It’s so weird how life is so full of moving around— people coming and going, people passing by each other all day long. You never know which person’s going to steal your heart. You never know which place is going to settle your soul. All you can do is look. And hope. And believe. P 307
Sunday. Finally. The dogs thought I was wasting sunlight while I was in bed. With their constant yammering, they insisted I wake up and let them out so we could get on with the best part of the day. So here we are now: they are lying at my feet, the dappled sunlight creating shadowy mosaics around their sleeping bodies and I am at the keyboard working on my wordcount for this novel-in-progress.
This week I have been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, trying to obtain a modest goal each day. I’m not shooting for the lofty 50,000 words this month. My only hope was to reconnect with the characters and slowly work my way up towards some real productivity.
I am almost embarrassed to say that it has been two years since I’ve spent any real day-to-day time with Jack and Nate. I’ve thought about them several times each week, if not every day. With their quirks and dogged desires, these characters have definitely taken up residence in my subconscious. I’m trying hard to unearth them, for they’ve been buried under layered anxieties about work, home, laundry and life.
In the interest of finally making some real progress and spurred on by some recommendations given by writers I know, I’ve decided to try and apply to a retreat. For the past few days I’ve been looking through the pages I’ve written, trying to figure out which excerpt I should include with the application. Here’s a small sampling:
He was still a bit rattled about the girl, the one who had sat with him at the last diner. He had walked in, and like he always did he “cased the joint” for the best seat in the place. Where he sat depended on the layout and the other customers, but he liked to have his back to the wall and a view of the whole space, as well as who was walking in the door. It wasn’t as if he were paranoid about being chased; he wasn’t on the run, or in hiding, but choosing a seat had come down to this certain criteria. This time, though, he had his head down to decide which of the eggs he would be having this particular meal (or if were really a blueberry pancake sort of a morning) when down she sat, as if she belonged there with him. That must have been what she wanted people to think, because she immediately gave him a look that begged him to play along.
“So what will you be having this morning. Do you think it will be eggs again or is it more of a blueberry pancake morning?”
And now Jack felt as if she had access to this thoughts.
“I was thinking I was going with the eggs, but I really must ask, Who are you?”
“Oh no one. Just saw this seat was empty and decided to join you.”
Jack looked around and saw several other tables were empty, but for some reason he did not feel like making a fuss. And wasn’t this the risk you ran when you were out in the world, sometimes you had to share the space.
“Can I at least ask your name?”
“Well, if I tell you that it will just take away one of the activities I had planned for us this morning.”
So Jack decided to play along. “Are you like the activities director of this tour, because the days on the road have been a bit mind-numbing. Maybe some Yahtzee or Parcheesi would lighten things up.”
“No no, nothing like that. There really isn’t room for a board here. And look at me, do I look like I have a games closet stashed on me? No, I was thinking more like twenty questions, truth or dare, slumber party activities.”
“Well this hardly looks like the place for a slumber party. If that were the case I would vote for pillow fight.”
At that moment the waitress came by and Jack turned his cup over and asked for decaf. The girl asked “Betty, do you have any green today?”
“Hmm, let me see,” she replied with a twinkle. “Otherwise I might have a teabag in my purse for emergencies. Let me just check.”
Jack wondered if the girl was from around here since she had addressed Betty by name, but then he wondered if she was just familiar with everyone. If familiar was the way she operated– even with strangers. Or maybe she lived by that credo– ‘Strangers are friends I haven’t me yet.’ Maybe she had a Hang On Baby Friday’s Coming cat tacked to her wall at home, wherever home might be.
Jack decided to get back to his first line of inquiry. “So are you going to tell me you name or I am having to guess?”
At this moment Betty came back with the teabag. She had also unearthed a piece of gum and a wetwipe and laid those on the table as well. Betty, it seemed, was a “just in case” kinda gal.
“Let’s play hot and cold. You guess and I’ll let you know.”
“Melanie”, “Wrong again”
“Sarah,” “Wrong wrong wrong.” She took a sip of her tea and smiled sweetly at him. He noticed that she hadn’t taken the bag out of the cup, but left the tag to dangle. He thought he saw “Be the Change” peeking up at him in tiny type. He let those words sink in.
“Well, you have to give me some kind of clue.”
“But you haven’t guessed anything even remotely possible. Look at me, give me a long hard look and tell me what you see.”
So Jack did as he asked. It had been a long time since a woman had sat in front of him looking so honest and open, not wanting anything from him but to take her in sincerely. And figure out a name.
“How do I know you’ll tell me the truth.”
“Let’s see, I have my drivers license here which I could offer up as proof, or we could just keep playing until we come up with something that might suit me. I was getting tired of the one I have anyway.”
So Jack went the children’s classic book route.
“Charlotte, Pippi, Raggedy Ann. Jane, Jo…”
“Yep, you got me. Josephine McMaster but you kind sir can call me Jo.” She paused to take another sip of tea, closing her eyes in a pleasure that comes over one at such a moment.
Jack, feeling proud, wanted to have a gander at the license but decided to play along
Part of the reason to include it here is for the accountability. Applying to anywhere with a formal application process seems like a far reach, but the desire to have some quiet time to myself is overwhelming. I just want to spread everything out and storyboard and outline and breathe more life into these characters. I feel like Jack and Nate chose me to tell their story—I can’t really let them down. And being in an isolated community, where we have time to be alone together is just what I need to make this next leap.
Today I will write what I can, while I can. But the sun is shining, thankfully, and the yard needs attending to at some point. For now though, I am going to virtually get in the car with Jack and try to make my way to San Francisco. Perhaps there will be some time to stop by the side of the road and pick a few daisies. Because really, what’s the hurry? It’s often in these little breaks from your planned route that inspiration finally comes.