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I always thought that if I were going to write a novel, this is how it would start. It would be a dark, stormy night … or maybe that’s too cheesy. It would be in bright daylight, but then there’s no suspense. What do writer’s do when they’re starting out? The pressure of the white page, the insistent black cursor just blinking at you, waiting for you to do something, the voices in your head all clamoring to be the first one out, the rules of writing that these first words have to be absolutely captivating coupled with the realization that anything worth saying has already been said thousands of times before now and always by people already famous.
Now what? My novel isn’t even started and already I’m defeated. There’s nothing more to say. Why write? Well, because when we popped into her bedroom, we overheard her talking on the phone. She was talking with her mother.
“Because it’s the only way to protect my baby,” she was saying.
Baby? There weren’t any signs of baby in the house.
“He wants me to have an abortion,” she said.
Oh! That baby – the one that isn’t showing yet.
“I’m not going to put up with his bullying anymore. It isn’t about me this time, Mom, it’s about my baby. I want to keep it.”
Bullying? Baby? Abortion? Pregnant and alone and maybe fighting against someone who means her harm? What is she going to do now? Now we have a story.
I always thought that if I were going to write a novel, this is how it would start. However, I thought my heroine would be thirteen not thirty. In truth, living through something like this is just way too surreal. So how can this be? And how is it that I did not know before now? It makes no since at all, but this morning, my mom calls from the emergency room. She’s had a car accident and its just now dawned on her that she might want to tell me that my father is not who I thought he was. The wonderful man who raised me was just a stand in for some sort of a wizard? She must be high. They gave her pain killers. That is the only possible explanation.
Then again, if I am half wizard, that would explain so much.
I always thought that if I were going to write a novel, this is how it would start. The only difference would have been that it would be happening to fictional characters instead of me and my husband.
The hero, strong and brave, would step in front of the tough as nails, though fragile, heroine when the antagonist pulled the gun.
The thing is, I didn’t want my husband, currently playing the hero, in front of a gun. Nor did I, the not so tough as nails heroine, want to be looking down the black hole of a revolver. I knew it was a revolver from the research I did for my erstwhile novel. Who the fuck thinks these things during a mugging?
Oh right, I do.
“Give me your damn wallet,” our pimpled assailant squeaked.
Wait, what? Squeaked? Yes. I was being held at gunpoint by a barely legal boy whose voice hadn’t fully gone through puberty. This stuff was only supposed to happen in stories. In a story, however, this wouldn’t be believable.
My brave husband squared his shoulders and I wondered if he’d talk back to the poor excuse for a hood. But no, he did the smart thing and threw his wallet at the kid. It bounced of his chest and landed, open, on the ground in front of the gunman.
The kid was so excited to see the money sticking out, he let the gun fall to his side and bent down to pick up the wallet. That’s when my heroine alter-ego decided to kick into high gear. I kicked him full force between the eyes with my steel-toed Doc Martin. Pimple-face dropped to the ground, blood spurting out of his nose and gun forgotten. My daring husband grabbed the gun and I grabbed my cell phone.
As I hung up with the police, my foot square in the teenager’s back, my husband turned to me with a smile on his face. “You’ve got to write this someday, babe.”
“I always thought that if I were going to write a novel, this is how it would start.”
Chester rolled his eyes. “Stop that.”
He put down his fork and glared at Maude. “For the hundredth time, I’m begging you, do not use our life as material.”
Maude seemed perplexed. Which, quite frankly, was her default mode. “The writer must write what she knows. What else do you expect me to write about?”
“In this whole, wide world the only thing you know is your stupidity, my frustration, and the comedic irony that is our relationship?” He renewed homage to his eggs. “What about quilting? I thought you liked quilting?”
Now it was Maude’s turn to roll her eyes. “No one wants to read a heated romance or a heart-stopping thriller about tapestry arts.”
“What about ‘How to Make an American Quilt?’”
Mauve put down her notepad and huffed. “An exception, and besides, I think that one book probably sated the entire audience of people asking for stitching fiction.”
Chester nodded. “I guess. But I still stand by my statement. Don’t use this or me for material. No one wants to read about it.”
Chester returned to his eggs, Maude to her scribbling. After a few minutes, Chester looked up again.
“Maude, where’s the vial of poison?”
She grinned. “How are those eggs tasting?”
“I always thought that if I were going to write a novel, this is how it would start,” Leah said, twining her hair around her finger. “There would be a girl, an orphan, and she’d be living with her wicked step-mother and her wicked step-sisters, and the only one who was nice to her would be her dad, but he’d die in a car wreck, and she’d be all alone-”
“Omigod, that is so stupid,” Charlene rolled her eyes. “Every story is about an orphan. And if it’s a girl, she’s always motherless, and her father is the good guy until he dies. I mean, didn’t you ever even read any of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales? That’s how they all go. It’s like, back when they wrote them, nobody ever had a living set of parents or anything.”
“Well, maybe they didn’t!” Leah was sitting up in bed now, her cheeks were splotchy. She tossed back her dirty brown hair. “You know, there was probably a lot of mortality back then from the Plague and things. Even if they didn’t have divorce, people were probably dropping left and right from having sewage in the streets and not washing their hands and … and … you know, syphillis or something!”
She hoped saying the name of a sex disease would shut up Charlene, but it didn’t.
“Well, okay, fine. So, people dropped like flies. But then, would ALL the kids be orphans, huh? I mean, wouldn’t the kids die, too, if the Plague were killing everyone? How come the girls were all still beautiful and snowy-white and all that shit, with perfect complexions, if everyone had TB and leprosy and stuff? Why don’t any of these brilliant, gorgeous orphans have missing limbs? Why don’t any of them have neurological issues? Like tremors or ADD?”
“Omigod!” This time it was Leah’s turn to be disgusted. “It’s a NOVEL, OK? It’s supposed to be FUN. It’s supposed to be an ESCAPE. Nobody wants to read about kids with two living parents who just don’t want them! Nobody wants to read about kids with CP living in, you know,” she gestured around her at the thin metal beds with their bedrails, the wheelchairs lined up against the wall. “Nobody wants to read about people like us.”
“Some day somebody will,” Charlene said. “Some day there will be novels about kids in hospital schools. About heroes with CP and princesses with MD. What’s so different about that than a princess trapped in a tower with ultra-long hair. We’re just a different kind of Rapunzel.”