Monday, November 23, 2009

Shitty First Draft

      The red house next to the open field, that was ours. My dad built it. Got the land for a song’s what he says, what with the way it snugs up against Interstate 90, who would want it otherwise? And that was way back in the late 60’s before the Reagan years and inflation and heaving property values. It was a good house, solid—a ranch with three bedrooms upstairs, a finished basement and another room down below for the boys. I haven’t lived there in nearly 30 years but sometimes when I fall asleep I still walk the hallways, still tip myself over with spinning on the oriental rug.

     The empty field next door was never mowed when I was a kid. The gully ran off between it and the interstate until it came to our property line, then the water sort of slunk off down the sewer tunnels so we could have a nice yard with no pit. If you followed the gully through the field you’d find the creek bed (pronounced “crik”, if you’re wondering) and some warn-down paths stretching out below the interstate bridge.

     I was 7 when we moved out of that house, when the divorce was finalized, when all but my sister and I had left home. The three of us, Mom, Sis and I, moved to the other side of the bridge. There is something telling in that, but I can’t figure out what it is just yet.

     That place just under the bridge was one of those places kids hung out when there was nothing better to do, a place to catch crayfish with ice cream buckets, to toss rocks, call names and spray paint. It was a place for secrets.

     “I heard if you hit someone with a rock in just the right place you can kill ‘em,” Laura said.

     “Duh,” the rest of us clucked. As if stoning were ever a new thing.

     “No, I mean, my sister told me. If you get hit right here,” she tapped at her temple, “you can get killed.”

     It seemed improbable that a tap with a pebble on the side of your head could knock you out much less kill you. It was nothing like a stab to the heart or bullet wound. It would be like skipping stones. Innocent. Yet it gave us a sense of power.


  1. Hi, this piece is compelling, i found a sense of menace in there, as if something terrible was about to happen just round the corner, so i kept skipping ahead, y'know, like i do sometimes when i'm reading rankin's rebus, but then i would go back and slow down and enjoy the imagery of a ranch beside the highway and have a laugh too! Waiting for the next instalment!

  2. Thank you, Jedda. I keep thinking about this and how it reminds me of a kind of girl's Stand by Me. I like the feel of tension. Considering working with it in a fiction piece.

  3. Thanks for your comments on "She Writes" about my blog...I appreciate it. Yes, this is what I was looking for! Our blog even look similar....and my father built our houses too, in fact my last post mentions it. Thanks for this....I remember hearing the same thing, that if you get hit in the temple, just so, you'll die. I actually think I read it in Pinnochio! Anyway, I'm following you...are you following me? SInce we're similar, maybe we should exchange links.

  4. Cathy,

    I am so glad you stopped by. Did you send out an email about the memoir blogs a while back? I meant to get back to you on it, but think I deleted it when I was trying to clear out my inbox a little.

    I'm going to add you to my blog roll, give you a follow and hook up with you on She Writes. :)

  5. I was sad this ended. I loved "snug" off the interstate. And that this was BEfore the divorce. So evocative. Also, the oriental rug was a surprise. I was thinking simple farm house. Things were more complicated than that. I hope you keep going with this.

  6. Thank you, Charlotte. I really enjoyed the freedom of this piece. It is really interesting to me to hear what readers pick up, (the thought of a farm house)and what needs to be clarified. Writing is one big adventure. The following post What to do? explains how confused I am by this project. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  7. Over on Lisa Romeo Writes, (my all-time favorite blog for writers), she is offering to email a new writing prompt every day in January. I got my first one today and have been wondering what to do with it. Your post helped me decided to create a new blog (probably private for now), where I just write Shitty First Drafts every day based on writing prompts. Thanks (to you and Anne LaMott).

    Susan @ 2KoP

  8. P.S. I'm adding Penny Jar to my blog roll.

  9. I love that idea!!! I want to do it too. Ack, I need more time. I hope you do feel like sharing it a little, I would love to see what you come up with. I will add you to my blog roll as well.