Saturday, April 09, 2005

At the Edge, a look at raw story process

I have a friend who is an excellent poet. When she was first learning the craft, she used to collect the drafts other poets discarded to study their process. And I noticed that whenever a writer comes to town, people always ask, how do you write? Perhaps they think if they emulate the writing style, they will also be great. I am not great. But I want to offer this story, embedded in the original journal, as an example of "process," of craft in motion. This is the real thing, lifted right out of my journal. I hope you enjoy it--if so--please leave a comment for me. Mary

Friday, April 8, 2005, 3:58 PM
I am sitting in the sun outside my house about to leave to run errands. I am very sad because I wrote a long complex story earlier today, and it is LOST. It wasn't finished, but I knew where I was going with it. It was full of careful thought, detail and nuance and I really liked it. I know I can never recover it and I feel discouraged about trying. I will probably RE-write it if I have time, but when will I have time? I did most of the work during my earlier walk. I had to take two walks because I missed one yesterday.
I am also sad because I have just discovered the dove nest in the front of the house in the juniper tree has also collapsed (but of course everything I wrote earlier about the collapse of the bedroom nest is also lost), and that nest was in use even longer. This spring, I mean. They were in it early, while there was still lots of snow. Somehow, I link the loss of my story with the loss of eggs and maybe babies. In two nests.
Two homes lost, two sets of children--dove children. There's a story there, too.
I look around on the ground under the nest be see no obvious smashed eggs or dead babies. No sign of the missing nest, either. Then I walk around behind the house and stare up at the precarious nest with two eggs hanging on the sloping rim. No parents have been there for a while.
More of my daffodils have opened and there is quite a splash of bright yellow in the yard.
Before I leave, I open the hood and check the brake fluid. It is full. I worry about blasting a hole in the rusty lines when I have to stop suddenly because someone is careless and pulls out in front of me.
I heard on NPR in an interview with a woman writer--I think it was Elizabeth Berg--that writing is hard work, but the research for it can be delicious. I want that life. But I am stuck in this limbo.
I like the idea of sitting and writing in a cafe; I enjoy that. But better yet to sit and write outside. Especially on a day like this.
4:40 PM There is a giant traffic mess out there. I'm supposed to walk twice because I did not walk yesterday. But where? Where can I go in the wretched traffic? And with so much else to do?
Brendyl. That's her name. I bought a book of Baby names. It was only $3.95. I needed it; I was getting in a Darcy rut.
I park in the Aldi parking lot, thinking I might walk out through the fields behind. Not a good place to try to retrieve my lost story, as it will take more attention than walking on roads or trails but the time is short and the traffic heavy.
I peek in Aldi to see what it is. It looks like a grocery store of some mind. Then I head out. The first things I hear are peepers. Earlier today, I heard my first peepers in the swamps at 3R. And wood frogs. I was thrilled. Such a din.
* * * *
I stop at Wegman's on my way to visit my mother at the nursing home. I want to buy her a little treat. I like to bring her a little something when I visit, because she lives now so much in the moment.
I am disappointed to see a crowd gathered around the Menu table. The chef is there, demonstrating one of the meals from the new Menu and handing out samples. Some yuppie ham schnitzel concoction made with pork, not too spicy. I don't push up for a sample because I have only a little window of time to visit my Mom before I have to be at the lawyer's office. I’ve been asking Blake for a divorce for 20 years and have gotten nowhere. This will be the day I finally set the wheels in motion.
I can't see Mom afterwards so I really to hurry. I push along the perimeter of the crowd and between stacks of crates displaying some of the ingredients for the ham schnitzel. On impulse, I toss a container of the ham and pork patties into my basket, and then all the other ingredient. It's a warmish early spring day, but if I wrap my car blanket around them, they should keep okay.
I tear off one of the recipes printed on bright goldenrod paper and cram it down between the ingredients. I hope I like Ham Schnitzel.
