Monday, June 6, 2011

That feeling

Forgive this post for self-indulgence. Yesterday, in the middle of the hot-water-heater crisis, I had a semi-mystical experience while watching an earwig. Actually, I don't think the earwig had much to do with it; it was just there on the floor of the garage while I stared, thinking deep thoughts, and somehow got mixed up with them. Although if things work out maybe I'll mention him in the acknowledgements.

The deep thoughts were about my WIP and what came out is that story is going to be in first person instead of third, and told in alternating chapters by two characters. I got "that feeling." You know: the road is open, I can see this, I know exactly how this is going to work. And I could hear Janette's voice for the first time, though I created her as a character months ago.

The book is set in Las Vegas in 1964 and Janette, one of the narrators, is a 16 year old art student:

"John would have been an artist, if it wasn’t that he became a Beatle first. In pictures he always looks slightly apart, slightly more serious – not sad, like Ringo – but as if he sees through the press and the cameras and the screaming girls, as if he keeps something in reserve, apart from them. As if he’s waiting for something, almost.

I zipped up my art bag and slung it around my shoulder and then I remembered I’d bought a new tube of cadmium orange and it was…somewhere in my room. I finally found it in my school jacket. It’s a bad habit, leaving paint everywhere. One day last fall I threw my jacket on the floor and later I walked across it and there was a paint tube in my pocket and it burst open. I didn’t even notice until the next day when I put my hand in the pocket at school. Mom wasn’t happy, about the jacket or the carpet.

I threw the cadmium orange in the bag and zipped it up again. Then I opened the window, pushed the screen out, and slipped out it feet first, landing among the weeds and the bleached, warped boards my father still intends to build a shed with. It’s juvenile, I know, but it avoids Janette can you go to Safeway for me, oh, and take your little sister too. If Mom had her way I’d spend my entire Sunday pushing Betsy on the swings at the park.

Rachel’s mother is not like anyone else I ever met, never mind anyone else’s mother. She’s a good model, generally; she sits still without complaining and questioning me. She’s never asked to see the picture, either, which is good because the picture is pretty much a disaster.

But her house is so…not dark, exactly, but dim. And silent. There are never any women sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and goading each other into eating the last piece of cake. And there are too many things in the house. The first time I saw the living room I recognized, somehow, that every statue and picture had a particular reason for being there, that Mrs. Rosenkrantz wasn’t just hoarding stuff like a madwoman. But there’s just so much of it. It’s like a house under occupation by an army. I can hardly stand to sit there, scraping Mrs. Rosenkrantz’s head off the canvas for the hundredth time or re-working those damn glasses (I don’t know why I ever thought to put them in, and yet every time I paint them out the picture just seems nothing.) I feel like they’re all watching me – the stuffed trout, John F. Kennedy, St. Bernadette – and they know I’m going to fail."

This is just the middle of a passage so I'm sure a lot of it will go away or change. But one of the great things about writing for me is that feeling that something's there, something I can use and make something of. I feel like a cat, watching the mouse play and thinking, you're mine, baby.

1 comment:

Mary Aalgaard said...

Love your "Ah-ha" moment! Go with your instinct.