Friday, March 5, 2010

a feeble attempt

OK, I know I've been an absentee bloglord lately. I actually have been puzzling a story-line over and over in my head. Here's a taste. And if you hate it, and it falls flat, I hope you'll tell me—thus pointing me in the direction of nonfiction forever. Perhaps that's where I belong. I tried writing this in a bit of a countrified dialect, but it just didn't fit. I have no idea if this style succeeds at all or fails miserably. Please, dear reader (all 2 of you), be brutally honest. I need honesty. Honestly.


"Ma, you should write a book. You should write this all down."

My girl tells me this at least once a month. She thinks people would like to read the story of my common little life. I don't know if they would or not. Honestly, I'm not even sure I'd like to read it—and I know and love the protagonist. I do have some stories to tell, I guess. But I'm not convinced of their value; they're not so different from anyone else's stories, really. Maybe she's biased; I am her mother, after all.

But she insists: "People would read it. They'd like you. You'd be the character they could root for." Perhaps that's true. I surely know about being the underdog, and people are suckers for the underdog. They like to root for the loser, and I've worn that hat a time or two.

My name is Delma, but I'm Del to anyone who knows me. I've been married twice, widowed twice, a mother once and a fool many times. But I'm learning. I just happen to be a slow learner.

When I was a girl, my mother called me her wild child and I was so proud to wear that name. I thought a label like that made me cool; I didn't know I'd end up being a mockery of myself before I turned 25. I didn't know I'd be kicked by life until I needed a saint to make me feel alive again. I only knew, back in the day, that I was young, and pretty, and that I could dance. I could walk into a bar and know just which boy there I wanted to kiss that night. And I'd kiss him, too. There were only a few that got away from me before I let them go, and I like to think they regretted it or were already attached to someone special.

Now, of course, none of that matters to me. If I never kiss anybody again, it's all right by me. And I never did care too much for the other, the part that followed the kissing. But I'll save that for another chapter.

So, my girl tells me to write all this down. She is convinced I'll forget, because she forgets things already and, as she so sweetly reminds me, God knows I am older than she is by a few years. I tell her, "Thea, you forget everything because you never knew it in the first place. You have your cell phone and misspelled words in it and email and calculators, and all your technologies have stunted your brain." She never wants to hear that, of course. She thinks she's all that, just like I did when I was her age. I let her go. She'll come to her senses eventually. All those little toys aren't enough in the end; there's no substitute for having a soul and some peace and love to fill it with.

I named her Althea after my husband's grandmother. I never cared for the name, but it was the thing to do, name your child after a grandma, and my own mother bore the name Mildred—and I just couldn't burden a child with a name that has the word dread in it. So Althea it was. Part of the choice was a last effort, too—one final step in my attempt to please her dad and mold him into a decent man. Like I said before, I'm a slow learner. But I never said I was a genius.

Thea's still a young girl, though, in many ways. She moved out and she works full-time; she studied to be a veterinary tech, and now she gives puppies and kittens their shots and helps the vet spay and neuter at the clinics. She's making money and paying her own bills, so she figures she's unofficial MENSA these days. I just let her think it. She's liable to get knocked flat too, someday, if she hasn't been already. She'd never tell me if she had; she's too proud. We love each other but it's not like that, we're not one of those mother/daughter best friends stories. I never had intentions of making my daughter into a best friend. I can make my own friends.

And I don't choose to do that, these days. I was always a loner, first because I had no choice and then because I did. Now I have the Lord in my heart and that's plenty of company for me. Oh, and I have memories of my Willam.

I guess I should start at the beginning, though. Which means starting with the other one, Delbert. Don't ever marry a man who shares your name. It just doesn't bode well for the two of you.

How to explain Delbert? Well, now, he was good-looking and he had nice lips and he kissed just right, not too much pressure but no slobber. Sadly, it became evident immediately after marriage that his kissing was the best thing about him. We made a handsome couple around town, we both knew a lot of people, we both liked to dance and to have fun. He was always pushing me to "take off that damned dress, Delma, my God you are a prudish sorta girl" but I held tight to that dress. It was all I had. I knew Del had been all around town with every other girl who'd grace his arm prettily and let him have his way. But I figured I was the one who'd stick. I wasn't about to play that dress card when I knew it was the only thing that made me special.

My mother tried to help me see the truth. She listed all the girls Delbert had courted and left, and after he'd come calling a few times and she knew he wasn't going anywhere quickly, then she pulled out the really scary, awful story about another young lady who'd left town for exactly 7 months and then come home a strangely empty woman. She even told me who it was: that pale, thin blonde who worked at Murphy's in town, Lita. I said that my Del hadn't had a thing to do with her. I said that was a lie spread by the girls Del didn't care to date.

I found out later that my mother's scary story was all true. That bastard husband of mine had gotten poor Lita pregnant and flatly denied the whole thing; she'd been shipped off to Philadelphia to have the baby at her aunt's house and then was forced to give the little boy up. Lord knows where he is today. She thought of looking for him but was afraid he'd hate her, afraid she'd find out his being adopted had ruined his life. The fear that she'd locate him at last in jail was too much to face. I found all this out because Lita ended up being my best friend. She got me through some tough times, helped me find work, even babysat Thea in a pinch.

Anyway. I married Delbert and my mama cried. The day of the wedding, she stood there and cried. Between that and Del sharing my name, we were pretty much doomed from the start.


So. Do you care at all about Del and Del? Is this a believable voice? Or does it ring untrue? Let me have it. I can take it. Remember, I named this venture "Melmoirs" for a reason: I know that I have plenty of weak spots in my fiction writing.


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Cari Skuse said...

I'd say that it is a good first attempt. Very interesting characters. I'd like to read more! Keep going.

Anonymous said...

I would like to read more. But I have to warn you, I hate reading books where I think how stupid the main character is the whole time. Is Del going to do more stupid things? :) Also I cant tell you how many books i have read where its just the mother and one child...and you know I like reading about lots of children...BUT I do think it sounds good. Keep going!! :)

chris said...

When I first read it, I thought it was a lot of words and hoped the story would move along more quickly. But when I left it for a while and went back, I liked it a lot. I was more patient and paid more attention. I felt like I wanted to turn the page and read what happened next. The voice feels familiar, a la Fannie Flagg, who is a master of this "strong small town/country women" genre and whose books I love. Definitely keep going...but only if YOU want to tell the story regardless of who might want to read it.

chris h. said...

That's me by the way. Hit "return" before entering all my info...

Athelas63 said...

Well, first and foremost, you write to please yourself, just like painting. So, the question is do YOU like Del and Del? If so, then follow them on their adventures. Maybe it might lead somewhere.

I know that my writing partner and I LOVE our characters so much. They are real people to us and we talk about what THEY would do in certain situations. Part of the reason we want published is because we want others to "know" our creations.

So, keep on plugging away and see what happens.

Mel said...

Hey all,
Thanks for your feedback--I do appreciate it. I must be honest, though--I am feeling like I need to stay clear of fiction. I do not feel the desire to keep working on this, at least not now, and I am sad to tell you all that I do not even really care for the characters, let alone love them. I have a hard time feeling anything for fictional characters lately--just can't get past the fact that they're not real. Maybe it's too late for me and fiction; and that's okay. I don't think it was ever a strength. Annoyance at over-discussion of characters was what drove me out of graduate English classes anyway. I'll let this sit and if I feel the love, I'll revisit it. Meantime, I'll stick with what I know and what feels real--because it IS real.