Saturday, January 30, 2010
There's a process to writing that intrigues me; it's called revising. Just when you think you've got it down, there's just that one more little thing--or sometimes a whole bunch of things--that could make it even better. The same thing happens in song writing; a half note might need to become two quarter notes so you can add an extra word.
In my post, Let Me Introduce You, dated 9/11/09, I mentioned a character from my story Paddle, and in Life as Fiction, 10/2/09 I posted an excerpt from that story. As I frequently do, I ran the story by an editor who wanted a “hook,” a reason to care about this young girl and how life would hone her over time. I’ve added a prologue to give you a little back story. My hope is that it will make you want to turn the page, begin the next chapter.
“Leastwise you’ll be cooler down there,” seven year old Paddle whispered to her Aunt Seraphine as the grave diggers slowly lowered the polished oak casket. The smell of musty earth, like a basket of mushrooms, wafted up from the dark hole.
With her knuckle Paddle wiped at a trickle of sweat mixed with a tear or two as it slid down her cheek. She looked at the handful of mourners, gathered around the small family plot, wilting in the Louisiana mugginess along with the flowers placed at the head of the grave. Preacher Marcus, Doc Lester, Ginny and Benji Hawk, Deputy Sheriff Higgins, and four old women from Aunt Seraphine’s quilting group sang the last refrain of “Amazing Grace.”
Paddle knew about planting people. It started when she was just a little kid, four years old, when her momma and daddy got killed by a logging truck run amok. Then Grandma, who’d taken her in, died of the bad lungs. Aunt Seraphine had moved in to take care of Paddle and Grandpa until he shot himself out in the timber while hunting rabbits. Paddle never could wrap her thoughts around that one.
Three days ago, she went into the kitchen for a glass of water and Aunt Seraphine was crumpled on the floor looking sort of gray. Heart just gave out, Doc Lester had said.
“It’s all right; I’m a big girl now. I can take care of myself,” she’d said to Doc, who had pulled her into a big old bear hug then driven her over to Ginny Hawk’s just down the bayou.
“’Course I’ll take her in,” Ginny said, her voice all gruffed up with love and sadness. “She’ll be the big sister Benji’s never gonna get any other way.” And that had been it; she was officially part of the Hawk family.
“Benji, don’t you touch those cupcakes in the display case; I mean it,” Ginny admonished Paddle’s five year old new brother a week later. “Paddle, grab that coffee pot over there and fill up Deputy Sheriff Higgins’ cup, will you?” She shooed Daemon the cat out of the puddle of sunlight where he’d curled up right in the middle of the Blue Hawk Diner.
It was good to feel useful and earn her keep. Paddle got all saucer-eyed when Sheriff Higgins left her a quarter and said she’d make a right fine waitress.
Ginny spread her arms wide to take in the whole café and said in a voice that made the Deputy Sheriff chuckle, “Some day all this will be hers.
“Benji, stop spinning on that stool; it’s going to make you hurl,” Ginny shouted back over her shoulder. She laid out some paper and crayons at one of the booths and settled him there. “Thanks, Mike,” she called to Mr. McPhenson who’d left a handful of bills next to the cash register for his Southern Comfort Breakfast Special.
* * *
This is how life went, year after year; daily chats with the locals, catching up on the latest gossip, a few foreign visitors from out of state with their funny accents who used words like quaint and delightful. On the first of every month, Ginny would sit down with Paddle and make up a “special” and show her how to price it out so they wouldn’t lose their shirts on it.
Calendar pages kept turning and a decade passed. To Paddle, it looked like this was the life she was destined to live. It wasn’t a bad life working at the diner after school, but when those foreigners talked of places like the Rocky Mountains with their deep canyons, or the lake in Utah that was so salty you couldn’t sink, or even the gold coast of California that sat right there on the Pacific ocean, the travel bug bit at her like a swarm of mosquitoes. “Might as well put that dream to rest,” Paddle would tell herself as she moved from booth to booth refilling the salt and pepper shakers.
Then Lucas arrived.