Tag Archives: Lake Ontario

Step 4 of John Smolens’ “Get Your Story Started”

Continuing in the fiction mode, here comes Step 4 of The Writer magazine’s “Get Your Story Started,” by John Smolens, verbatim:

4 Now write again, trying a different approach or perspective (60 minutes).  Consider the material you gathered from Step 3 again; this time, however, vary your approach.  If in the last session you wrote in the third person, this time work in the first person; if your last session was primarily narrative, then this time try to create a scene with dialogue. 

The point is to mix things up, to see things from different perspectives, which to a large degree is what fiction is all about–it offers the writer a unique sense of freedom.  It asks you to explore not only the exterior world through a character’s eyes, but to explore her inner world–why she sees things the way she does.

Since last time I wrote in first person with much dialogue, this time I will write primarily narrative in the third person.  Here is my response.

Start time: 9:02.

NYC2123 Laney

Image via Wikipedia

When Andrew left, Arlene was sleeping and had all the shades pulled down against the sunshine.  This kind of sun was unusual for Western NY in February, so Andrew took the clear skies as a sign he wouldn’t find any resistance.

Arlene insisted she couldn’t drive, so she wouldn’t miss the car.  Andrew didn’t wake her to say goodbye because she knew he was leaving and hadn’t bothered to say a word to him since she found out.  Andrew didn’t think about when she’d see him next or if she’d see him at all.  She planned that Andrew would return for her rheumatology appointment next Friday.  He knew better.

When he saw Laney, it was his life calling him back.  Sure, Arlene allowed him to fly Laney around the region, but she reacted like Laney was his mistress.  Really, she had more reason to be jealous than she knew.  Laney was a small plane–a single engine, a dove-gray beauty that had been mostly idle since Andrew’s last flight, a night he’d almost left.  About five months ago, Arlene had checked herself into the ER with pain so searing she claimed she was dying.  By midnight, she felt fine, and the doctor confirmed she could leave.  When they walked into their house, Arlene’s cave, she poured some Shiraz in a glass to toast her recovery.  That’s when Andrew took Laney out last.  Arlene passed out after a few more glasses, so Andrew flew Laney around the Lake Ontario, glimpsing how the waves kissed at the shore.  With each breaking wave, he imagined the fish pushing further into a warm hibernation, and Arlene falling further into herself.

Today was the matrimonial flight, Andrew kept telling himself.  He left his wedding ring on the speckled counter at home, next to the wine rack, where Arlene would be sure to find it.  Even his fingers could feel the difference.  There wouldn’t be much left for him to say.

Jordan, his nephew, had been managing the airport since Andrew’s retirement.  He agreed to get Laney ready for Andrew’s flight today, but didn’t know he wasn’t coming back.  Arlene resented that Jordan inherited Andrew’s airport and the air crafts.  Besides Laney.

Even the control Andrew felt, the palpable lifting of the wing flaps with the push of the hard charcoal lever, signaled that Andrew might have nothing to do with the passing birds, but could navigate this aircraft without worry about its body and how it might fail.  When he pulled the throttle to its full position, he was assured the plane would move clearly and swiftly into flight.  He would lift off, over the hospital, over his home at Lakeview Terrace, past the town limits and off of the unforgiving land.

End time: 10:16.

 

 

 

 

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To Those Things I’ve Loved and Left:

Nostalgia in objects.

1. Homemade popcorn. I waited anxiously for you as a five or seven or ten-year-old, from the side of the stove. My mother would hush me as she poured your golden kernels, clanking and then lessening to tinks, against the silver pot. I’d hear pops as she’d rake the pot back and forth across the coiled burner. The cover was on, and you, future popcorn, would dart against the lid or the sides. After you bloomed into a perfect canvas for flavor, my mother emptied the pot into the brown Wegman’s (read: “Wagmen’s”) paper bag, to be topped with melted butter and salt, and shaken mercilessly. My fingers padded over with grease and salt, and I found remnants of your kernels in my teeth a day later.

