Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday Excerpt...and an Apology...

Friday night, instead of free-writing, I went to the Skyview Drive-In to see Wall-E and Get Smart. Wall-E was definitely the better of the two, but Get Smart did have its moments. I liked a lot of the nods to the original series but, let's face it, Steve Carell, as hilarious as he can be, is no Don Adams. But back to the matter at hand, that being the blog.

The air conditioning unit outside our house sits on a concrete slab on the side of a hill, and to our dismay we discovered last week that with all the recent rain, the concrete slab has started pitching down the hill a bit. And, of course, the rotting crumbling railroad tie retaining wall wasn't going to hold. So, we had a grandiose plan for the backyard, part of it being an overhaul of this section of the yard. I thought a quick fix was in order, but then I realized that, what the hell, why not go for it and do what we want? Well, Kathy had already come to this decision because she's much more quick-witted and right about these things. So we dropped a bunch of money on retaining wall blocks, tools, rocks, etc., everything we need to build not one but two retaining walls in our back yard, to kind of step it down on that side and level out the area where the a/c unit sits. So, for the past two evenings, we've been working on tilling, digging, moving, sweating, and singing chain-gang songs. And so far, the wall is...not even remotely looking like a wall. In fact, at this point, if we get a torrential downpour (the likes of which we have in fact seen many of since March), our a/c unit will probably end up in our neighbor's yard. But we've got clear skies until Thursday-ish, so tomorrow we will work fervently to at least get enough of a wall to actually have it retain something. This also explains why I didn't free write Saturday or Sunday. That, and the suggestions were, um...well, a murder was too general, and the other suggestion was too You Don't Mess With the Zohan. But I did like the idea of making the president go away...

Right, well, there's a lot going on that I would love to talk about, but most of it has little to do with the world of writing. So, forget it, I'll get to the excerpt.

This comes from a writing exercise I did this past semester. We were supposed to write for twenty minutes about an object that held a special meaning for us. And after we were done doing that, it was all out of our system so we could write a few pages about it with some distance, as if we didn't know all of that significance.

I chose a snare drum head from the days of The Hitchhikers. And what you're getting is part of the second half of the exercise, the distanced bit.


from a writing exercise, March 2008

When I arrived, Alan greeted me at the door solemnly and showed me in. I was surrounded by Rob’s family, not a familiar face in the crowd beyond Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, Alan, and Rob’s older sister Maggie, who had flown in from Boston where she was at grad school. The food all tasted the same to me, the meatballs sharing a texture with the crackers and cheese. Alan pulled me aside after an hour’s worth of nervous eating and took me up to Rob’s room. He told me to take anything, any one thing, to remember Rob by. I didn’t have the heart or desire to tell him that I already had Rob’s copy of his favorite book, One Hundred Years of Solitude and a hefty portion of his CD collection, but I wasn’t about to turn Alan down. I looked around the room and saw what for me had been an enigma for some time, but that I had never taken the time to ask Rob about. It was a circular object, about fourteen inches in diameter, made of flimsy plastic and coated with something white and scratchy. It was ringed with a metal hoop that gave it its firm shape, and it had been drawn on with markers over and over, so that barely any of it was legible as I stood in the middle of the room gazing at it. I asked Alan if he knew what it was. He said it was the head of a snare drum.

I took it home with me, saying goodbye to Alan and his parents, seeking out Maggie and giving her the hug I had wanted to give her since I was in fifth grade and I thought she was so pretty. I sat in my room on my bed with the drum head in my lap and stared at it. Up close, the drawings and writings were little more legible, as they had been drawn and drawn over it seemed countless times. I didn’t recognize any of the handwriting as Rob’s, and the drawings were altogether too straight-edged to be his. I looked at my wall, saw the poster Rob had drawn for a party we had thrown and compared the drawings. There was no similarity at all; Rob’s drawings were all lazy and relaxed, the angles coming together in acute and obtuse meetings. But the drawings on the drum head were sharp, right-angled. The lines were straight, but his tended to curve slightly inward as he drew. None of the lines were smeared on the drum head, either, but Rob’s lines were almost always smeared from his left hand moving the marker or pen across the medium. I examined the drum head closer, trying to pick out phrases or meanings from the drawings.

There was a tractor drawn on the bottom, smoke creeping from its exhaust pipe, forming the words “The Farm Team.” Next to that, somebody had copied pi out to twenty digits, but many of the later numbers were obscured by a hasty scrawling of “I Like Beth.” Somebody had at one time crossed out the word “Beth” and written above it “Skittles” but the line and the replacement word had been drawn with something less permanent than the original message. I couldn’t think of a single Beth that I knew aside from a distant cousin in Texas. Somebody else had drawn what looked like three Easter Island statues on the left side, under which the initials “B.S.H.” were set out in strong block letters. In the center, a five point star had been drawn and it seemed to provide a barrier against the rest of the marker; within the star, the head was mostly white, with a few dark spots as if something had struck it, and it occurred to me that this is probably where whoever had used the drum head had beat it with his or her sticks. I continued looking around it to see if there was anything else I could read. The same hand that had proclaimed affection for Beth also had written “Do or Do Not, There Is No Try” next to the stone heads, and then the quadratic formula followed in another hand.


There you have it!

"Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer - and if so, why?" -Bennett Cerf


mGk said...

I haven't even seen that Zohan thing. And my idea even got a second. (Thank you Becca) Beggers can't be choosers Buddy. I am your big sister and I said write, so write damn it. Or are you going to go see another "movie".

Molly said...

Remind us of the info you want for free write Fridays... is it Character Name, age, gender, situation? Or... what?