We are coming to the end of NaNoWriMo. I'd surprise myself immensely if I manage the full 50,000 words by Monday midnight. The experience, though, has been fruitful if not completely successful. I've gotten a few story starts, anecdotes, character filling out and understanding of what it is I am trying to say in my novel. There are decisions to be made. Directions have to be chosen, because when you are writing about three generations there are too many distractions and side roads to wander and take you far away from the point, the point, that is, that you think you are trying to make. Since I usually write works that are shorter than a novel, much shorter, my learning curve has been steep. Here is one fictional scene of what developed during my exercise of NaNo:
The side board in the dining room has rings. Concentric circles from sweated glasses left there, bare bottomed or through flimsy coasters that couldn’t do the job.
The rings have been polished over, but the lighter stain shows through years of benign neglect.
I kinda like them.
They conjure episodes of when life was simpler, for me, at least. On any given Saturday night in those days people would ‘drop over’. The men wore jackets and ties. The women wore dresses and spiky heels. The women all wore hose, of course, even in summer, except for the women who were ‘sporty’, the ones who smoked and dyed their hair and wore the kind of lipstick that left smudges on everything they came in contact with: napkins, glasses, cigarettes, cheeks. My mother wore stockings.
My parents always had a supply of rye, scotch, gin and beer on hand. And that awful Tom Collins mix. The small bottles of ginger ale and the pretty maraschino cherries were forbidden to us. I really liked ginger ale, but we could only have it from the big bottles we got when we had bologna and Virginia ham and Wise potato chips for supper.
We’d sit at the top of the stairs, in our pajamas. The grownups would come in, loudly, laughing already, strong perfumes floating up the stairs, along with the smell of hairspray and cigarettes. Dad had set up bar on the dining room table ready with pitchers of Manhattans, the makings of highballs and gin and tonics. Mom had cheese and crackers (I helped arrange them on the crystal dish before we had to scoot upstairs) and some cheesey puffs fresh from the oven that she made from directions on the side of the biscuit tube. The maraschino cherries were in an etched dish with a tiny fork. There were green olives with pimentos in a divided dish, next to some pickle spears with little colored swords piercing them.
We’d hear the glasses clink with ice cubes and every so often a loud rise of laughter would follow one of the men who told a joke, I guess, that earned a lot of sloppy sshh’s from some of the women. My sister would fall asleep right there on the landing on the pillow she brought from our room. After she fell asleep I would wander down, wearing my best innocent I just woke up face, pretending to seek a glass of milk.
I was intercepted, as I had hoped, at the bottom of the stairs, by a woman with Lucy hair and an outline of poppy red lipstick on her mouth. The cigarette she was balancing and the lip of the glass had stolen the rest of the color. She managed a long ash creeping almost to the cotton filter in the same hand in which she held a tumbler nearly empty of amber liquor. The cherry was still there, marinating in the watered down Manhattan.
When she bent down to give me a hug, calling me sweetie, and oh what a doll, she swept the fallen ash off the shoulder of my pink flannels. I was momentarily smothered in her ample cleavage popping over the v-neck of her tight dress. Her perfume and cigarette made my eyes water. It was not the perfume my mother used. She speared the object of my real quest with a tiny green sword and presented it to me. I slipped away with the rye soaked delight before she could hug me again.