2. The corded phone, attached to our living room wall. You are the reason I remember my brother sprawled on his back on the chocolate-colored carpet across the threshold to our living room. He could not leave your side, or the side of whoever was on the other line. You were placed within view of the television, luckily. Without call waiting, there were arguments to hurry conversations with friends or girlfriends. My brothers had no camera phones to view who they were talking to, so they were sure Debbie was “the real thing” when the town pedophile began calling our home.

3. The Preview Channel. You, a constant companion. The soothing scroll of television programs meant security to me. I knew what was coming next, yet I never turned from your channel. Here’s what I remember about you: Gremlins, Family Ties, Full House, You Can’t Do That on Television. There were many programs I couldn’t watch because my house didn’t subscribe to The Disney Channel or The Movie Channel, so you also reminded me of what I couldn’t have. That was captivating. Then you expired, leaving me to watch The Weather Channel, to listen to its elevator music. Now I watch hurricane season, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms unfold, waiting for the local weather every ten minutes, and it’s always on time.

4. The cordless phone that hung on our kitchen wall. You made many trips to my bedroom and stayed there until you would die, and my mother would yell, “Sarah, do you have the phone?” My father would call, “Sarah! Are you ignoring the beeps again?” Even then, I’d developed ways to ignore the inconvenient. I knew how to conference call, which was a sophisticated trick. Your buttons were worn, the numbers missing, the smooth texture unfazed by blush or foundation. Your paging call, the sound you made when my mother would hit the gray button stole me from my boyfriend or best friend, to return you to your rightful owner. You: a translator with memory lapses, a broken arm, a passing friend, and your numbers calling out to me way past their prime: 6375977, 6592263, 6372096, 6377065, 3283826, like little representatives.

5. Notes. I dumped you, notes, you papers, all college-ruled with nicknames and apologies and mundane records of my high school and middle school lives, drawn on and folded, into a very large plastic garbage bag. There was no room for you to follow.

6. Postcards. I’ve only received two in the mail this past year. Though throughout my lifetime, I’ve kept every one of you. You list inside jokes so old I don’t remember their significance, only that they were once significant. You advertised places I’d never been, though views I could see anywhere: melon-colored sunsets, cerulean oceans with sailboats grazing the shore, a cactus plant I could have probably found at Sara’s Farm Market. Postcard, your contents were less-revealing than notes, your images were crisp. You told me other people’s memories.

7. Mailbox. You hold very little to me, now, (except at Christmas-time) but I still recognize the importance of your station. You are the reason I always ask my husband, “Did you get the mail?” or the reason I insist on checking every day, even when I find an empty tin box. When I was younger, the mailbox offered a promise of trendy magazines, made for devouring in one sitting and kept until I realized they would never be read again. You identified me, placed my name in hard black text on white glossy paper. Back then, you were the reason I had an address. Mail was proof there were papers destined only for me.

8. Cash. When I turned ten, my parents bought me a drawing desk. It was large and white with an attachable black lamp and two side compartments that held art supplies. I was excited to stock it with office supplies. When I reached in my purse (yes, I had one of these then), I found fourteen sticks of Fruit-Striped gum and twelve singles. I chewed that gum so fast, two sticks at a time, until it lost flavor. You, cash, had worn over, now soft as leather. It pleased me to fold you, and straighten you, and crinkle you in a ball. Yesterday, on campus, students were fundraising for the homeless, and those around me responded: “I don’t carry cash.” I thought the same thing myself.

9. The canvas SUNY Brockport bag. I kept you from when I was ten until I graduated from college. I cut holes all around your opening, linked the holes with a blue combination lock, and kept my journals inside. You were durable, and I didn’t have to write “Keep Out”– you made that apparent to anyone.

10. Maps. You came with me to Florida when I was nineteen. I drove with twin friends and a fluorescent-yellow-haired girl I didn’t care for. You were there during my breaking point, Map. After we’d lost ourselves in West Virginia on the way down, I navigated the whole way home. (Didn’t everyone lose their way in West Virginia?) Yellow-haired girl insisted we head South from Florida to New York, while I insisted we head North. It was that simple. I showed her your blue veins traveling up towards Lake Ontario, and she finally agreed, her hair swooshing as she guffawed in self-deprecation.

To be continued…

Next: penny candy, dandelion stems, cassette tapes, etc.