One Door Closes

I’m nearing completion of the first draft of Accidentally Inspired.  It should be done this week.  And it leaves me wondering: what the fargo do I do when it’s over?

Like Inigo Montoya after slaying the six-fingered man, I fear I may run out of steam a bit once the Project is over.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running, it’s that momentum is key.  He who stops might never get started again.  Succumb to allowing myself time off and next thing I know I’m sitting on that draft that I never did anything with, sucking down more Cheetos and licking the orange dust off my fingers instead of getting it all over my keyboard.  Except that in this example, getting the cheezdust on my keyboard would be something that’s desirable.  Y’know, because that’d mean I’m using it, and otherwise I’m just a sloth with Cheeto fingers.

I’ll allow myself a little time to decompress after finishing this draft.  Writing it, as much as I’ve enjoyed the process, has been taxing and exhausting in some ways I never imagined.  Be it slogging through endless hours of drafting characters who, to be honest, I’m growing a bit tired of, or writing into the wee hours of the night because I can no longer find time during the day, I’m beat.  I feel a bit like Forrest Gump after five or six trips running across the country: I’m tired, and I think I’ll go home now.

So a LITTLE bit of time off, but not so much time that I slip into the warm comfortable Snuggie of NotWriting.  Because as comfortable and comfortING as that Snuggie is, I recognize it now for the deathtrap it is.  The deathtrap that hoovers up the creative energy I should have been venting for the last ten years of my life and devours it like a great Sarlacc pit in the desert, where it withers and dies and doesn’t give birth to interesting stories or make me feel wonderfully productive and interesting or make me rich and famous (because that’s likely in this path I’m trying to walk, right?  RIGHT???).  No, as inviting as that Snuggie is, I will be doing my damnedest to let it collect dust and spiderwebs in the garage, because even though I’ve spent the past four months writing my butt off, I feel like there are miles to go before I wake.

As the proverbial door closes (okay, it’s not like the door closed because I took that door and explored the fargo out of it, but let’s pretend the metaphor holds), what proverbial window stands open in front of me?  It’s hard to say.  I’ve got the other novel ideas that I was considering back in March when this jolly parade first lurched like a herd of turtles into motion.  I’ve got a not-insignificant little collection of Flash Fiction which I’ve dutifully written almost every week; many of those stories are itching to be expanded, fleshed out and stitched into a living, breathing and terrifying Pavlak’s Monster if I can wrangle a bolt of lightning into their harvested parts.  And of course, after a bit of time passes, I’ll need to start on the monolithic task of editing AI, which means I’ll need to sharpen my bonesaws and reinforce my sledgehammers to start smashing that thing to pieces to put it back together Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger-like.  Or, who knows?  Perhaps I’ll be struck with a new bolt of inspiraton, like a lonely sheep in a lightning storm.

Um… pardon me for a second.

Sheep gets struck by lightning, develops super powers, bites farmhand, farmhand develops superpowers, gets the girl, saves the earth, knits a lovely lightning-imbued sweater, rides his shorn lightning-sheep into the sunset.

Okay, I’m back.

Anyway, if you’ve read my previous posts you might know that I’m a tremendous fan of Douglas Adams, and anytime I can compare myself or my work to his stories I end up feeling in a better way about myself, so here it is.  In the latter phases of his last (not really the last) book of his Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy (not really a trilogy), the hero finds himself on a faraway planet viewing God’s last message to his creation.  He sees it, sighs, and says, essentially, “well, that’s that.”  And goes home.  Of course, Adams decided he hadn’t had enough after all and wrote another book after that.  But I feel very much like that.  Here I am, novel nearly finished, and there’s a message just over the horizon in flaming letters forty feet high that I can’t quite make out yet, but I have the sneaking suspicion that whatever message those letters carry, it won’t fill me with the deep spiritual calm and satisfaction that this little endeavor of mine was worth doing, and it’s done now, so now I can rest.  It probably won’t mean anything at all, in keeping with my little philosophy on this site: “Things don’t always have to mean things.”  But it’ll be there, and I’ll see it, and then I’ll have to find something else to do.

I’ll be on the lookout for any windows that happen to be popping open in my near vicinity.  Or maybe I’d be better off setting some charges and blowing down a wall.

Any fellow writers out there have advice on how to tackle this mounting sense of… I dunno, fear? dread? exhilaration? aimlessness?  Whatever it is that comes with “finishing” (yeah, it’s not even really nearly almost finished) a project?

Just a Sec, Ty

Chuck’s Flash Fiction Challenge of the week:  Bad Parents.

I struggled with this one because my parents are actually pretty good ones by virtually every yardstick I have by which to measure them.  And, you write what you know, right?  So I was stuck.  I thought about writing to the news of the week, with the guy who essentially cooked his kid alive in a car, but the thought of getting inside a mind like that turned my stomach.  Then I remembered this story which was told to me by a sweet old lady at the mall while we were chatting about my boy about a week ago.

So I decided to steal it and spruce it up.


