Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Novel news

So the news on my November novel is that...there is no November novel. I crapped out of that about a week ago and haven't written anything since. I made a poor showing this month, that's for sure. As for what I wrote, it needs more than a little work, and I'd probably just as soon work on something else. I'm going to finish a short story I've had waiting around for a while, then see what happens.

I've finished all my reading for the semester, so I read a story out of my Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction. "Preview of Murder" by Robert Leslie Bellem. It was published in 1949 and it's full of all this wonderful period slang. Guns are "roscoes", "rods", "cannons", or my favorite, "gats". Women are dames, guys are bozos, eyes are peepers. Nick Ransom never sees someone, he lamps them or tabs them. The story is peppered with these things; it's brilliant. It's hard to find those choice quotes that almost made me laugh out loud, but here're two just to give you an idea:

"I dredged out a gasper, set fire to it. The smoke burned my gullet like acid..."

"As it was, I had a lump on top of my conk the size of second base and I was lying on the floor, sniffing the dust of the thin carpet and looking into a pair of cold-cod-fish glims belonging to sombody sprawled a couple of feet ferninst me. I didn't mind the character being so close, but that steady mackerel focus gave me the fantods."

God this is great stuff.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A eulogy


Weeks ago, two of my family’s dogs, Jerry and Badger, got out of the yard and ran away. My mom suspected that someone saw Badger on the side of the road and stole her, because she was friendly, still a puppy, and a pure chocolate lab. Jerry, on the other hand, was a mongrel. Badger was a new dog, so her loss hurt less. But Jerry was part of the family. Even after weeks, we held out hope that he would come home.

This evening my mother called me with sad news. She found Jerry.

She found him on the side of the road while she was driving to work in the morning. He was dead. His collar was missing, but my mom is sure that it was him. He was twenty-five miles from home.

Every day since he went missing, my mom said, she hoped that she would see him when she came home. It was easy to imagine him just turning up, running along side the car as it drove up. Jerry was my mom’s guardian; it was his German Shephard blood. He would follow her everywhere, in the fields, in the yard, wherever. When he slept at night, he slept in the hall outside my parents’ bedroom door. He was affectionate and loyal, yet terrifying to strangers. He was a natural.

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Jake and Jerry are the two yellow dogs in the picture. Jerry is – was – the big one. They were the youngest two, and so they became best friends. It wasn’t easy. Jerry was naturally ebullient and excitable, whereas Jake is moody, jealous of affection, and prone to bouts of melancholy. While Jerry challenges young bull calves over the back fence, Jake lies curled up in the shade, looking sad. Whenever the two managed to escape their backyard confines, however, they would be off, immediately, down the road or into the bush, in search of adventure. Frequently I would have to chase after them, shouting vainly for them to stop, to come back, to cease what they no doubt thought was a hilarious assault on the neighbor’s miniature terriers. I would get hot, tired, and mad, but they always came back, eventually. And we would scold them, cuss them out, and forgive them. They were just fun-lovin’ boys having a good time.

When my brother, Jake’s owner, left for school, Jake was sad, but he still had Jerry to wrestle with in the yard and to lie with in the sun. In the old days, before Jerry, Scout was his adventure companion, but Scout is now old, feeble, slightly senile. And now Jerry is gone. It’s just Jake, Scout, and the cats. I don’t know how much Jake knows, or how much it even matters to him, being a dog, but it hurts me to know that his best friend isn’t coming home. It hurts me to know that Jerry isn’t coming home.

Of the dogs in the picture, two are now dead. Max, the brown dog curled up by my side, died at home this past summer. She was old, and her death is another story in itself. We buried her in the front yard, under stones so that the stray dogs and coyotes wouldn’t molest her remains. It is sad to me that Jerry won’t die at home, with white on his muzzle. But in a way, it’s proper, and comforting to me, that he died on the road. He died in his prime, on a grand adventure. It’s foolish to romanticize animals with human qualities, but allow me to imagine that his last thoughts were of home, and of the people who loved him, and of his friend Jake. I’ll thank you to let me imagine these things.

