out of the ashes

Monday, October 4, 2010

September Has Slipped Away

Where did it go? So quickly; too quickly
I'm immersed in work, immersed in editing. "Can you read this and offer your opinion, please?"
"Of course, send it over."
I'm a damned good editor! A better set of eyes, perhaps, than a writer. I don't know.
I believe if I just focus and do it, the good stuff will come out. It's the, "Okay, my turn. Put everything else aside, sit down, open the working draft and go. Yes, I know you're not inspired this morning...that isn't what it's all about, though, is it? It never really was. It never will be. It's the ACT of beginning. You begin by typing 'The.' Small beginning no doubt. And then you transport yourself to the scene. Walk in it. Begin to see the flowers and trees and clouds and mountains; the mosquitos, the little movement of something in the brush there beside the trail. You smell the unusual little odors in the air, hear a bird's call nearby. Your hand brushes the spiky leaves of a plant. Get it?"
Yes, I do. It's work, but it's magic.

I'm meeting with some old friends again...good writers...we're tearing into our books, line by line, character by character, word by word. "But I meant to say..."
"Well, you didn't. Consider doing this..."
And so books are created. Good books.
Here's a little from my totally, totally revised third book...a line or three:)

The Lodge—September 30, 2010

The sun is as bright as the insides of a white-hot blast furnace this morning, but it is a frozen brightness. It is my second month here at the lodge. The long eaves of the roof seem to be smoldering as their breathy vapors leave and stream upward, urged off the foot-thick blanket of snow covering the steep roof. Droplets of water escape through the underside; the snow is melting from the inside out. Here in the room the stale, pungent air is radiant-heated by the window glass, but out there on the other side the temperature is barely above the freezing mark.
I am writing. One hundred-sixty pages as of last night at midnight.
The doorway wall no longer suits my creative mood. I require sunlight dancing on my brow, so yesterday I moved the writing desk across the room to the window. Now I can see this wonderland that changes in shadow and texture with the rising and setting of the sun. I can feel it. I set the phone on the floor, strung a power cord that Mr. Davenport was kind enough to give me from the outlet across the room, and placed a pillow from my bed onto the hard chair. I listen to classical music on iTunes, write for twelve, or even fourteen hours, with four ten-minute breaks to run downstairs for more coffee, run back up to pee, make the phone calls necessary to keep the world happy, or at least off my back, eat the food my adopted mother, Mrs. Davenport, delivers, rest and stretch my arms and legs. Discipline is the doorway to success, to completion, to the possibility of a favorable review in the New York Times Book Review next year. I am consumed.
As I sit here in front of the window, yawning, finding words, pecking, my cell phone rings. I meant to switch it to vibrate before I sat down, but I meant to eat, too, and forgot to open the door three hours ago at 7:00 and grab the tray of my standing order of fruit and cereal. Thank you, Mom. I check the number, praying it might be Isabella’s, one of the few I have never seen displayed.
Shit. It’s Allison, who I haven’t spoken to in ten days. I consider not answering it, but I depress the green circle on the keypad instead, and say hello.
“Matt you need to come home right now I’m sick of Maria and her constant cleaning while I’m trying to make my breakfast and I’m tired of her always asking me if I need anything when she knows perfectly well that if I need something I am perfectly capable of getting it myself and if she doesn’t stay out of our room...” she starts.
I think of Michael and how sad it is that he could only ever be her bosom buddy. I’d love for him to steal her away from me. “Slow down, Allie. One thing at a time. Try that again,” I say very nicely.
Allison remains silent for a second, and I know she is wracking her brain. Finally she has it all worked out and starts again. “Matt. Maria is getting on my nerves. I nearly threw her out today and told her not to come back.”
“Because she cleans the kitchen while you’re in there?”
“Yes. For starters.”
“What time would that be?”
“I don’t know,” she says with a great deal of irritation in her voice. “Ten, maybe.”
“Or eleven, maybe?” I ask.
“I don’t really know! Maybe.”
“Why don’t you try getting up at, say, eight?”
“For what ungodly reason? Nobody gets up at eight! Maaatty…it sounds like you’re taking her side over mine!”
She’s right. Maria is the best housekeeper money can buy. “Try eight. That gives you two hours to get out of her way.”
“Oh! You’re impossible! Eight. I’m barely getting to sleep by then.”
I’m betting that’s the truth. Or maybe just getting home.
“What else?”
“You need to come home, Matty.”
“Why? I’ve only been here a couple of months. I’m writing.”
“You need to handle all of this! I can’t.”
“All of what? Just get up earlier, and stay out of the bedroom when Maria is cleaning. What’s so hard about that?”
“She’s a pain…and I’m out of money.” Allison says the last part sheepishly. Now it’s clear.
“What? Your credit card has a ten thousand dollar limit, for Christ sake! How can you be out of money?”
“I just am. Can you just call Visa, then, and tell them to take some money out of your bank account or something. I have to buy clothes and…all that. You want me to look nice don’t you, Matty?”
“No! How did you max out a ten thousand dollar card? What the hell have you been buying? I know you had at least six thousand on it when I left.” This woman doesn’t know the value of six dollars let alone six thousand. Call Visa! She’s insane.
“I hired a caterer, sort of. That was expensive. And like I said, new outfits. They’re not cheap.”
“A caterer for what?”
“A little party. I was lonesome. I wanted to have some friends over; go swimming and have some food and drinks—you know. And my new bikini! It cost over three hundred! Can you believe that, Matt? It’s crazy!”
“You’re crazy, Allie. Quit shopping on Rodeo Drive…and go visit your friends, for crying out loud.” I want to hang up, but I decide to rip her. “How much did the damned party run? What kind of party?”
“It was…I don’t know. A lot, I think. I was just lonely without you. Just some friends. I’m out of money, sweetie. Please put a little money on the card…please! I promise I won’t spend it on anything obscene. I’ll get up at eight, or eight-thirty, and I’ll stay out of Maria’s way, I swear it.”
I’m going to put her in my book. No, no, no. I’m just angry and there’s no reason to ruin a beautiful story with someone as feckless as she is. Sylvia is brilliant compared to Allison.
“Allison. Do you have friends you can stay with?”
“Why? I have a bedroom, and a house, and a pool. I don’t need to go stay with friends, silly. I’m perfectly, perfectly happy right where I am. Perfectly!”
“I want you to be out of my house by the time I get home at the end of the month. And I’m not putting any more money on your card. When you go, leave it.”
“What? But why would you tell me to…oh, silly! You’re just angry. I promise I’ll be better. I mean, I can get by, I suppose, without charging anything. I’m sorry, that was silly of me.” Her voice is kittenish, and I can see her full lips pouting clearly, right through the phone. If I were there she’d have my pants half-off already…and I’d probably already have gone online and paid the entire bill. But I’m here, and I’m thinking of Isabella, who, I’m certain without having to inquire, knows at all times where her credit limit is and budgets the money to keep it in low orbit. Allison has stroked me for the last time.
“No, Allison. Just pack your clothes and your jewelry, and whatever else you have that I’ve paid for, and leave. I don’t want you there when I get home.” That was easy.
Allison says nothing again. I’m sure she’s stumbling with the idea that just maybe she might actually have to leave. That shouldn’t be a great problem, though. She knows at least a dozen horny, wealthy men who’d take her in in a heartbeat. That I’m sure of. Eight of them were probably at her little party. I simply hang up.
I return to my work—writing something beautiful for Isabella. I read, edit, write, read, edit, write more. I’m happy…almost.

(c)Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

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