It's hot in here. I strip off my new grey North Face jacket and my grey textured American Eagle sweater that Blake gave me 20 years ago, on my birthday, right before he left me for Catlyn. I toss them in the basket. The sweater just surfaced this morning when I was tossing out some of Blake's old chamois shirts that were still hanging in the back of the closet. They wouldn't fit either of us, we've both gained weight. I turn away and someone takes my cart. It's a young woman, maybe twenty-two or three, with a child about five. "Brendyl," she shouts, as the child pockets a handful of grapes. She releases her hold on my cart to run over and snatch up the girl.
Assuming she had grabbed my cart by accident, thinking it was hers; I push it about three steps toward the candy aisle. The woman dashes back, grabs it, and screams at me, "Don't take my cart."
I stare at her, look into the cart. It's my sweater my coat, my schnitzel ingredients. I am not the one who's confused.
She yanks the cart. Hard. Meanwhile, Brendyl, in her arms, leans over and drops her doll, a Barbie-like doll, and a whole pile of doll clothes into the cart.
The woman pulls the cart. "Let go of my cart," she hisses.
I yank hard and scream, "Help, Police, help!" No one looks or comes. My voice is strangled. I try again. "Help, police, help. Someone please help." It's a little louder, but not very. No one appears to notice.
I give a sudden hard yank and the cart comes free from the woman's hand. I run through the crowd to the service desk. As I run, I pick the doll and doll clothes out of the cart. There are so many, scattered around the cart. I try to hand them to the young man behind the counter. He signals me to a different counter, comes down. I lay the dolls and the pile of clothes on the counter. Fish around for the few remaining ones. It occurs to me that I should have just taken my coat and sweater and let her have the cart.
"This woman . . ." I start to say.
"She stole my cart," the other woman says," running up.
"No," I say, "She stole mine."
"That's a lie!" the other woman shouts.
Now the crowd of people around the menu table is turning to look at us.
"If I stole your cart, why would I be turning in these things?" I ask, trying to stay calm. I can feel my ire rising. I pick up the doll and the doll clothes and try to hand them to Brendyl. The girl reaches for them but the woman slaps my hand and the doll and clothes fall to the floor.
She grabs me by the arm and slaps me on the cheek, hard. My teeth rattle. I put my hand to my face and stare at her, astonished.
A man in a dark blue uniform grabs the woman. She struggles, sets down the child. Lashes out at the guard. He pins her arms to her side and looks at me. "I can have her arrested. Do you want to press charges?"
"No, I just want to leave. Is it okay if I go?” I grab my coat and sweater, leave the ingredients for the ham schnitzel in the cart and walk out of the store.
I sit in my car and stare out the window, tears streaming down my face. I wipe them off, hoping no one will notice. I can't even remember what I needed to do, just that it was somehow important.
Oh yeah. My mother, the lawyer.
I drive over to Green Thumb. I decide I'll bring her a plant instead of candy. I get distracted looking at the plants. So many to choose from. I pick two that I can't decide between and take them up to the counter.
Someone grabs my arm. It's the woman with Brendyl. The one who hit me.
"Listen," says, "I'm sorry. Thanks for not pressing charges."
I say nothing, stare at her unbelieving, tears coming again to my eyes. This time tears of relief and something else. I think she's struggling, that this is hard for her. I try to smile. It feels artificial, more like a grimace.
"I flipped out, I lost it, I don't know what happened, I'm sorry." She looks disheveled and teary.
"It's Ok," I say, which isn't entirely true. Perhaps it could be made OK.
* * * *
I am right about this not being a good place to walk and write (so I keep stopping) (stopping writing or stopping walking), which is not what I need to do to try to reclaim the story. I am leaving out details and nuances and whole sections of stuff. I'm trying to catch at least the gist of it. I can't believe I lost the whole thing.
Leeks are up in the woods about 5-6 inches and opening their leaves.
I need to pee, but I don't want to pee in the woods again today. Too hard to be clean afterwards.
* * * * *
As I stare at the woman who is still holding my arm, Brendyl clutched in her other arm, I see an image and remember an incident that happened 21 years ago.
