Archive for the 'work in progress' Category

Omelette

Omelette

 

“Abshtinence led me ashtray,” was the first thing I heard her say. She was raising her glass high over her head. “Shalud,” she said to the glass, tossing it back and then keeling over onto the bed. She is going to feel awful tomorrow, I thought. I put on her camisole – why is it that women’s underwear are so much friendlier than men’s? I wondered, not for the first time. I carried my glass and her cigarettes into the living room and poured myself a glass of milk. It was late, not that late, but I was quiet, careful not to clatter around in this thin-walled apartment. I could hear her neighbor’s TV blaring, loud aggressive anti-everything propaganda with flag-waving and Jesus-invoking, and thought how that neighbor must drive Ginger up the wall. I sat on the couch and watched a movie about a crazed carnivorous eggplant-like alien zombie creature that decapitated unsuspecting teens for 90 minutes and was eventually destroyed by good old American ingenuity and a can of chilled whipped cream. Then, not sure whether to stay or go, I started to read her mail. None of it was addressed to Ginger. Hmm. Zuzu. Zuzu deGraib is her name. I wrote it down on a business card and put it in my wallet. Then I fell asleep on the couch.

When I woke up, the TV voice next door was still jackhammering. Light filtered in through the pale yellow curtains.  I took off her camisole and put on my shirt and slacks. In the kitchen I found coffee, eggs, oranges and some honey whole wheat bread. The coffee woke her up – Ginger or Zuzu or whoever she was – and she came into the kitchen in camisole and slippers just as the omelette was ready to serve.

“Good morning, anonymous omelette goddess,” I said, back turned toward the stove as I slid the omelette onto the plate.

Turning around, I caught her leaving, with cigarettes, coffee and omelette in hand, out the back door, to the landing just outside the apartment.

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Wherein I talk to myself

Having started Nano without a plan whatsoever, I think it behooves me to think about what I’m writing. Who-what-when-where-why.

Here are some thoughts:

Who – Characters: I have a kiddo (Sofia), her parents (Jennifer and Stephen), her great aunt, her cousin (Florecita), her grandmother, and one artist (Desiree).

What – Thematically: Announcements. Endings and beginnings. The ways in which we hear other people’s narratives. Photo albums, family stories, wedding and obits in the newspaper.

Where – Place: Santa Fe for sure, other places as well, where characters might intersect in a transient way.

When – Time: Present.

Why/ POV?: Inclined to give each character some first person with an omniscient lurking narrator. Did that make sense?

Okay. Right now, my characters are straight out of central casting – too much rushing, but it’s a start.

What makes the theme / plot move?

Announcements

Who announces what?

Tia Josefa does not announce anything; just reads the announcements of others. She would, presumably, get news about la familia before everyone else because she is looking for it.

Sofia, in common with Josefa, is observant and wants to know. She would also be attuned to new announcements.

Jennifer and Stephen are both professional observers and burned out empaths. They are uncomfortable applying their professional skills to their personal relationships.

Jennifer is hispanic, from Espanola. She and Stephen met in college (Santa Cruz) and settled in Santa Fe to start a business together. Mediation, counselling and conflict resolution. Jennifer leaves to become a sand box therapist for children. Stephen has a side interest in sculpture, metal work arts.

Desiree is a semi transient artist with a quick eye and some street sense. I need to know more about her, but I know she plays with texture and light, as an artist. Tends to be poor; not always, though.

That’s all for now, guys. I know it’ll be brutal for me to keep up with the numbers I need to generate, but I’m just back to work today (had the flu) and at least I’m thinking it through a little.

I haven’t put any little creatures in yet. That is an oversight.

I’ll be back later. I anticipate doing the bulk of my writing over the weekends. Because I work too much. That’s why.

Zola runs

After one hour. One hour. Not a talkative child, not really, but after one hour of riding in the high nest of a truly big semi cab, the girl starts to talk to the man behind the wheel. Ever been behind the wheel? Lot  of things to hear, and that high seat, looking out over the great highways, it’s a map, it’s a history. That driver, old-ish at 50 from driving hundred of thousands of miles, he’s like the pope, or a grand wizard, looking down on people like ants, and the girl is an ant. The man behind the wheel starts feeling himself to be a spiritual advisor. Life is the road. The road is life. He says stuff like that. So she starts to talk, and he listens in his big head Wizard of Oz way until he realizes no, this kid and her kid, that he picked up on a black road in a deep night, they’d really need to be far away from here.