Just a Sec, Ty


The dull hum of the food court is the roar of Fenway Park.  Tyler checks the runner, catches a signal, tips his brim with sweaty fingers and draws back.  His arm coils backward and slingshots forward, a striking serpent launching itself toward home plate.  The ball hurtles through space, its seams blurring in a wicked curling dive.

But Tyler is ready.

His hawk eyes track the ball’s impossible movement, down and away.  Like an unraveling slinky he plants, turns, swings, and connects.  The ball goes screaming away into the stratosphere, a meteor streaking through the sky, shattering the sound barrier as it sails into the night.

Tyler starts to run.

His locomotive legs pound the turf as he races for the wall, its ivy expanse stretching off on both sides.  Home run shot, no doubt about it, but only just.  The wind whistles in his ears as he sprints, looks over his shoulder, and leaps.  His legs like giant springs, he bounds into the air; an impossible leap, but he’s done it.  The momentum of his catch sends him tumbling head over heels, til he stops, flat on his back, cradling the tiny ball in his glove.  He hides it for a long moment, savoring the moment for himself.  Then he leaps to his feet, thrusting the bit of horsehide into the air.  His world erupts in a blinding spray of camera flashes.

The elderly man at table twenty-three claps and whistle at him over a plate of soggy lo mein.  “Nice play, champ,” the gentleman says, his wrinkled features pulling into a warm grin.  Tyler throws a glance over his shoulder.  She hasn’t noticed.  He trots over.

“Keep practicing,” the man says, “and you’ll be making those catches on TV one day.”

Tyler’s six-year-old eyes shine, and he pulls his two-sizes-too-big pants up at his waist.  “You think so?”

“Sure do.”

She still isn’t looking.  She missed the pitch, missed the home run swing, missed the miraculous catch.  Tyler tugs his cap straight and meanders off through the food court.  He walks past kids his age, older kids, toddlers and babies in strollers.  This one’s parents are holding both his hands and swinging him through the air, this one’s mom is licking a napkin and dabbing at her face, that one is screaming holy hell while dad pats him on the back, mumbling soothing nonsense at him.

Tyler’s feet carry him into Sears, past the shelves of shining silver appliances and the rows upon rows of brilliant television screens, until he sees it: his chariot of fire, a fully-loaded formula one racer with brand new tires and green paint, luminescent in the sun.  He jumps in, buckles his belt and helmet on, feels the engine snarl all the way down to his butt cheeks.  The checkered flag goes up and his world narrows to the road in front of him and the cars on either side, blistering past him like angry bees, roaring in his head like a rampant Tyrannosaur.

“Little boy.”

He blinks.  What’s this old lady doing on the race course?  But the cars are dissolving, his helmet is gone, and now he’s just Tyler, sitting on a shiny new John Deere lawnmower, with this janitor looking at him.  It’s concern on her face, and he doesn’t quite know what that means. All he can do is stare.

“Pretty nice driving, there.”

She’s wearing a red polo shirt, she works in the mall.  He hops off, doesn’t want to get in trouble.

“Where’s your parents?”

Tyler shrugs.  Don’t talk to strangers. 

“I followed you from the food court.  Where’s your mom?”

Another shrug, a shuffle of his feet.

“Can I help you look for her?”

Tyler looks in her eyes for the first time.  Kind eyes, like the old guy watching him hit home runs.  Like his grandmother’s, in a dim memory from when he used to visit her.  Half a lifetime ago.  She’s not dead, mom just doesn’t take him to visit anymore.  He nods and thrusts his hand out for her to hold, which she does.  Her hand is dry and warm and big, and her fingers close around his and he feels safe.

She’s still on the playground, amidst the raucous toddlers and kindergartners and first graders, seated on a bench at the back, next to a plastic padded mushroom.  She doesn’t look up.  Her fingers fly across the face of the little black device in her hands, her face free of any emotion.

“Mom!”  Tyler runs to her, hugs her knee.

“Just a sec, Ty.”  Click click click click.

The janitor clears her throat.  “Excuse me, miss?”

Click click.  “Hmm?”

“Just thought you ought to know I brought your boy back from Sears.”

Mom looks up.  “What?”  She glares at Tyler.  “Is that true?”

Tyler’s face flushed and he stares at his shoes.  The woman in the red shirt kneels next to him and puts a hand on his shoulder.  “He was all right.  Driving him a race car.  But I thought he ought to be getting back to you.”  She gives Mom a stern look.

Mom snatches Tyler’s hand and pulls him away.  “I don’t need you to touch my son.”

Mom yanks him out of the playground, and tears spring into his eyes.  Tyler throws a glance backward at the janitor and thinks he sees tears sparkling in her eyes, too.  But then his mom’s hand isn’t a hand at all.  It’s a thick, ropey vine, and the jungle is singing around him as he swings through the trees, dodging the legs of passersby like so many tree trunks in the wilderness flashing by.

A momentary distraction as Mom’s voice breaks through the vision: “wouldn’t believe what just happened to me, the nerve of this woman…” and Tyler’s heart lifts, because he knows now she’ll be talking about him all day.