It's Thanksgiving. The girls are about Brendyl's age. Blake is in a rage about something, I can't remember what. We have a lot of company coming and I'm in the middle of cooking a huge meal. At a crucial point, with the girls whining and hanging on me and the guests due to arrive any moment. Manny wants something in the other room, and when I don't come in fast enough because my head's in the oven and I have the covering half off the turkey, he comes in, yanks me back from the oven and smacks me across the mouth with the back of his hand.
"Come when I call you, bitch," he says. Blood spurts out of my lip and into the mashed potatoes, staining them red.
"Now see what you did!" he screams, hitting me again, even harder.
Manny, the Border collie, is whining to go out. He's been whining a while and everyone's been ignoring him. He crouches to pee on the floor and I know that will set Blake off, so I grab the leash, rush over and open the door.
* * * *
I try to save the story so far, but the batteries are too low. I carry batteries in my Stratus, but there are none in Mom's car. No sunglasses. No pencil. No phone recharger. So I can't save this. After losing the other one, I'm nervous now. I suppose with 15minutes left to walk and 15minutes I could have been writing, I'd better turn it off. Dang it anyway!
6:33 When I get back to the car, I go into Aldi's looking for batteries. That place stinks. I can't find any. Can't find any salespeople or cashiers to ask. I find AAAs but no double As. I am worried that I don't have time now to go home and eat or go see Mom.
I drive downtown, park on Salina. CVS is closed. I go in a smoke shop and buy 4 batteries for $3. A lot of thugs are hanging around pounding on each other. One guy tells the smoke shop owner to call the cops because another guy attacked him. I leave.
It's 6:37. The reading starts at 7. I sit on the steps of an old church. I'm hungry and annoyed that I can't do a better job orchestrating my days.
* * * * *
I hook the leash on Manny's collar and he drags me down the steps. He around the edge of the house, he sees a dog coming, a dog on a leash attached to a man's wrist. The man is walking with a woman.
Manny does a wriggling little dance of eagerness, slips back on pulls his head out of the collar. He's off, attacking the other dog. I scream at him, uselessly, run over dragging the leash and collar, grab at him and somehow get bitten. I'm not even sure which dog did it. I get Manny by the scruff of the neck and drag him back.
"Thanks a lot!" I scream at the people. "And happy Thanksgiving." What I am thinking, if I am thinking anything at all, is that if they hadn't come along just then, my dog wouldn’t have embarrassed me.
"It wasn't our dog who attacked yours," the man says, quietly reasonable. At that point, I am thinking if I had a machine gun I would mow down all three of them. This, I think later, is a good reason for gun control. The dinner is burning, and I have to go back in the house with Blake.
I don't think all this. I don't need to. The image of the reasonable man on the street and the memory of my unreasoning rage is enough. “The mile in my shoes” that proceeded it. The way the man had no way of knowing. Or maybe he did. All this in a few seconds. A tiny fraction of what it takes to tell it. A capsule of memory exploding.
There is a display of lollipops on the counter when I set my plants down. I pick one up and ask the woman if Brendyl would like one.
"Would you like a lollipop, honey?"
Brendyl nods shyly and reaches out. I hand it to her.
"Would you like to have lunch?" I hear myself asking, "my treat."
"I should pay for it. Really, I should."
"No, I want to. Let me." I pay for the plants and the lollipop. We sit at the outdoor cafe.
* * * * *
7:07 PM I am at the poetry reading now and have been talking to Jennifer McPherson who tells me to look up Terry Blackhawk in Detroit who was written up in People Magazine for her work with poetry in the inner city schools. To tell her I'm a friend of Jenny's.
*(NOTE: Terry Blackhawk in Detroit)(Jennifer McPherson tells me to look her up!)
Charles Martin is reading tonight. He translated Ovid and has a new and selected "Starting from Sleep".
He says he has a fascination for reptiles real and imaginary. He writes rhyming poetry, reads two poems about turtles. People keep coming in late. This room used to be a restaurant, most recently Mr. Albert’s, run by the Greek guy who went back to Greece to marry. Before that, a little diner-like cafe with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Mr. Albert’s was an organic vegetarian restaurant. I ate there fairly often. Not there, here.
