Tuesday, November 07, 2006

LOTO Tuesday

First and Foremost: Get out and VOTE!

Next, the most amazing thing happened last night while I was writing. A character--Fred--just flat refused to die the way I had in mind for him. Just refused. I tried to let him go with cirhoccis (sp??), but he just wouldn't have it. No matter how I approached it, the whole thing sounded wooded and false. Set the laptop aside and made a pot of tea. By the time the tea cooled, Fred was dead. In his very own, thoroughly interesting way, which only came through when I stopped trying to kill him my way. Now it's time to see if his death is interesting to anyone but me. Please let me know what you think:

In this snippet we're in the bathroom with Ruth. It's Advent and she's getting ready to go to church for a Reconcilation service. A lapsed Catholic, she hasn't ben to church in many, many years but someone told her about a church called St. Joan's where she might feel comfortable. Obviously, there will be lots more to this story since she hasn't even gotten to church yet, but Fred just insisted on dying last night. What's a girl to do?

PS: Thanks for the sharp eyes, Nancy. You were right about the name SNAFU. Gonna make a geneology chart for the characters soon as I get my huge new blackboard finished and hung. Projects, projects!!

Here goes:

Ruth took a long look in the mirror, a final check of her hair and make-up. Her hair, once gloriously, glossily auburn, had faded to salt-and-pepper gray, neither the shiny silver of her mother’s mid-life tresses nor the stubborn darkness her dad took to his grave. Instead, it was dull gray mixed with an almost-black brown that no longer held even a hint of red. Kept the temper, though! Unlike many other women her age, Ruth’s hair had remained thick and full. She kept it in a simple, easy-to-keep bob. Thank God she didn’t need a pouffy, mushroom-head style to camouflage thinning hair or to cover up her scalp. Nodding at herself, Ruth tucked a stray strand behind her left ear and leaned closer to the mirror to examine her skin. Pretty good.

Some of her friends struggled with age spots—hyper-pigmentation their dermatologists called it—but Ruth had been lucky. Same with wrinkles: She hardly had any other than a handful of tiny crinkles beside her eyes. Never thought I’d be happy I got stuck inside all those years. When her friends were watching their kids splash in the city pool, Ruth was helping students struggle through Thompson’s Piano for Beginners. When they were camping along the St. Croix or hiking up on the North Shore, she was accompanying choir practice or private voice lessons. Too busy making a living to sit in the sun.

Ruth turned sideways to look at her profile, and sighed. All those years on a piano bench didn’t do my hind end any good.!

Right after Fred’s funeral, Ruth couldn’t eat a thing; lost 25 pounds before she could turn around. Every night she warmed and then threw away another of the casseroles brought by loving neighbors, getting thinner and thinner every day. With no one expecting meals or nosing around the cabinets for a snack, she forgot to go to the grocery story for days—even weeks. When her stomach growled or her heart ached, she soothed herself with cup after cup of hot water with lemon. Every day or two, she’d drink a Coke just for the calories and promise herself to get to the store soon. Friends and the other teachers at school commented on the way clothes hung on her, but she ignored them all, just the way she tried to ignore the hole in her heart left by Phoebe’s absence at the funeral.

When the grief and guilt started to fade, Ruth’s appetite returned with a vengeance, and she took to eating her favorite comfort foods at every meal: macaroni and cheese, tortilla chips with black beans and melted cheese, toasted French bread and Nutella. Carbohydrates: the widow’s friend. Now she was back to her former weight, a number she’d fought against for two decades. You’d think I’d a stopped eating before it got this bad, damn it. She sucked in her stomach and looked at herself sideways again. No better’n Fred. Can’t quit chocolate any more’n he could quit beer. Wonder if they make Antaabuse for Mars Bars?

By the time Fred died, neither he nor Ruth could keep track of the times he’d quit drinking. Seriously quit. Totally quit. Sort-a quit. He’d done it all. Tried it all. Picked up a nicotine habit and a preference for strong, bitter coffee at AA meetings, learned the lingo of recovery at group counseling, took Antabuse when a district court judge said it was that or jail. Ended up puking his guts out on the floor of the Dakota County jail, begging to die.

In the end, Fred was killed by a drunk driver. In one of life’s richest ironies, the drunk driver was not Fred himself. Instead, a young kid in a bright red pick-up, high on testosterone and cheap beer, hit him one bright summer afternoon about 18 months after Fred's last drink. The impact knocked down both the man and the mailbox, then the explosion from his portable oxygen tank threw him all the way into the ditch on the far side of the road. He came to rest among the daisies, a surprisingly peaceful sight and a much less painful end than the slow suffocation his pulmonologist had predicted.


Suzy said...

Feel very strange saying this,....but LOVED the way Fred died.
Ironies if ironies!
Great piece Jerri!

~NanCourt~ said...

Perfect irony. Only way for him to go and he took no prisoners on his way out.
I always figured my Dad would die of cirrohsis......he certainly had pickled his liver. But, he died at 56, the morning after Christmas, when my daughter was 11 months old.
He had a ruptured anuerysm right above his heart and we never saw that one coming.....
I tend to think he died from a "broken heart" for the way he made my Mom suffer.....and his kids.

You are doing a great job....hear us cheering you on??

Amber said...

I like that Fred died his own way. That says so much about your creative connection with your muse!


Go Mama said...

I just got caught up. Love how Fred died and an especially nice touch was the explosion before he came to rest among the daisies.
Your work seems to be streaming forth...out of your pores....don't stop. Let it all out.

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

I enjoy the creative process, the idea behind writing 50000 words by the end of the month. Can you show us a picture of your geneology chart!
The place of rest in the sunlight with the daisies, caught me off guard...I had pictured it nightime...I love when stories do that!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Love the ending here Jerri. Great irony!