At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, I had a lovely period of about 3 months in between jobs, having been made redundant from one, and not feeling urgency to start looking for the next. In that time, I enrolled in an online writing course “Unlocking Creativity” with The Writers’ Studio and immersed myself into the life of a writer, a full time writer.
Three interconnected pieces I wrote as part of that course have stuck with me, inspiring the novel I am working on (currently on the 2nd draft of my novel, through the same writing school). The pieces were a response to a prompt to write a scene where the character was facing the following predicaments: pressure, worst nightmare, challenge. I will from time to time post scenes and insights I’d like to share on the writing process, but to launch the new menu item on my blog, here are those three scenes, seeds of a story that is currently in the germination stage. Incidentally, the dates indicate I didn’t have much happening on valentine’s day 2011.
The damp forest floor was cushioning her steps, absorbing the impact of her shiny black shoes pressing into the earth, the path well trodden and familiar. Mildred took a deep breath, noticing the musty, earthy smell and the faint herbal, spicy aromas of leaves crushed beneath her. Though she tried to be delicate, she couldn’t help stepping quicker and more erratically as the silence began to overwhelm her. ‘Dad, where are you?’ She called out. He was normally there to listen to how her day was, laugh at stories about her mother and generally just talk, about life, the names of the birds that flew about and dreams. It was dreams she wanted to talk about now.
‘Dad, I need to talk to you’
‘Why are you so quiet?’
In response she heard the whooshing of the wind, making the leaves of the overhanging branches shake, as though the trees were expressing disdain at the spectacle of a woman walking amongst them and talking to herself. She tried once more “Dad, c’mon, this isn’t funny…”
Mildred stopped in her tracks, waiting. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten, expecting to feel that familiar presence beside her when she resumed her walk, their walk. Slowly relaxing the tightened creases of her shut eyes, she opened one then the next but didn’t need to look to know he was not there. Hoping it was a game and that she may catch him out, she spun round but only caught a glimpse of a span of a birds wing, flapping like the sound of curtains being drawn then silently flying, carving an elegant arc through the air, revealing nothing in its wake.
14.02.11 Worst Nightmare
James extended the wooden ladder against the side of their house, its gutter bursting with leaves being washed away from their summer resting place. He was racing against time, the elements and his wife’s contractions. Alice was at the Royal, 14 hours into labour. The sudden wild, torrential rain had given James reprieve from his helpless, emasculated presence at her hospital bedside.
“Be back soon love, before junior makes his entrance” he’d said to Alice, kissing her tenderly on the forehead, feeling the dampness of the sweat that held her brown hair in a swirl against her furrowed skin. He was sure it would be a boy.
Atop the ladder, investigating the haphazard clutter of broken roof tiles, James tentatively placed one sturdy, muddied, lace-less boot, testing his luck in balance and the tile’s sturdiness in support. Sure enough of his agility, James took the next step, this time relaxed and ready to patch up the jigsaw. The rain was falling heavier, a rhythmic beat of drops plummeting on tiles, bouncing off the edge of one to the next, mirroring James’ steps. Reaching out at an angle, heaving with the strain, his clothes now heavy with the weight of the wet fabric, he managed to hold and reposition a wayward tile. “Gotcha!” he said, and as though it were an exclamation mark through the skies, lightning struck. The last brilliant light James would see. It was only sounds that followed next. Thunder, thud of a young man crashing against the re-arranged tiles, rolling at the angles dictated by their placement. An ambulance in the distance and at the Royal, a pained grunt and last push, a brief silent pause and the first cry of a wrinkled, bloodied Mildred James Winter greeting the new world. Not a boy.
Relatively new at the Royal, Fiona didn’t have the luxury to pick and choose which ward she worked on. It was a pleasant surprise then to be placed in maternity, a break from the stark realities of oncology or worse still the unfolding, endless dramas in emergency, where she’d spent the last two weeks.
She stood in front of the mirror, her green eyes looking back at her, betraying the quavering, jelly like feeling inside her stomach. Reaching up to adjust the white headband that held her hair in place, she slowly opened her mouth but felt only the dry, wordless vacuum making her lick her coarse, parched lips and swallow. She opened her mouth once more and stumbled across the awkward words
“Excuse me Mrs Winter, I um, I have some really uh, dreadful…”
“No! Shit!” she said, berating herself for the stupid, shallow assortment of words.
A high pitched, lone flute breath in through her nose and a low, pleading exhalation. This time, looking only at her lips, she got it
“I am so sorry Mrs Winter, there has been a terrible accident…”
Her reflection was obscured now by the tears that welled, the two green pools of her eyes about to overflow, giving her the appearance of being submerged in a stagnant body of water. The quavering had no bounds, moving on to the corners of her mouth and her hands, which were resting on the basin. She reached up to her head and slid the headband back, digging it through the roots of her hair then stopping, hands immobile and fixed on the hard plastic of the band, bits of hair between her fingers, she looked away from the mirror and finally released all that she had tried to hold inside.
If you’ve come this far and still have time to spare, let me know what you think. The story has taken many turns since, gaining a structure and many more characters, but I hope to remain true to the magic I felt and the inspiration that these scenes gave me.
I’ll leave you with a song that inspired the name of my new blog menu item. I haven’t really thought much about the meaning of the lyrics and they don’t represent anything I’m trying to convey here (I’ve never received anything from a Canadian Shaman), but great song and when I was trying to think of a name, Father John Misty popped into my head. I love love love this song. In fact, the whole album is brilliant, one of those I can listen the whole way through once and then again…