The room is full. Every chair is taken. I am not sure all his poems rhyme.
7:30: People are still coming in, odd for a reading that was supposed to start at 7. He is reading from Ovid about Echo and Narcissus, two dysfunctional people in a dysfunctional relationship.
GG Beli Italian poet who wrote 3000 sonnets in dialect in Italy in the voices of Italian peasants and so on.
7:53 PM while he is reading his last poem, there are still people arriving and standing outside the door trying to get in.
The last person in in the middle of the questioning is Scott, who wants to takeout for pizza at Movinos--and boy is it good. Yum. Pizza with black Olive paste instead of cheese.
3:53 PM I am out at Three Rivers for my walk--at Scott's place, but without Scott. There is a dead deer next to the car, half decayed. I've been listening to some writer interviews. Interesting, I hate to turn off the radio and go out.
“Fictional Fun no. 43A”
That what I heard.
It's a perfect spring day and I am sorry I wasn't out working in the yard instead of sorting clothes and cleaning. I stare at the dead deer. It's gross. I'd like the skull, but not in it's current condition. And because it is right by the road, someone else will probably get it. I could drag it off and hide it, but I do not really want to touch it.
It stinks.
I think about Thich Nhat Hahn and his admonition to meditate on your own death when you see a dead animal decaying at the side of the road. I picture myself lying there, my ribs exposed, flies buzzing where my heart once was, bloody holes for my eyes.
I’d sort of like to work on the story I wrote yesterday that I lost. But I not only lost the story, but all the energy behind it.
All the events and details and nuances and thoughtfulness are gone. Only the shadows remain. I almost just want to forget it. And I was so happy with it.
* * * * *
"My name is Draven," the young woman says, extending her hand as we take a seat.
"What kind of name is that?"
"It's Celtic. For Dragon, though that seems more Latin, like Draco. I guess I'm the Dragon Lady. In more ways than one, though I never would have wanted that. Not like that."
"I'm Francesca. Italian. Call me Fran."
"And, as you know, this is Brendyl. My parents are Irish and Scottish and went through a Celtic stage. Me, too."
A man walked by. "Look, Mommy, that man looks like Daddy," Brendyl shouts in a high-pitched voice.
"Shhhh," Draven said. I turned and looked after the man, curious. He was tall and lean with close-cropped sandy hair. He was wearing a pink and blue plaid shirt and khaki pants. When he turned to sit at the window a few tables away, I saw he had a handsome profile. I wondered in what ways he did and did not look like Brendyl's father.
"Jeff could never wear such a gaudy shirt," Draven remarked, quietly, to me. "He'd call that a 'poofter shirt.'"
"A fan of Frank Zappa?" I asked.
"Yeah, and he looks a lot like him, too, except his hair's not so dark."
"That music is not exactly . . . " I paused, trying to think of the right, "ah, respectful. Kind."
"No, and neither is Jeff. I probably shouldn't tell you that, since you're a total stranger. But he's a bit of a jerk. Forgive the language, please--he's kind of an asshole." She speaks quietly, directing her words away from Brendyl.
* * * * *
I don’t know why I feel compelled to take pictures of dead animal--I keep wanting to, but I never want to look at them later.
I heard a discussion today about short stories and novels on NPR. One of the speakers, I forget who, said that the novel can contain knickknack shelves, but there can be no knickknack shelves in the short story. So I immediately want to put knickknack shelves in my short story, I'm so perverse.
* * * * *
The waitress comes with the menus and we select sandwiches and salad. Brendyl wants a PBJ and a glass of milk. Draven runs her fingers through Brendyl's hair and then her own in an obvious attempt to look less disheveled.
* * * * *
4:29 PM I finally break down and take two pictures of the dead deer. I have to move some trash first, and bend over the stinky deer. There is a gooseberry bush and I shred my fingers on it, trying to remove the junk around it.