This is where not too much can be said, or folks who are still here might suffer, might find sudden bad luck visited upon then. Even still, even now we can say that the girl brought her belly and her secrets with her on the road between Abilene and Padre, thanks to the big rig driver who was not the wizard of Oz, who set her off a little bit away from where she’d been going, back toward family who were willing not just to hide but to twist her secrets to keep the family looking right into the eyes of God.

Here is where time challenges some of what we know, because the woman, the child, the birth, the release of life into the open space – they push us uncomfortably toward the primitive, the unsanitary.

Zola labors

She refused a cigarette and did not want to sit down.

“I have been jealous before, don’t think I haven’t. This just isn’t it.” She said. She paced and the light in the room was hard and white. She was soft and brown. Soft and brown and angry, in more trouble than she knew. Too young, this girl. Odds were against her, if you want to know the truth.

“Tell us again why you shot him,” said the younger man, who might have been good looking if it weren’t for the bad skin and that expression. A flat expression, flat like a sidewalk, that gave nothing back. Zola stopped pacing and smoking for a minute to look at him. She had the cigarette hanging out of her mouth, like she’d practiced when she was learning how to smoke, and it was burning her eyes. She wiped them dry, and put the cigarette out.

“Going to tell you again that I didn’t shoot him. You got a hearing problem?” She said and she looked at him and dared him to tell her fuck-all. She rubbed her big belly and said she needed to sit down before she went into labor. The younger man looked away, sudden discomfort marking his face, adding to the acne scars and he looked too young to be hard like a sidewalk. She felt sorry for him, with that bad skin, maybe he might not be such a bad guy if…

The older man interrupted this line of thought with a sudden hard bang on the table. Hey, she thinks, suddenly energized by loud noises at this late stage of her pregnancy, these two are playing good cop/bad cop with me. The fog and the hormones cleared like a rough weather front all of a sudden and she played her one and only card. Childbirth. Clutching the belly, she crouched suddenly down and commenced a good primitive wail, like she’d learned in that Lamaze class her social worker had been taking her to. She leaned, she wailed, she tried to pee herself but couldn’t quite manage it. Bubba one and two couldn’t tell, though; she’d scared them already with that first round of deep breathing.

Zola prayed to the gods of delivery to spare her from an actual early labor, and they were listening. She was out of the hard tile room with the sharp white light and into the warm unconditional arms of her social worker and a maternity ward, where she spent the next three weeks as a ward of the state, eating good and with blankets, stuffed animals, and unlimited cable TV. They cut off her cigarettes, but this was better than jail and interrogation, she figured, and when she did finally give birth to that hairy little girl, she was happy to see the pink skin and the long newborn fingers, and all in all, she was glad she scared holy crap out of a couple of redneck cops if it led to this cadillac delivery, all nice and clean like she’s a lady with full medical coverage and a husband somewhere waiting in the hallway to come in after all is birthed and bathed and settled to pretty rights.

On more than one occasion in the life of Zola Gorgon, she’d fallen into a hormonal trance that convinced her that all was well and safe and easy. On more than one occasion, she’d snapped out of it in time to avoid permanent damage. This was one of those times.

 

Woman with a wandering eye

blonde-lady

There in the firelight sits a man, a dog, a chunk of meat and a knife. On the wall is a florid oil painting of a peacock walking across a garden, while a pale lady in a silk gown with a dangerously low bodice, wearing piles of yellow curls, sits on an ornate bench, holding her pekingese in her lap.

The man is drinking something: ale, if he’s been working with his men out on the moors; red wine, if he has guests of the more refined variety. But no, he’s got a chunk of meat and a knife. Let’s give him some crusted bread and devonshire cheese while we are at it. His complexion just got a bit higher, and one notices that the pale lady in the portrait appears to be looking at something over a low hedge: the gardener, is it? He’s a fine rustic lad, with a simple name, like Thomas or young Will. She’s looking at him over the hedge, while the pekingese is staring off the canvas at the meat lit up by the firelight.

