The novel in progress, Fix Everything, sits at 55,000 words. Another 30,000 words are spread through six other documents as I write, clarify, revisit and revise, fumbling my way through it. I consider the novel with all those pieces about 80% done, knowing what scenes need stretched, with an idea of missing scenes and what I’ll write. It’s not quite on autopilot but it’s a familiar novel. I slip into it quickly and easily when I sit down to write like crazy.
The characters’ development continues intriguing me. I see myself in them but they’re a composite of multiple people. One minor character who played a role through several chapters is a composite of five people – one head and face, one body, and three personalities and mannerisms. Another, a female, acts like a woman I knew. She wasn’t an intimate friend but I saw vulgar saturated furious tirades come from her on three different occasions. She joined with three other people to become this character. But that’s only the foundation. When I actually write in a character’s voice, I learn a great deal more about them, including what they share with others and what they hide from themselves.
JJ was quite surprising in that regard. His complexities mushroomed when I wrote in his voice. I knew he was business oriented, wealthy but hungry for money and power, and politically conservative. Yet I considered him a decent sort. Now I’ve discovered that his decency is a cover for his duplicity. He’s very sneaky, and his wealth and power are fading, crumbling under mistakes that he papered over with lies. Further, his current girlfriend, a model less than half his age, sees completely through him and reveals it, totally shocking him. Because, see, he thought himself so much better than her. He believed he was playing her but she was playing him.
Meanwhile, I’m busy fleshing out another concept. It’s taken over primary focus while I’m walking while writing. It’s like an exercise routine. First I dismiss work and brood over plans and personal life issues, and then I enter the writing mode. I initially think about where I’m at in Fix Everything and what’s to be done, taking memos. I want to continue with JJ and Enid’s stories today. It’s almost time to insert Duncan’s part. Already written, I’d removed it from the novel’s body and structured it in another document while considering the novel’s main structure. It’s firmed and I know where (I think) to begin Duncan’s part. Then Sharona’s part, already written, will be inserted, and I’ll continue with Hywell in the bomb shelter and his reconciliation with Carly. Okay.
That sorted, I turned to the concept in process. I’ve written about eight pieces of snapshots of it (in one document), about five thousand words. Now I’m expanding on those. Yet major questions remain open about the plot and concept. I wrestle with those as I walk, thinking about different novels and short stories that ventured into similar themes as this concept, turning those over, trying to find the right angle. So, oddly, I have a setting and some background established, and the main character exists, but work on the rest remains.
That’s how I write. I sweat everything without sweating it, pausing, reflecting, thinking and writing, then editing, revising, and re-thinking. So it goes on the writing train.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
Of all the days, of all the times….
Enid remembered everything but she didn’t know what had happened. She knew events. She didn’t know results. She only knew something of her results, that she was bandaged and in mild pain and her thoughts were dull and the pain was probably mild because she was drugged. She concluded from sounds and smells and lights she was in a hospital and went back to the scene, back to the flashing red and blue lights illuminating the night, the cold, dark night. She remembered seeing Rick. She’d held him until she’d passed out, calling out for someone to help them, crying as she held him because he looked at the ground but she could tell he didn’t really see it. He had so much blood on him, slick and wet and sticky and cold and warm all together, surrendering his heat to the night as snowflakes swirled around them, which would have been pretty, except for this ugly read. It was way too fucking cold, she thought, crying over Rick, disbelieving what she was thinking and seeing, disbelieving their miserable fucking luck, crying out, “It’s not fair,” until she cried too hard to speak. Then consciousness was no longer her friend until they were moving her into the ambulance’s lit, warm back.
“Where’s Rick?” she asked several times, uncertain which time she spoke until she found a black circle and forced it into focus. The black circle was a chubby black face. He had a thin black mustache and matching black eye brows. “Hello.”
“Hang in there,” he answered.
“Where’s Rick?” she asked.
“Shhh.” He looked away from her face up toward some instruments. “Lie still, just lie still. There’s been an accident. You’ve been hurt.”
She heard sirens and felt movement. “I know. Where’s Rick?” Enid knew Rick was dead but she didn’t want them to leave him behind, not out there in the cold. He’d always been looking for places to stay where he was warm, dry and safe. He wouldn’t want to just lie down in a field like that.