I'm walking, finally, I decided to try and find myself in the story before I started, or otherwise, I'd never be able to do it while walking. The story, however, ahs taken a bit of a different turn from yesterday's version and since I don't remember the dynamic flow of yesterday's, I go with the new version.
The old version is gone and I can't retrieve it or peek at it for clues.
Meanwhile, I think of an idea for another story. What if Scott and I were courting (we're not, and neither of us want to)(it would be FICTION folks!)? What if we were out on an early date, maybe even the first, and Scott had a severe diabetic reaction, which he has done with me before, while we were out far from help. And the me character would have to do what needed to be done. Get help. And we're in a trailless area in bad weather or something. This has actually happened. Also with me and Dave Listowski out biking in the badlands. (Really just the wild area behind that park—Verona Beach). I'd have to do some research. On Diabetes, I mean. But last night's incident with Scott brought up memories of prior incidents and made me think of this idea, I think it would work.
* * * * *
You can see how I've lost the momentum of the other story, or I wouldn't be going off on these tangents. Yesterday while I was walking, I wrote nearly straight through. Wrote and wrote and wrote. And it's all gone. Gone! L
Peeper galore!
Geese honking. Warm sun. A lovely day. I love being alone out here in the open and sun and the din of peepers. I want to be with Keith, but don't want to give this up.
The din is so loud it is literally hurting my ears. I walk along the shore of a vernal pond and admire their strength of wind and "Lung". (CHIN!) I stop my watch to look at 17 minutes and it zeros out. As usual, I cannot spot a single frog in the deafening din. There are little movements as some of them duck for cover, but until I see the ripples, I can't see the frogs. I have seen them, even photographed them, but it is rare.
I finally do find one, but only by its movement. It is smaller than the last bone of my baby finger and exactly the color of the surrounding mud and dead grass. And in shadow. Hopeless to photograph. Even now that I know where it is, I can't see it when I look back.
Wood frogs, too. Only a few in the masses of peepers.
I hope I don't step on any of them.
I see one in the sun, but it ducks for cover. The another, and it does the same. I see red aquatic spider mites and little water striders. And then a dead frog, covered with algae. I need to do this; I need to be able to do this. Wahn.
I think of another blog: "Constitutional, observations while walking." Would anyone look?
It seems somehow pointless to make bogs if no one looks at them. Fun for me, but is that an appropriate use of time? Does anyone other than me care, and if not, why not just keep it on my desktop? Well, the blogs look nice and certainly it is more fun than watching TV. But I have more important things to do.
Soon, I will have walked out half the time and have to go back. I am looking around, not writing, not working on my story. The momentum is clearly gone.
* * * * *
"How'd you meet Jeff?" I ask.
Draven's eyes light up. Brendyl is trying to get the tightly wrapped cellophane off the lollipop. It looks as if the sandwich will arrive before she succeeds.
"I met him more than once," she says, smiling delightedly. "It was the second meeting that cinched it." The a shadow crosses her face; a small frown plays around the corner of her mouth and eyes.
"Was it bad?" I ask, concerned.
"No, it was wonderful. I'd forgotten how wonderful. I wonder what happened to us."
"No longer wonderful?"
"No, not hardly. But let me tell you how we met. Remet. My friend Becca went art school."
"At SU?"
"Yeah. We were roommates then, had this great apartment on Colvin. Big windows, lots of plants, but anyway, she got a brochure for a summer arts program in Mexico. I was majoring in Psychology, but I was really interested in photography. My father wouldn't let me study it, said there was no future. But here was a chance he couldn't object to. Or so I thought.
"I applied. I had to make a portfolio. Becca help me a little, just with the aesthetics, picking the best shots. Plus she modeled for me. Ironically, I didn't decide to apply until the day before the postmark deadline, because I thought I had no chance, and didn't know how I'd pay for it. I was up all night in the school darkroom. I checked of the box for "needs scholarship" and two weeks later got a fat envelope that said I had not only been accepted but had won a scholarship."
The waitress came with out salads and sandwiches.
"I'm really rattling on here and haven't even gotten to the part about Jeff, sorry."