The man and his ancestors have been in this home with its drafts, its wet stone walls, its brocades and warming pans, for over 400 years. This man, like others of his line, craved travel in his youth. He was the first of his people to travel across the ocean to the wild open west, the muddy roads, the rutted wagon trails. He was the first to break a palomino on the open range, the first to trade in furs and leathers and strange stories sent back across the wide seas. His letters to his father, who was staying in Constantinople with his second wife, were full of lies, and had more of truth hidden in them than he wanted his father to know. His mother, she of the pale hair and the lusting eye, was gone by then. She’d died of a fever one year when the garden was neglected, and the fruit trees had a late cold snap in May. The gardener was found leaning against a wall, dead of a bee sting, according to the parish doctor.

The man’s name is William, after all the Williams in their long line, and his eyes are not a pale hesitant blue like his mother, or a distracted grey, like his father. His eyes are green, the green of seas with warm currents, the green of coastal treasures, the green his descendants would see in the land beneath them 400 years later as they flew over New Zealand, or Brazil, or the western coast of Canada. Green turns to blue and then wanders out into the ocean, where sailors have travelled months at a time to reach the islands of tropical dreaming. The man’s name is William, he of a long line of Williams from chilly lands who have travelled the world in their younger days for hundreds of years. They have travelled to green islands and warm countries: palm trees, coconuts, lava flows, rice fields, machetes, oxen. All things foreign in a world spinning and gradually growing smaller, slower and coming to a resting place.

The pale woman’s descendants travel the world now on thin, light titanium bikes, wearing clothes that wick away moisture, and meals in tubes. They, too, love ale, all her green-eyed daughters, grand-daughters and great great grand-daughters, their friends and lovers. All of them love adventure, and slobbery dogs and frisbees, and all of them love the feeling of otherness that carries them in their strong female bodies through places where the fair-skinned woman with yellow curls and her pekingese were never able to go. And all of the woman’s sons and grand sons and great grand sons keep going back to their place by the fire, century after century, to their ancestral hall, and wait for the women to come home.

Zuzu trims her words

twister

 

We are trimming the verbiage early this spring. I took my clippers and my shears and eliminated adjectives, superlatives, an embarrassing overgrowth of verys, goods, and littles.

How does one fracture an overgrown root clump, a collection of twisted, knotted, entangled word sins? Might be done through confession, through deletion, through a combination of bleach and a cold wrap placed on the root ball. I’ve killed bores before, growing on word trees. My peach tree produced even as it was dying, sweet blush stone fruit hanging heavy on three limbs and a stunted trunk. It is in the nature of nature to grow whatever it may grow even in the process of dessication, aging, and a sinking downward into the ground. Bury. Reincarnate. Bury. Return. Turn.

I greet Poison in the spring and offer it a drink: please sit down, Mr. Poison, there is no reason to ostracize you just because your nature is to destroy, not to seduce or convince. I give Mr. Poison a seat in the yard, which is tender and thinking about blooming, and he waves at Mr. Lopper, they being old friends and collaborators from back when. We have iced tea, from a pitcher that is made of a hard plastic substance that imitates glass, which is made of sand, sand blown so hard and hot that it is harder than the desert and the sand that makes your feet hard as leather when you are a child and hard leather feet are appealing, like you’ve grown mocassins on your feet. I remember walking across the parking lot, the Piggly Wiggly, in July with the brothers, all of us running barefoot from one white painted parking stripe to the next. The paint just enough cooler than the tarmac to keep us from blistering our small brown feet. Where the hell were our parents? I think that was the year of mom’s diet pills and dad’s embarassing toupee. Cripes, those mid-life crises were really something back in the 60s.

