Friday, March 28, 2014

The Literary Genius

The typewriter beckons me from its banishment in the corner of the coat closet, but I will not be tempted. Its future is to collect dust bunnies, poor thing but I will not be swayed, for I am at last up to date with the modern world and have deemed my new computer a partner in creating a great literary work. Even though I am a newcomer to technology I am confident this machine will help to ensure my success. I have everything at my fingertips, prepared to create a masterpiece.

Fingers poised over the keyboard I am ready to unleash my muse and fill the blank screen with words of genius. The time is now and the conditions are perfect.  I am a genuine writer at last, ready to make my mark in literary history. I envision my picture in the newspaper as an “upcoming new writer”. I see myself at book signings as I tour all over the world.  My name will be listed among famous authors such as John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Pearl S Buck. This creation is going to be the story that launches my career.  There will be no rejection slips. I will be renowned as a great author and after I am interviewed on Oprah agents will beg for my attention.

The words flow quickly and I can hardly type fast enough to keep pace with my mind. My beginning paragraph is awesome as I hook my readers in with the first sentence. My voice is clear and strong yet gently entreating. My point of view is consistent as each mesmerizing sentence builds towards the scintillating climax. I pay no attention to the ringing phone. The knock on the door does not distract me and lunchtime passes unnoticed except for the grumble of my stomach.  This is what writing is all about, complete devotion to one’s talent. The time flies and before I know it all I have left is the final proofread. I follow submission guidelines to a “T”. Every space, every line is precise on the page.  Every word is spelled correctly, every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed.  My sentences are fluid, my choice of words perfect with just the right mix of adjectives and adverbs and I have not allowed disagreeing verbs, dangling participles, naughty gerunds or sloppy slang.  The syntax is perfect.

The final draft is complete.  Perhaps I should do just one last spell-check before printing.  I touch my finger to key, and then…... The screen is blank and the realization hits. I have deleted everything! In the haste of my elation, I pressed the wrong key.  Too late I remember someone telling me that should save my work periodically as I go along.  Hindsight, however clear, does not make this less painful.  My masterpiece is gone, like spilled milk that cannot be put back into the glass. Ah well, such is the life of a writer and I must do what I must do.  I start again. Perhaps I should dust off the typewriter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

work in progress #1


     A chaste first kiss on a fragrant August night and her heart opened up. She felt the goodness in his heart and he became her world. She was a bookworm of a girl, shy and full of daydreams, and the summer she turned 13 she had scarcely begun adolescence. He was a skinny kid with big brown eyes, dark hair, and a bright smile She believed he loved her, at least in the beginning but she knew so little about him; only that he had appeared in her life, moved in right next door. That summer changed her life.

     As suddenly as he had appeared, he and his family moved away without notice during following school year and she didn’t get a chance to say good bye. She was broken hearted, and thought her world had come to an end but life went on. Her family moved into a house closer to town. She now had her own room and attended high school, immersed into the routine of attending classes and doing homework. She had no romantic interests and rarely dated. Taller that most of her classmates she was shy and lacked the self confidence that would have made her feel more accepted among her peers.
     She was thrilled when, months later she got a letter from D, asking her to marry him. He stated that he was coming back to the area and wanted her answer by then. She accepted his proposal but kept it a secret. She was supposed to graduate high school and go to college. Marriage was not at option. After he moved back they spent every spare moment together, this made easier because he had a 1959 maroon Ford which lent them the freedom to be alone. Her parents were not too pleased but they didn’t forbid their relationship, thinking that she would come to her senses but she had fallen under his spell and was determined to go her own way.
     She had been taught to be a good girl, to be abstinent until marriage. Intimacy in a relationship could go so far and no farther. This was the source of frustration for D. He would get angry, and she, not recognizing this as an unhealthy pattern finally gave in and lost her virginity in the back seat of that ’59 Ford. The incident left her confused and disappointed. This was nothing like the romance novels. There were no gentle words to woo her, no nice dinner; only a fumbling, rushed encounter accompanied by threats that he would break up with her if he didn’t get his way. He accused her of not being a virgin which was ridiculous, as he was her first and only boyfriend.
     Once they drove across the border from Eastern Washington to Idaho to elope but she was not old enough for a blood test, so they drove back to face her frantic parents, who had realized by this time how futile it was to keep them apart. She graduated high school in June of 1967 and they got married in September of that same year in the church where she had gone to Sunday school and church her whole childhood. She was 18.
     And so she left the nest, believing she would live happily ever after in the arms of her Prince Charming and in a bright, cheerful world where people took care of each other, the happily ever after story: the house, with the white picket fence, the children, the security, the love, the epitome of the dream of happiness attained. Years later she could not recall her wedding day. There was a blank space in her mind and if it weren’t for the pictures in the photo album at her mother’s, she would wonder if the wedding happened at all because she felt no connection with that young woman in the photograph who stood in the church in her beautiful white dress.

     Meanwhile in the world at large the Beatles sang the debut of “All You Need is Love on Our World, the first international live television broadcast. In 1967 the Summer of Love, the first Human Be In Golden Gate Park in San Francisco occurred. As the decade of the 60’s came to a close, the war in Viet Nam raged while tens of thousands marched in protest in Washington DC and other places across the country. Man walked on the moon. Racial tension is rampant and there are riots in some of the larger cities.