* * * * *
I am sitting on a berm along the trail. Some geese are upset about my approach. I suppose I'd better go back in case they are nesting
I was going to go a little farther down to the bay. Oh well. I have a lot of other stuff I need to do. What a nice day. I wish I could just sit here and write all day. And still have Keith.
What a life that would be. :-)
* * * * *
"Please," I said, with my mouth full of a turkey cranberry wrap. "Please continue."
"Well, I told my parents and my father forbid me to go. He said Mexico was dangerous for girls. It didn't matter to him that I'd be in this accredited program with other kids my age and Becca would be there, he was adamant." She stops, bites into her green wrap with avocado, tomato and cheese.
"What did you do?" I ask, between bites.
She takes another bite. "Mmmm. I went anyway."
"How, if you didn't have any money."
"I hitchhiked. I put a few clothes and my camera and scholarship letter in my backpack and headed down the highway."
"Weren't you scared? That can be dangerous."
"Yes. I had to jump out of two moving cars because gross disgusting men were trying to molest me. The second time, we were going pretty fast, and I got scraped up pretty bad. I was lying in the ditch bleeding when a car stopped and a guy got out. I was afraid, and grabbed my bag and started trying to crawl away into a culvert.
"'Draven,' he called, "Draven McNally. Is that YOU?" I kept going into the slimy wet hole on my bleeding knees. I didn't answer. I was still shook up from the guy grabbing at me. From leaping out, afraid I might die."
"This is heavy duty stuff you're telling me."
"Yeah, sorry, it gets better."
"That's a relief."
"Anyway he says, 'Draven, it's Jeff Chamberlain, from JD. Mr. Fellows.' He was in my math class. I'd known him for years. But hadn't seen him since I graduated. So to make a long story short, he was driving down to the summer workshop. He was majoring in journalism and there for the photography. The woman we worked with, Julie Schwartz, was world famous. I had no idea, really. Becca had sort of told me, but she’s prone to such enthusiasm I always think she’s exagerating. Jeff was impressed I'd won a scholarship. We had a great time working on assignments together, Petroglyphs and nagual women and children begging. The spare scenery really touched me, and so did Jeff. Ha ha," she added, not smiling, "get it?"
“The good part was all the fun we had together, and how much I learned. The bad part, well, not entirely bad," and she leaned closer to me, "was that I got pregnant. Jeff was pissed. His plans did not include a wife and baby for another 5 or more years. He wanted me to have an abortion. I couldn't do it, and I'm glad in way, I can't imagine Brendyl not having been born.
"My father was pissed, too. He disowned me; can you believe it? Refused to speak to me or help me in anyway. Help us. Jeff has never forgiven me. It's been all downhill since then."
"Did he take any precautions? Did he use a condom?"
"Then why is it your fault? He is equally to blame."
"I had birth control pills. But I get ditzy sometimes, and we out in the boonies. I didn't always have them with me. We camped in caves and up on mountain ledges when we were working on stories. So he says it's my fault."
"Did he remind you?"
"No, he says that was my job."
"He's equally at fault, if having a child is a fault." I say this quietly, studying Brendyl. She is concentrating on her PBJ, peeling off the crusts, sucking out the jelly. If I were a photographer, which I am, but only for fun, I would want to photograph her perfect face. The curls falling damp around her cheeks, the perfect smear of jelly on her chin.
"He's abusive." I say quietly. I know this. I am sure of it.
"Well. Maybe. He yells, and he hits me. And he’s mean and unpredictable. I think he hates me, but when I suggested leaving, my leaving, he said he’d kill me if I did."
"Oh my God," I say. It slips out' I can't help it.
"Yeah, it's sort of scary."
"Sort of? It's terrifying! I've heard those same words. I know how terrifying it is to be stuck in an untenable spot and be afraid to move out of it. Worse than a rock and a hard place." I pause. Take a deep breath. "That's where your rage comes from," I add. Watching her face.
"Yes. Probably. You're probably right."
"You sound unconvinced."
"I never thought of t like that before."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. There's nothing I can do. I'm stuck."