It was funny. Before, she could kind of see the ambulance rushing along the road, passing cars pulling to one side. She saw the road and the traffic lights and signs, and then she could see all the places they were passing, grocery and drug stores, restaurants, car dealerships and furniture stores. She knew exactly where they were. If she went higher, she could see more, she realized. Maybe she could even find Rick.
“No, no, no,” the black man said. She knew his name was Walter, knowing this from his uniform and these like radio waves coming from him. At least that’s what they seemed like to her.
“Stay with me, Enid,” Walter said. “Stay with me, baby. Just hang on longer, it’ll be all right.”
No, it would not be all right. First, Walter was calling her by the wrong name. Didn’t they know she was changing her name to Erin? Rick called her that once by accident and she’d liked it. She didn’t know what an Enid was supposed to be like but nothing about the name resounded with her. Enid was wrong for her. Rick once said Erin accidently and when she remembered it, she liked it, telling him to always call her that. “I will, Erin,” he said so tenderly that a rosy glow warmed her mind and body.
She rose up. Finding the street, she backtracked through the intersections to where cars with lights lit the world and people milled and talked, in person and on radios. Car pieces were spread across the street and parking lots on either side. It had been quite massive, she remembered. They’d been speeding, Terry behind the wheel, beating a traffic light back at the intersection, getting through it just before the yellow light yielded its role to the red light above it, and then that goddamned truck had pulled out. They’d all screamed because they all knew they were going too fucking fast to do anything else. A storm of broken sounds and pains descended on her until there she was, on the ground with Rick, in the falling snow.
Of all the days, of all the times….
He was doing well, so well. She was doing well. He was working after school at Burger King and saving money, still living at home. She was so fucking proud of him, how much harder he’d started trying, in school, at home, everywhere. She was pregnant, and Dad would have a fucking fit, no doubt, but she was happy with Rick’s baby and was going to tell him tonight, this night, of all nights, of all days, of all times, this time, when she wasn’t driving and both of them were completely sober and straight, going out on a double date with Terry and Karla, going out for pizza at Pizza Hut and then on to the movies with friends, like they were some normal fucking people.
The snow thickened, beginning to accumulate. People noticed it and talked about it. She saw Terry’s white, beefy body under a white sheet and knew it was empty and then noted that Karla’s body wasn’t there and figured out it was in another ambulance. Rick’s body was still down there, its own piece off to one side in the quilt of wreckage, covered with a white sheet, but under there, but minus Rick. He wasn’t in that body any longer. She searched the snowy horizons and darkened sky for him, staring into the city’s light pollution for some sign of him. She could see other people as white lights, their radio thoughts streaming out like white streams. Their thoughts and comments reached her as the ambulance screamed along the street toward the hospital. She saw Walter brightest of all beside her body’s graying, dimming presence in the ambulance. His thoughts bolted toward her, “Come on, come on, come on, hurry, so young, such a waste,” a welter of anger, sadness, and frustration. Walter, who she didn’t really know at all, really wanted her to live.
His will startled her as she dropped back toward her body. She didn’t want to go but couldn’t break the white stream that kept her tethered, the white stream that Walter apparently nurtured. They reached the hospital. The ambulance slowed and turned off its sirens. Its lights still blinked as it moved into place. Doctors and nurses and technicians, bright and white as Walter, rushed to her dim form. Her stream pulled her back down. It wasn’t her choice, she found. Rick had gone somewhere else and was freed from his body but she didn’t have that choice and freedom, not this time, not with these people around. As they exercised procedures to save her, she knew her child was dead, which was just as good.
It wouldn’t have been the same without Rick. Nothing would be the same without Rick. He’d saved her from all she was and all she was becoming. Now he was gone.
It just wasn’t fair, on this of all days, of all the times….
- Except from novel in progress, “Fix Everything”. This wasn’t how I envisioned Rick’s death. After I earlier wrote further about Enid and Rick, finishing a chapter where they recklessly drove and smoked grass, laughing through a night but surviving it, I wrote this scene, important for Enid’s development, because she changed so much after she and Rick began dating, and then changed more on this night when Rick died. She was forever different after Rick’s death, unable to fix herself it seemed. She kept trying but nothing ever worked. This was a first draft, though, so it may well yet change.