Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Countdown: Ten

Sigh. This is the cover I used to use for reader's copies, way back when...

And the day starts with 20,182 words in the bag, 30-40,000 to go.

So, this last week a number of things came together and I found myself working on the novel again. I feel better about it than I ever have, completely confident as to my control over the material. A number of recent realizations have allowed me to see the full shape of the story in my head at one time, the story now has the shape and feel of a conventional story despite its fucked-upedness, and everything I've been trying to do seems to be happening.

It's short as hell -- gonna be in the Animal Farm/Brave New World range, but given the way it reads, that's a very good thing.

So here's the deal. I looked at what I've done over the past nine days, and I look at the manuscript, and if I double my speed?

I'm done in ten days, tops.

After some seven or eight years, the idea of doing the finished version in eighteen days seems brilliant. Impossible of course, but that's what I've needed all along. An impossible deadline.

Today is the do-or-die day. The next section is entirely new writing, and it's very tricky stuff. If I can finish it today, it's relative cake from here out. If not? It's a maaaaaybe.

I also have a bit of extra motivation, which I'll tell you about later. But first.

I've decided to post samples of my work while I'm engaged in my hysterical fit, just to keep my spirits up. Here is how it starts:


(Copyright 2011 Sean Craven, All Rights Reserved.)

“You’re going to find a girlfriend.” Why would Deirdre say something like that to me? I bet she tortured bugs when she was a kid.

I had to say, “Prove it.”

Shoulder the door open, hands on the mop handle. The mop bucket rattles across the parquet floor, then up and over the ridged metal and rubber strip marking the entrance to the main women’s public restroom, set discreetly to one side of the Lingerie department. Textured yellow linoleum, beige stall dividers, brown tiles up to four feet, apricot walls above the tiles. What do the colors say? Hygenic but human, feminine but disciplined. That’s what the colors say when they’re clean.

Prove it. Oh, that was clever, oafboy. May I have more trauma, please?

“Katie said she wanted to sleep with you, but she knew you’d take it too seriously.”

“I take everything too seriously. I mean, that’s what I do. I mean, fuck. That’s enough to do it? It’s really that bad?”

“Cut it out! I’m trying to cheer you up.”

“I like Katie.”

“She likes you too.”

“Thanks. I think I’m going to go lay down with a damp towel over my face in case my head just fucking explodes or something.”

I still feel shitty. Katie’s nice. And smart. Nice people shouldn’t get near me.

And now Deirdre’s friend Lulu is coming to visit. That should be just ducky. I hope she’s not my type. Of course she is, she’s a composer and I am a sucker for talent. She’s from Tennessee, Deirdre says she’s from the hills.

Dolly Parton, dude.

Quit torturing yourself. Fill the bucket with hot water and pine cleanser and sniff the disinfectant scent of artificial Christmas. Dust the tops of the stalls and the vanity lights around the mirror. Always work from the top down. Gravity is the main force that distributes filth. On to the sinks, and the water in the first sink does not drain.

Take the needle-nosed pliers from the bucket, dig between the sodden fiber and the side of the drain, grip tightly enough to hold, not so tightly as to tear, and pull. The tampon slides out slow and steady, the irregular perimeter of the maroon stain edges up past the chrome and hey, this is my Arthurian moment; Matt Cassad, you have cleared this drain and shall henceforth be King of the Third-Floor Lady’s Room. There’s another tampon in the next drain, and the next, all the way down the line. How does this even happen?

Maybe it starts with cool white walls, small minimalist prints modifying the arctic curse of the room. A little girl tosses her bangs out of her eyes and sighs with dramatic intent. “Mother, I’m bored!”

Mother, angled and elegant as a carpenter’s ruler: “Well, when I was a little girl, your grandmother used to take me to Sharpe’s downtown, the nice store where we get your ski clothes, and we’d go to the lady’s room and play special games.”

The worst things in the men’s room are stray pee or a diarrhea blart. I’m not sure if the nightmare in here is a matter of sexual politics or just the convenient supply of used tampons. Pull a bag out of a tampon bin; oh, God, that’s a couple of pounds, when I open it I’m going to see a miscarriage, a translucent doll’s hand slicked with blood, beckoning…

Dirty diaper. Why the hell isn’t it in the trash? And the next bag is half-full of pee. I picture a woman hanging from the stall divider like a treefrog pissing, I picture a woman bailing away with a cone-shaped paper cup as the tampons swell and float. No, and no, and Jesus I hate my brain.

Women can’t possibly do crap like this, right? Whoever does this is a male employee with off-hours access to the bathrooms. Has to be.

Oh, shit. From that perspective everyone I work with looks like a pervert.

Don't worry about Matt, kids!
He's going to Narnia!
Or the equivalent.


Lisa Nohealani Morton said...

Granted, it's been a long time since I read a draft of this, but as I recall Matt's not so much going to Narnia as he is a seedy Greyhound station in the bad part of Charn, where the only faun you meet is on the nod, lying half-in and half-out of the filthy bathroom with his works beside him.

Have I mentioned recently that I love that fucking book? Good luck with the sprint to the finish line!

Sean Craven said...

Okay, folks, Lisa has pretty much nailed the ambiance. Thanks, Lisa!

So far, so good. I have every confidence in today's performance. "I'm a time-traveling murderer hoping to make future lizard pals and that is as coherent as I'm going to be any time soon."