"What about Vera House?"
"He'd find me. He'd come in with a gun and kill me. Maybe everyone else, too."
"Maybe. He might. I wouldn't put it past him."
"I'll take you there now. I'll help you."
"I can't. I'm too scared."
"They can put a restraining order on him."
"What good will that do? Every day in the news you hear of a woman killed by her husband or lover. By her estranged partner. Half of them broke their restraining orders. They'll go to jail for it. But the woman is already dead."
This is true. I hear it myself all the time. "But that's not the only possible outcome. Many women succeed at escaping. I did. And I'm glad. You have no idea how glad I am."
"Yes I do. Believe me, I do."
"Then let me help you. The way I was helped."
"What about Brendyl?"
"There are kids at the shelter. Lots of toys. Counseling. For both of you."
"Well. Maybe."
* * * * *
I pull of some blades of grass and let them drop. I think of the doves, in their last-ditch effort to save the nest, and the nest hanging sideways, the eggs at is brim, and the other dove nest just disappeared. And then I remember yesterday thinking I might begin and end the story with these images. With Fran discovering this the morning she meets Draven. Of the doves being the driving force. Those eggs, teetering at the brim.
* * * * *
"Come over to my house. Do you have time? I want to show you something. I'm not far from here."
I pay the bill and take her to see the dove nests. All three of them. First, I show her the one in the juniper. Window number one. It is shredded. The eggs are smashed on the ground underneath. The half-formed babies lie in their shells in pools of yolk and blood and glop.
Then I show her mama dove, whose husband is gone. She is feeding the tiny babies. She huddles, flies out and in with food, and huddles again. Will she make it? I don't know. Then I show her the nest that is tilting, two eggs gone, two hanging on the brim, the parents coming in and out in their last-ditch effort to mend the nest with puny bits of grass.
"This is you," I say. "Your choices may look grim and terrifying. But from my perspective, this one looks better than those." I pick Brendyl up to see the baby birds in Mamma's nest. Then give her the plush toy bird. She leans on me, stroking it, looking up at Draven, who stares transfixed at the two eggs hanging at the edge of the nest.
* * * * *

OK, so now I know where I'm going with this. It's different than yesterdays story. But I want to start with the birds and end with the birds. And hope that the right choice will come of it.
I think I have accidentally saved in my nervousness, about 5 copies of this.
* * * * *
The day doesn't start well. Even before I open the curtains, I can see Mama Dove 3 and Daddy Dove 3 fluttering around their nest in the south window of my bedroom. The bedroom has three windows. There's a nest in each one. Through the still-closed paisley curtains, I can see the shadow of the nest slumping at a 45-degree angle.
I open the curtains. The doves flinch slightly, and resume their work. They’re used to me, and trying, in a last ditch effort to save their nest. They have tiny blades of grass in their tiny beaks.
Yesterday, there were four eggs. Today, there are two, and they are hanging on the very rim of the nest. No one is sitting on them.
I'd do something, if I knew what to do, but the nest is too high to reach from outside. I know they are doomed. I rush to the other windows. Mama dove 2 is sitting on nest two. Daddy dove has disappeared. To a cat or a hawk or a car. I don’t know. Mama dove will have a hard time getting food and keeping babies warm. But right now they are there.
The news is worse in the north window. The nest is gone. Only a few remaining strand of grass like hair of the departed remain. It was there last might. I sleep poorly, and I didn't here a storm. Something happened, but I don’t know what.
The slumping nest in the south window is probably my fault. Last fall, after the doves left, I tried to reach up and pull out along piece of plastic bag dangling from the nest. Ugly, I thought. Why look at it all winter. I may have loosened something. But then again, I never touched the south nest.
I stand stroking the toy plush bird on my dressed and staring out at the 2eggs, balanced on the edge of the nest, at the parents, flying in and out with their too little too late.