 

How is it that people can not talk about things, can avoid verbs their entires lives until suddenly verbs are spilling out of every crevice and every confession is followed by another? Zuzu’s locked herself in her small apartment and is sitting out on the back porch stairs every evening looking at the patch of city that she can see over the fence. The city is full of verbs; she doesn’t know how she’s spent her 35 years not noticing this before. There’s a boy on a scooter; he is scooting. There, a man has broken a bottle. Over there, a bus smokes as it passes and a woman in lime green linen is smoking, too, with her back to the street, like she doesn’t want to be seen by someone she knows. Zuzu can see the woman’s face, which is lit by a street lamp as the sun is going down. The street is steep, which is not a verb but describes the effect of the street on the action of those ascending and descending. She is thinking about action, Zuzu, and she is thinking about postcards and how they used to come all the time from people on vacation, but now it is e-cards, which she can’t imagine she will be able to buy in those little trash-to-treasure stores that are fading like the peach tree in the tiny yard behind her apartment. Still giving out the sweetest of surprises; she even likes the smell of old stores. Dust falling in motes, a lavendar powder in a compress, the sharp smell of rust on nails in rickety wooden furniture. She smells past, she smells future. Zuzu sometimes dreams in French, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in smell. She wakes up and hovering on the edge of her dream there is cinnamon and peppermint, there is the smell of envelope glue, there is the smell of rain. She used to chase thunderstorms back before she got here, on the coast, where smells blow in from the sea and hang in the fog, where they are partially hidden.

Zuzu stayed home for a week after she got a postcard that said “The tide’s gone out, will call later. Don’t worry. Love, Billy.” She sat on the back porch, smoking, watching the woman in green linen hiding her bad habits. “Don’t worry” was hovering in the air all week, a hummingbird, a seagull, a thin mist hanging, an unfinished thought.  Zuzu sat waiting for the next card to come.

Billy’s funerals

I am so shocked and celebrated, celibate and debauched. I knew there was a typhoon, I knew there was a storm that would make my mother’s hair curl. My mother, who goes to Larry’s to have her hair washed and set every week. Please understand.

No, don’t, I don’t know about begging. My mother went to Larry’s every week to have her hair washed and set. Before the storm that drug everything out of Mayhem, everything. The pet store, the garden and farm supply store, the pharmacy, the liquor store, the churches, the churches, the churches, the banks, the banks, the banks that rose with the water and washed away our sin.

I remember it, I was planting bulbs and thinking about the wisteria and the wind was rising. Mayor de Troi was holding a press conference to say we are all prepared, we are all prepared, we are all prepared to meet our makers, and she said this with a salt shaker in one hand and a lime in the other.

I’ve been writing for this little weekly newspaper for 12 years now, since I came home to take care of mom, who’s been washed away, washed by the blood of the lamb, only truthfully it appears that it was high tides and bad management that washed away everything in Mayhem, Texas, other than Helen’s big mouth and that parrot. I suppose if I’m a journalist, I’ve got a responsibility to write what I see. And so I did.

 

Billy Gumball became a man the day his mother was washed away by Hurricane Margarita. Zola always thought so, and when she came home to attend the funerals and wear the hair shirt that the prodigal children all wear, she saw him and he was not the same. They embraced, cotton meeting cotton with the familiarity of cousins, and she smiled at him.

That first funeral was numb like novacaine, like stroking out, and half of your body is missing. Half of your body is missing, and my body is my home, my neighbors, my mother, our candy shop and my celibacy. It rained and the wind blew and on my knees I met my maker and I was good and made. Then mother was dead, the parrot was sitting in the window of the candy store where the glass used to be and he was singing yo ho yo ho far away on the Santa Fe Trail.

That was when I knew I would be leaving, and when Zola showed up with her little girl and that coat with the fringes hanging down like she’s Custer only tougher, I knew we’d be going together.

Have you ever been to a funeral for an entire city? Have you ever carried your pen, your laptop, your tiny voice recorder with you to death after death to record in the mud and the stench that all is lost and somehow that is not a dramatic overstatement, but an actual statement that is more literal than anything you’ve ever said before in your life?

I had insurance. Not being dead, I was actually able to collect on it, unlike most of my neighbors, my mother, and Zola’s entire clan. We shook hands at the funeral, I gave her some lemon drops, some ginger chews, some extra hot peppermint, and some rye. In the evening, as the waters receded and the bones of my life were exposed, we drank the rye, and we planned out first steps out, away from Mayhem.


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