Goodbye, Jerry.

Progress Report

The novel is going badly, and I am feeling discouraged. Tonight is the night for grim determination, however, as I drive to catch up by some 12,000 words by the end of the weekend. And that's just to meet my end of the month 50,000 word deadline. I've hit some rough spots, spots that bored the hell out of me, and I've realized that my story as it stands right now would never make a novel. It needs more planning out, more thinking through, before it can be a coherent story, with a beginning and an end. That's not what NaNoWriMo is about, however. It's about plowing through. So I'm going to do that, at least until the end of November. Then maybe I'll work on something else. Something better.

Also, I haven't shaved in days. It's itchy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Talk about the weather, talk about the war

Today was beautiful. We had our first real autumn sky, cloudy but light, neither too bright nor too dreary. Even after it started to rain intermitently I stayed outside, because it was just too pretty, and I had nothing else to do. People act so funny when it's threatening rain. Some of them, like myself, grow quiet and introspective, not hurrying anywhere, just enjoying those tense moments. Some people get impatient and grumbly, and complain bitterly about the weather not making any sense. And some people, my favorites, I think, are thrilled by the anxiety of it and laugh and scream because their day has been broken up by the weather.

I was kind of hoping I would run into some people I knew who wanted to sit around and talk, but everyone was sheltering from the rain or trying to make it to their cars or classes.

I wish I had pictures of the sky just before it really darkened up and rained.

My good pal, Dubious Wonder, a Republican in denial, had some political things to say today, and whenever she does that I get all stirred up and want to talk politics. Unfortunately, she never seems to want to talk politics when I want to talk politics, so I'm just gonna ramble on by myself.

I can't argue with her about the courageousness of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think most or many of them believe in what they are doing, and believe that they are bringing democracy to a country that hasn't really seen it in a long while, if ever. I hope they are right. I would, however, feel better about it if President Bush would admit that this was his goal all along. Nukes or no nukes, I think he was going in there. Bush is making the same mistake that Presidents Johnson and Nixon did, which is that he is being overly secretive and possibly outright dishonest with the American people. He shouldn't be surprised when his political opponents and the American people accuse him of lying or otherwise twisting the truth.

And please, no more of this "undermining the President" nonsense. When the President does wrong, you tell him so. You write to your Congressional representative, you publish your thoughts in a blog or an editorial, but you don't just shut up and support him whatever he does, war or no war. That's nonsense.

The anti-war protesters tend to be more extreme left wing than most critics of President Bush and/or the war in Iraq. I think neither the Bush supporters nor the war protesters know enough about the complexities at work in Iraq right now, and I think many of them, having formed their opinions, don't care to know more.

I'm going to go read for a while and then write for the rest of the night. I forgot how much I hate talking about politics. All it ever does is sour my mood.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oh what the hell now

So Texas just joined the list of states who are so terrified of "judicial activism" that they've added a constitutional amendment to ban marriage between two people of the same sex. Blah, blah, blah, American values, blah blah blah, national security, blah blah blah, ban something that was already illegal. We've got one of the shittiest academic records in the U.S., but thank God, at least we've taken the time to outlaw something that was really no threat to anybody at all.

Why is it that conservatives behave so short-sightedly, so stupidly? I don't care how mad the hippies make you, that's no excuse to behave like paranoid, ignorant, xenophobic jackasses!


Okay, end rant. Only Kinky can save us now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It feels like after midnight

I'm sitting in the light of my desk lamp, with headphones on, but I'm not listening to music. I have a seven page paper due at one o'clock tomorrow afteroon; I have written three sentences. I still haven't started looking for a job in earnest. However, I wanted you to know that I started my novel yesterday evening, and even if it's all crap and I have to scrap the whole first chapter later, I'm feeling, in general, pretty good about life.

I hope this doesn't mean that something terrible is about to happen.

Shout out to Dubious Wonder. She's getting to be a pretty good writer, in my humble opinion.