Today I found what I think might be my second attempt at writing a novel. The first is lost, but I wrote and illustrated it in first grade, and it was about a brownie (the fairy kind, not the chocolate kind, although I may have conflated the two: the protagonist had a suspiciously dessert-like shape).
What might be my second attempt is in a journal I found today when I was cleaning out my closet. I have an old rattan suitcase which houses all my old journals, and this was in it:
Yep. corduroy and flowers, acquired in 1981, when I was nine. The very first thing written in it is a poem that my sister Christy copied onto the first page (How do you like to go up in the air, up in the air so blue?). Then Dad added a poem, as did my best friend Evelyn Bailey, and Mrs. Ross (oh, how I loved my pretty teacher Mrs. Ross). Mom wrote, "Happiness was born a twin" (Byron, "All who joy would win must share it").
Then I wrote a poem about drought which I won't share here. You're welcome.
THEN: My novel.
PARALIZED [sic]: 3 Mile Marathon
There is an acknowledgment page and a table of contents. And then the story starts!
"Hurry up, we'll be late!" Sarah called to Tony. Tony was a well built young man who helped Sarah run.
Note how I'm already a sucker for the leading man in a romance novel?
Sarah ran for half-an-hour every day so she could be in the 3 mile marathon in one month. It would be what she had been going for since she was 7. She was 14 now.
WTF? I was writing about running? A freaking marathon? I was the most unathletic kid in my school, no lie. However, if one is going to write about running and knows nothing about it, I suppose three miles sounds like a good long way to go. Then I had to go and run a real marathon when I grew up.
Back to our story. They get to the beach. Tony is her timer. Heh. She has a timing-boy.
She jogged in place for 20 minutes and THEN she did 20 push-ups and only THEN could she start jogging down the beach.
The emphasis is all nine-year-old mine. And I love my method of working my character out. Running in place for twenty minutes on the beach? I'm dying here.
But moving on. Sarah runs. I think I imagined some Chariots of Fire action here. But when she goes home, she finds a note that her mother is in the hospital. She calls Tony (natch) and meets him there.
"Hello. What room is Laurie Redenbaum in?" Sarah asked.
"Little girl, I would tell you, but your mother -- I think that's who she is -- is not fit to be seen right now," said a nurse.
"Well then could you tell me what kind of accident she's been in?"
"Yes. She walked out in front of a car and was hit."
"Well, was she hurt?" Sarah demanded.
Dude! You're at the hospital! Your mom walked in front of a car! She's hurt!
"Yes. She has a fractured skull, a broken leg, and a broken arm."
"How much will it cost to get her back to normal?"
That's Sarah's first thought? Poor worried little thing.
"With all the expenses, I'd say about $20,000."
Where did I get that? I have no idea.
"Oh, no! The only place I can think of that gives that kind of money would be the marathon! Hmmm. The marathon...."
Yeah. Because mini-marathons give out forty grand (she is stoked about that, because if she wins the race, she'll have twenty grand left over). Again, whiskey tango foxtrot?
And then the accident happened. I know, another one? Chapter Four is titled, surprisingly, The Accident.
Sarah was riding her bike with Tony when a car going very fast came around the corner. It didn't look alarming but then they saw that the driver was unconscience [sic]! It was coming straight at Sarah. Tony yelled at her but she just sat there on her bike, staring at the oncoming car. Right when the car was about to hit her, she jumped, but it was too late.
OKAY, HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, PAL. YOU'RE FREAKING ME OUT. Insert what my thirty-six-year-old self wrote YESTERDAY:
From behind her, a car approached, its motor revving. Lucy was in the bike lane already, but she moved in closer to the curb. Stupid tourist going too fast.
She looked over her shoulder. The car was too close. Way too close. Jerking the bicycle to the right, Lucy rode off the asphalt.
But the car kept coming, turning to follow her, its tires spitting dirt. With a shout, Lucy hurled herself off the bicycle. She landed hard in the sand of a low dune. She watched in horror as the vehicle smashed her bike, running over it without pausing, then kept going. Part of a handlebar dangled from the rear bumper of the car as it caroomed away.
So at age nine, I wrote about girls throwing themselves off bikes out of the paths of moving vehicles, and twenty-seven years later I ain't got nothing better than that?
I mock myself, but the find was rather delightful, I have to admit. Tragically, as soon as the doctor pronounces her paralyzed, the book ends with a ripped out page. What on earth was on that page? Why did I rip it out? Why didn't I finish it? I had goal, motivation, conflict. I was good to GO. (Also, maybe if I knew the ending, I could plagiarize myself some more.)
And another nice thing found in this journal is the page titled LOVE. Apparently, at age nine, I loved: Dad, Mom, Christy, Beth, Reading, Knitting, Romeo (my rat), Darby (our horse), Piano and Clarinet.
That's a nice LOVE page.
But the best part is the page titled HATE is blank.
Yep. But oh, god. Please don't ever make me read again through the journals kept during my teens and early twenties. I was a mess, yo. All jangled angst and bargain basement worn-out self-confidence. Looking back, I don't feel it was that bad. But my journals beg to differ. I hope it's just that I only really journal when I'm working shit out, because otherwise, I really was a mess back then.
Which makes the chair I'm sitting in right now a really lovely place to be.