I mentioned in a previous post that last November I planned to take part in NaNoWriMo, and I introduced my main character, Stacie.
Well, then, on October 30, I had this crazy idea about a crazy plot and decided to ditch Stacie, even though I’d been whittling away at her for six months. Thus was born Tara, my newest main character. And a very exciting experience followed: in thirty-two days I moved from the initial germination of an idea to a complete first draft.
I’ve said before that a common objection to NaNo is this one: “You can’t write a novel in thirty days.” And my rebuttal: “What you mean is that you can’t write a good novel in thirty days.” So for over three months now, I have been working this manuscript over. It’s been a joy, seeing it perhaps … becoming good.
A certain exhilaration came over me this morning when I felt the third draft falling neatly into place, and to celebrate that, here is a scene from my third chapter, provided for your pleasure.
… Hopefully. :)
The day [my twin sister] Marissa and I met Nate, we were eleven. We were wandering around our little neighborhood in a Portland suburb with Mom. We lived an hour out of town, in what our friends called the boondocks, meaning two things: one, she and I were each other’s best friend for more practical reasons than our matching DNA, and two, we took every opportunity that we could to get downtown and see our other friends. Today the opportunity had come in the form of grocery shopping and some other miscellaneous errands of our mother’s. Unfortunately none of our friends were available to entertain us (being accustomed to not having us around to entertain), but a change of scenery was always worth the drive.
While Mom weighed tomatoes and flipped through the coupon section of the newspaper, Marissa and I were free to roam the store and find ways to spend our weekly five dollar allowance. Today we were looking at magazines and books. Both of us loved to read, and often we surprised our parents by bringing home books like Oliver Twist and The Giver. Then again, we were also eleven-year-old girls, and such reading material as Vogue and Cosmopolitan had a certain, sometimes taboo, sway over us.
We were crouched down in front of the magazine rack, reading an article together called “Ten Steps to Skin So Soft He’ll Melt,” when a foul odor of alcohol (though of course we didn’t recognize it as such) wafted over. We both registered it at the same time – I distinctly remember the split-second sensation that I was looking in a mirror when we gave each other the same disgusted face.
We looked up at the same moment, too, to see a man shuffling toward us. He was tall and thin and kind of sallow. His hair was graying and close-trimmed but, at the moment, unkempt. He wore slacks and a button-down, but the buttons were done up lopsided.
At first I thought he was shuffling at us to kidnap us, the way he walked with such certainty in our direction, and I startled and stood. Marissa did, too, mostly because I did, I think. It became immediately clear, though, that his determined step was focused not on us, but on the Motor Trend which was in the display rack directly above where our heads had been. Only after he reached the magazine and snatched it to himself – he opened it and greedily buried his face in it – did I see Nate directly behind him, just a few feet from me.
There was nothing unique about Nate, looking back. He was an average gangly pre-teen, although he did have cute, shaggy hair. It was a not-quite-blonde sort of color, but I don’t think I noticed it then. What I noticed then was his eyes. They were brown, which I suppose sounds pretty run-of-the-mill. But they weren’t a normal brown. Maybe they’d be better described as ‘amber.’ They seemed like maybe the colored part was made of liquid.
“Dad,” he said, exasperated. “Are you ready to go?”
“Nah,” Dan answered. “I’m reading.” His words ran together. They were a little hard to understand, like his mouth didn’t work exactly how it should.
“What are you reading?” Nate’s tone suggested that he didn’t believe him. Dan flipped the magazine shut and read the cover article, squinting his eyes.
“Car of the Year or whatever. Hey, Nate, maybe if I get a hot car then I’ll find some hot lady to put in it. That’d show her, huh.”
“Dad!” Nate snatched the magazine from his hand. “There are people here!” He pointed behind Dan, who turned and seemed affronted.
“Girls! Whoa. You’re too young to be listening to men’s talk like this. Go on, now. Git.”
“Excuse me,” I said. My head popped to one side and my eyes tightened. “We were here first, weren’t we?”
“Hey now, Missy –”
“Dad!” Nate said. “We’re leaving.”
“No, sir, we’re not,” Dan said, wiggling his head absurdly back and forth. I held my stare. “These girls need to learn to respect their elders. Now, you listen to me. I have worked my – my whole life. And here you come along, invading space, my personal space, and, and I won’t stand for it!”
He was beginning to look dizzy, now, and Marissa reached her arms out at him, like she’d catch him if he fell. He didn’t fall. Instead, he turned, leaned one hand on the magazine rack, and doubled over. His body convulsed once, the movement starting at the base of his spine, and then he vomited one long solid rope which splattered all over the speckled linoleum. I jumped back, at first thinking he’d get it on me. Nate had rushed forward and grabbed his arm, but not to pull him or scold him – to steady him. After a moment my shock dissipated.
“Tara, go get someone –” Marissa said, stepping toward him. Her voice wasn’t quite panicked, but enough so to put a fire under my feet. I rushed off to find a clerk. There was a red-vested guy a couple of aisles down, restocking macaroni.
“Hey – there’s a guy throwing up on the magazines –” I said, and then realized it was a lie, because he’d thrown up near them but not on them.
“Oh –” he said. He reached above his head, grabbed a tub of cleaning supplies from the top shelf, and rushed off. I followed close behind.
When I got back to the scene, Nate’s dad was sitting on the floor, head in his hands, doing something I never would have expected – crying. Marissa was kneeling next to him and rubbing his back, murmuring comfort. Nate stood a few feet away, watching. The bottom of his face was crumpled up like he wanted to cry, but his eyes were wide and his brow high. He wasn’t watching his dad. He was watching Marissa.