     In 1969 thousands of people gathered in the biggest gathering of all, a three days Woodstock. Perhaps the San Francisco Oracle said it best: "A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.” Vol.1, Issue 5, p.2


     When their son was a toddler they pulled up stakes and moved into an abandoned house outside of a town in Northwest Washington State. The house was in fairly decent shape but it had a ramshackle, forgotten feeling; damp and slightly mysterious like the forest that surrounded it. There was no grass or flowers in the yard, just mud. During the time they lived there, she didn’t remember the sun ever breaking through the clouds.  She referred to this place Slug Hollow because they cohabited with the many slugs that thrive in the damp climate of the Pacific Northwest. There were two or three of these creatures at any given time, making their slow and slimy trails on the floors and walls of the house, especially in the bathroom. 
    The house was heated by a wood stove, and the decor was early 70's disco/hippie, a unique blend of simple country and flashy city; back to the earth combined with black lights and Jim Morrison posters. They decorated the walls with tapestries and posters of various rock stars, taking pride in being a part of the counter culture.  The baby had his own bedroom and she and her husband shared another bedroom. An extra bedroom served as a guest room which was always full, the first attempt at communal living.  Most of people that stayed were musicians or drop outs from high school and college.  Marijuana was a big part of the lifestyle, either the buying or the selling thereof, which centered out of the house.  Groups of people came and went at all hours of the day and night. Along with the herb there were other substances such as LSD, mushrooms, mescaline, and cocaine. There was no one among these diverse characters that drifted in and out of their lives that she could bond with and so she felt adrift.
    The marriage wasn’t thriving, partly because of the prevailing attitude of disrespect towards marriage in general. After all it was love was free, wasn’t it, and not limited to just one person?  Something else was missing and she couldn’t define exactly what it was. Her husband was controlling and possessive. She was completely dependent on him, having no money of her own, no close friends and isolated from her family.  Motherhood was the rock that she clung to.  She took care of their son, cooked meals and tried to keep a reasonably clean house but she still felt adrift and began to search for her spiritual center in earnest. She and been raised to believe in the Bible but at that point it no longer had the answers she was seeking so she read  books like “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass, “The Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda, and books by Alan Watts.
   D disappeared for days at a time, without explanation, leaving her and the baby at home.  Although she wasn’t afraid of being alone she wondered what was going on.  He wouldn't tell her but it wasn't long before she realized he was having affairs.  Miserably jealous she confronted him but he remained unfazed and continued this behavior to the point of bringing home his girlfriends which made her even more unsure of herself.  It never occurred to her to leave him. 
   Then one evening a whole group of people arrived together, a fascinating group that were open and friendly and seemed to get along with each other in a way she hadn’t seen before. The called themselves the Family. This encounter sparked a desire within her to become a part of whatever this was. She knew, somehow, that these people were going to become a big part of her life. They represented change.  This was the beginning of the end of the marriage.
     In this decade of the 70’s the media was full of stories about the Watergate scandal that rocked the nation.  Nixon resigned as President of the United States and the 20th amendment was passed, allowing 18 year olds to vote. College students were killed by the police at Kent State and Mother Theresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


      He grabbed a handful of her hair and slammed her head against the kitchen wall. He slapped her face, hard, and she slid to the floor, coiling into a fetal position to protect the new life inside her. She didn't cry out because she didn't want to wake their two young children who were sleeping upstairs. Her ears buzzed with his voice, “If you EVER leave me, you’ll leave the children. You will NOT take them with you. You’ll LOSE them. REMEMBER that!” She has heard different versions of this threat many times over the past few years from this man who was her first love, her husband who was now a stranger. She waited for him to strike her again but instead he stopped suddenly, tears in his eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I won’t hit you again. I promise.” He knelt beside her to help her stand up. She let him hug her but was repulsed by his touch because years of his abuse have shifted her world. Something in her mind snapped and she can’t take this treatment anymore. Panic set in and she was possessed by the need to run away and could think of nothing else.

     She had little memory of her journey to the peaceful, park- like garden this late April evening , other than a long car ride through the night, and snippets of conversations between the friends she went to for help. Here, at least, she was safe, for now. The fragrant flowers, soft music, and people dressed in flowing robes and long colorful dresses were a sharp contrast to the world that she had escaped. Part of her mind seemed to have vanished and she felt disconnected from everything around her, as if she was watching herself act in a movie that had become her life.  Tears threatened to spill out but she didn't let them escape. She knew that if she gave in to her feelings she would cry forever. These kind and gentle people enfolded her with comfort but there was not one person within the group that had an inkling of the depth of her isolation and her misery. Her only comfort was that she knew she would not be beaten or verbally belittled as she had been in her seven year marriage. The respite she has chosen was a religious commune, (referred to as the Family) one of many such groups that formed during the cultural upheaval of the 60’s and 70’s.  Some called this group a cult and others have said it was not a real family at all.

     It was obvious who was in charge. She watched him stroll through the group that milled around the softly lit grounds as he talked and embraced people around him.  He approached her in greeting and she managed a smile. In his presence she felt loved and beautiful, but his self assurance diminished her and she was relieved when he walked away.  “Who’s ready to be baptized?”  He called out. Several people, both men and women raised their hands or stepped forward in affirmation. Someone standing behind her touched her shoulder and whispered, “You’re ready!”  In that moment she decided to dedicate herself to this group of people, their ideals, and to the charismatic man who led them.   She joined the others who gathered around the hot tub that was near the center of the area. When it was her turn, he asked her, “Do you understand this baptism is a marriage to the Family?” She didn't truly understand but she said yes, desperate to change, to become a different person and she rose up out of the water with a new name, no longer encumbered with her possessions or her past.  By this baptism she agreed to sever ties from all previous relationships, including her own flesh and blood family. Her new life has begun. She was 25 years old.