* * * * *
Well, now I am happy. The story isn't done and it isn't recovered, but the shell of it is there, not the old story, but a new one in its place, similar, but also quite different. I walk through a field full of vernal ponds in low light listening to the peepers. The field is land-locked, by which I mean, it has absolutely no road frontage, it's out in the middle of the woods, surrounded by tall white pines. The sun is low and slants through "Scott's sugar maples" and my lengthening shadow staggers out ahead of me.
I feel really GOOD and really bad. I feel good to have written this story--again--and BAD because I'm supposed to be working, not writing and I have so much to do. The idea is to write only when I'm walking but I CHEATED and sat for a while watching the geese and working on the story. Meanwhile mobs of crows are cawing at something--not me, cawing angrily.
I pass through the white pine hedge and in the hedge, which is wider than a normal hedge, maybe 50 feet wide, a large birds flaps away through pines, but I can't see what it is. It is not that, either that the crows are angry at. They don’t even see it.
I've written this as a short story, but I feel in it the possibility for a novel. Who are these people? How are their lives formed and reformed? How do they interact? What happens next? It's more like a first chapter of a novel than a story.
However, I can’t write it now. I wonder if I ever will.
I forgot to mention, for Pam's sake, that there is still snow here. It's warm. Very warm. But there is still a lot of snow in the shady places and the deep ditches.
No one is here but me. No sign of other people. Just the chattering birds, the still angry crows, the sun getting low, all the grey birches shining white, and the clumps of aspen. The geese on the marshes and the bay. It's a long ways from Detroit.
I'm very thirsty, but I think I drank all the water in my water bottle and tossed in the recycling bin. I meant to refill it, but forgot.
What a perfect evening.
I have to say on a night like this, the idea of living in Detroit and having to walk down Moran to Richard and around Kirchivel and back instead of out here with the dead deer and the peepers and the crows and geese does not appeal to me--at all. I can't understand why someone would CHOOSE to live there. Except for a job. Except that I am doing just that. Choosing Keith.
I sometimes compare our romance to Heidi's, but Heidi gets a cool place in the country and I get Detroit. I'd rather be me than Heidi and I'd rather have Keith than Ken, though I love them dearly, so I guess I'd better shut up and put up.
This is what I would do if I were rich-buy a place in the country, a camp or something, to go to on weekends and holidays and soon, to retreat to sometimes when Graham and Keith are otherwise engaged. I would start a new literary magazine and hire Erin to run it, if she wanted to, and maybe hire Mark to be the caretaker at my country home. They'd have a place there too, if they wanted.
And I'd send her to Tuscany. And somehow rescue Sara from that dreadful job.
And then go on to write and help as many other people as I could.
But I'm not rich. And I may be as dead and smelly as that deer there before I am.
7:14 I'm at Staples to pick up that poster, the one with all the hassles. It occurs to me that one of the places I wanted to go is probably closed. Dang, that's what I get for my delays. Erg.
The poster looks pretty good. The woman at the counter is impressed. Yay! It is the Keith-Corning-bubble photo. After I get back to the car with it I remember I had two tasks in there and have to walk back in.
I am looking for a little camera case but don't see what I want.
I remember that in one of the two versions of "On the Rim" or whatever I’m going to call this story, Jeff was in Iraq and due home. Was it this one? Or the other? I think the other. There was all that talk about how she sometimes fantasizes him being killed.
I walked how long? My watch kept zeroing out. 17+ 10 × 2 approximately, not counting stopping to look at frogs or write. 54 minutes of walking.
I carefully study the bill. I decide I was OVERCHARGED (based on the original estimates that woman gave me, buy almost exactly the amount of the coupon--I paid $19.49, with the $10 coupon, and I had calculated very carefully that I should have paid $10 with the coupon, but they charged more than they said they would.
They charged $8 just to open the file and had quoted me $2.49--and I thought THAT was a rip-off.
I have to turn off the Lake Woebegone in order to go into the next store, which I hate to do, but I'll never get done if I sit and listen. Something in the story has already made me cry.
I need to remember to ask Keith if he can tighten the mirror on mom's car--or look myself to see if can.
More of my daffodils have opened. The yard is awash with yellow. Spring has sprung. Let’s end on a cliché, shall we?

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