she is bait, even when she's twitching away from the cotton net in the aerated tank.
All happy families are happy in the same way, Tolstoy wrote, but every unhappy one is unique in its misery. Poke around in the high canopy of the family tree, and you see that unique as unhappiness may be –– still, patterns emerge. Familiar patterns even.
Abandonments and early deaths, illness and poverty, and of course, like smoke seeping from under the rafters, scandal.
Like this one:
My gr-gr-grandfather Newton had a bunch of siblings. I don't know much about them. It's a long time ago, and over years of research, I hadn't located half of their graves in our tiny farming hometown. But sometimes you return over and over to a stubborn nut, giving it the odd yank, and it will loosen.
One of those siblings was Cornelia Jane Newton. Born in 1837 in Dimock, Pennsylvania (about 15 miles from where I was myself born a few years later), she was buried in Nebraska in 1912.
First, okay –– Nebraska? That's worth thinking about.
Turns out she married late (at 34) to Joseph Blanding Sturdevant (another long-rooted family from that corner of Pennsylvania) and the two moved West with a group of like-minded Methodists in the early 1870s.. She and Joe had four kids (a son died at 14), and at the end of her 75 years, she was living with her daughter, Sarah Lorena Chittick.
Cornelia Jane's obituary paints a certain kind of picture of the former schoolteacher: "If sometimes in the stress of life's conflicts, the battle pressed sore, faith, courage and Christian fortitude enabled her to bear up."
So, not an easy life for Cornelia Jane, born in Dimock, died in Nebraska.
Joseph and his new bride Rosella exchanged vows in Pennsylvania and then moved to the teeming metropolis of Kansas City.
It's easy to imagine Rosella as the youthful replacement wife, possibly a hussy, and that Joseph was more than a little bit of a creeper, but that's simply too easy a story. No matter how often it happens in real life.
Like they say, when the answer is too obvious, look closer: as I compare birthdates, I see that Cornelia is 12 years Joe's senior. When they first married, he was 22 to her 34. She was a school teacher. Oh lawsie, I wonder if she was his school teacher.
Turning the tables on who's the creeper, maybe.
The imagination boggles. To divorce in 1880, and then –– a period of seeming quiescence, where Cornelia and Joseph both lived in the same small Nebraska town? Then for him to marry Rosella?
What truth could match these data points? Did somebody have a breakdown? Perhaps Rosella was the original object. Perhaps Joseph just liked the family. Perhaps Cornelia organized the hand-off. Perhaps there was a lengthy epistolary courtship with letters coming in the mail. Perhaps one or the other was merely a marriage of convenience.
I can see the new couple moving away from Nebraska. After all, Cornelia lived there, as did another older Newton sister, Catherine (and I wonder what she thought about all this), but why Kansas City?
And, finally, how would a researcher ever know? Rosella and Joseph had no children (Or did they? Joseph's youngest is named Rose Ellen, born in 1879. Though a dozen documents say otherwise, one outlying reference lists her as the daughter of Rosella, and that she was born in Pennsylvania, not Nebraska). But again, if the children were Cornelia's, the surviving generations necessarily favor Cornelia's side of the drama.
It's possible that there was no drama.
Except seriously, what happened?
In all honesty, writing is terribly easy to avoid. Sometimes the dishes and the laundry seem more important.
For the past few weeks, I have been sewing a lot. And while I can rift on how quilting is like writing, I know it's really an elaborate avoidance mechanism for the Really Awful Stuff that is going down in the world of my goose-girl story.
But in light of that impulse to cut things up and sew them back together in a pleasing form, today's writing prompt takes some random words and puts them into a story pattern:
Random words: relation, requirement, region, role, reaction, revolution, ratio.
The pattern: (character+needs+action)
Everything looked tiny from the sky that time of day. The ratio of tree to shadow all out of proportion, as if the shadow had overthrown its role. She felt the idea take hold, that a revolution was rolling across the surface of the world. That long, branching shadow was just then throwing a tree into existence against the burning disk of sun.
The crackling of her headset recalled her to the reality of the chopper, the dry air and the dust, the possibility of light glinting off something lethal on the ground below her.
"Barnett! Two clicks!"
She nodded and took a deep, steadying breath. Without consulting the laminated instruction sheet clipped to the seat-back, she ticked off the safety requirements again. She snugged the buckles, threaded gloved fingers along the straps. This time, she swung her legs to the side and let her boots meet the skids.
"Barnett, I am counting in four, three, two ––" the horizon took a quarter turn, and she punched the release on her seatbelt. Gravity loaded as the chopper rose away from her. The chute deployed, and she bounced lightly in the harness in the middle of the air.
The toggles felt like reins, she thought, and the wing was like a horse racing downhill. Shit, she was flaking out. She was a target waiting to sighted. With an effort, she lined up a particular tan formation of rock with its own long shadow and urged the horses to gallop.
The gritty sand rose to meet her, and she landed running. Hustling the wing into the pack, she didn't spare a moment looking into the hills. She trotted up the narrow ravine for fifteen minutes, the only sound her boots and her own pulse like a snare drum in her ears.
Whoa. That's a surprise. Sometimes the scraps turn themselves into something unexpected.
I wonder if it's Afghanistan or Mars. Why is she solo? I may return to this one day, and I thank you for joining me in my rhetorical calisthenics.
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