Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friday Snippets 3: Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities part 3

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(the best way to find Parts 1 and 2 for now is to use the Friday Snippets label at the foot of the post or in the sidebar. I will find a better solution after posting the final part next week)

Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities Part 3

“I’ve orders to give you ladies first class service.” The girl flashed a grin at Faye and with casual brushes at errant, rusty-hued tresses said, “At your command m’lady.” Pad and pencil ready in exaggerated pose she deferred to Faye with elevated brow.

Faye ducked her head to hide another blush, stammering her order for a cola and chocolate-cream pie. What is it with these insinuating winks and grins implying non-existent alliances? She only half-heard Wilma order unsweetened iced-tea, an unadorned bagel; Julia request cottage-cheese, fruit cocktail and the wine cooler she’d likely been jesting about before Wilma’s lecture.

“So’s you know who to ask for, my name’s Sandra. I work this here section.” She encompassed the nearby tables with a wave and brushed at her hair again. “It’s quiet now, but the dinner crowd’ll be here soon. Be busy then. But you ladies got my undivided. Just wave.” She gathered up Faye and Cassie’s iced-tea glasses and the bowl of ice water in which Faye had deposited the cloth. With swift swipes of a damp rag, condensation rings from the glasses and splatters from the compress vanished.

In Sandra’s absence Faye focused on the view out the window, afraid Julia or Wilma might see her discomposure and twit her. Squinting at the sun-flashes off passing wind-shields, she recognized the Chevy by its distinctive outline rather than its garish color scheme, for glare reduced the purple to muddy gray. A disparity kept her eyes straying to its silhouette--ah, no reflections of people or buildings on its windows as on other cars along the curb.

“The windows are down!” She turned toward Julia in alarm.

“But of course!” Julia replied. “Who wants to return to that oven on wheels to the aroma of baked cat?”

“A crack would have sufficed.” Wilma said.

“Toasted cat. Roasted cat. What’s to choose?” Julia pulled the front of her tank-top out and fanned herself vigorously with a Nickel, a local want-ad paper she had picked up at the entrance where they were displayed under a sign proclaiming ‘FREE’ in foot-high letters.

“But Sister, it’s inviting passersby to help themselves.”

“Don’t be silly. We’ve got clear line-of-sight. If anyone did abscond with one of our fancy-sacks, how far could they get? Relax!” She gave Faye’s knee a constraining pat.

Faye subsided into her corner, her ration of defiance spent. She devoted attention to the Chevy, alert for any potentially suspicious move made by occasional passersby. The trickle of late afternoon customers seeking refreshment and relief from the heat soon became a torrent, spilling off from the five-o’clock flood of pedestrians rushing by outside, impeding Faye’s view of the car--her brief glimpses abruptly cut off by pieces of bodies, purses, brief-cases, shopping bags. She squirmed in her seat, leaned a smidgen left, right, craned her neck until it ached, all but stood on the seat to keep the car in sight. By the time Sandra returned all moves had begun to look potentially suspicious so she was glad for an excuse to relax her vigil.

Her view funneled between elbow and waist of an angular woman at a leisured amble amidst the hastening home-goers. Faye watched her, intrigued by incongruities reminiscent of ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ games. Spike-heeled sandals slowed her pace without detracting from the dancer’s grace of her carriage. Golden curls cascaded down her back to pool in the hood of a knee-length black rain cape. The cape, flung over the shoulder to free the right arm which supported a large canvas bag and held aloft an umbrella, flaunted a lining aglow in the sultry light with the hew of fresh blood.

With rain-cape and umbrella on a warm, evening identified as the incongruity, Faye turned back to the Chevy. But something niggled, fidgeting her eyes to the puzzling woman, whose progress was marked by the black umbrella displaying a pentagram delineated in a silvery substance that shot light-arrows into incautious eyes. Like the last word of a crossword puzzle she couldn’t get because the clue wasn’t in her repertoire, the inconsistency continued to elude her. Resigned, she shifted focus only to see the solution.

As is usual when a woman of striking self-possession walks through a crowd with the svelte grace of a cat, many admiring glances were cast her way, but only from behind-those facing her kept their eyes carefully averted, except for one small child who gazed up at her with riveted awe in spite of admonishing tugs on the arm.

Solving one puzzle created another. Her insatiable need to watch people was shameless, but so seldom did she leave the seclusion of the estate, she must soak up sights and sound to savor in the solitude of long, somnolent evenings. The novel and unique drew her, provided threads of exquisite mystery for weaving numinous dreams. This woman would wander wondrous dreamscapes-forever faceless and eternally ethereal.

Feeling regret nigh on mourning when she lost sight of the woman, Faye turned to her pie for consolation until Julia nudged her and jabbed her fork at the window. “Will you look at that!”

Faye looked and there was her mystery woman--cape, heels and umbrella, but now the umbrella was closed and dangling from it…

“My bag! The cat!” Faye jumped to her feet, knocked her knee against the table, jarring the dishes into a jittery dance.

“She poked that umbrella in there, pretty as you please and out came the bag. And staring straight ahead all the while too. Cucumber-cool.” Julia slapped the table and cutlery chuckled in counterpoint. “She cased the car, walked by it three times. I wish I could see her face when she finds out what she’s bagged!”

“Aren’t you going to do anything?” Faye was frantic.

“What’s to do? She hasn’t got anything valuable. Let it be. It’ll learn her a lesson.” She ignored Faye’s attempts to get by.

“One should not make a scene in public.” Wilma cautioned.

“Who’s afraid of a scene?” I’d show you a scene alright if it’d been my boots she’d hooked. Look, she’s coming this way. I do believe she’s going to walk right in.” Julia laughed.

Aghast, Faye watched the woman walk in, peer about, come right at them, and seat herself in a booth across the aisle. The riotous curls framed an ancient face from which peered searing blue eyes like sapphires embedded in a walnut. Withered lips parted over teeth like fine, white porcelain as she queried the empty air and nodded sagely at the answer.

“Let me go talk to her.” Faye begged an un-budging Julia.

“Leave her be. I gotta see this.” Julia said.

“It’s not polite to stare.” Wilma proclaimed.

“It’s not polite to steal either.” Julia said as Sandra brought coffee to the woman’s table and poured it without exchanging a word with her. “Ah. She’s a regular.”

“Ladies.” Sandra turned to them. “Anything I can do you for?”

“We’re fine.” Julia answered, her eyes fixed on the woman.

Sandra leaned close to whisper, “That’s Estelle Starr, a bit dotty but harmless. Used to be a performer of some kind. Shows up in Westmont last year and we took to watching out for her, but in such a way as saves her pride. She’s partial to riding the bus ‘tween here and Vancouver. Folk’s here drop tokens and coins in odd places she’s apt to be. Fancies herself a witch. Always muttering in rhyme and talking to invisible friends.”

They watched Estelle’s animated conversation with her unseen seatmate, drawn by its dramatic expressiveness. Julia’s mouth twitched with barely restrained hilarity and Wilma’s lips pursed with pent remonstrance. Faye, quivering with indignation at her enforced impotence, had a mind to push Julia off her seat. Such desecration! All to satisfy Julia’s whim and sooth Wilma’s wounded propriety.

“Westmont attracts her kind.” Sandra went on. “Ekcentrics, ya know? We got a passel here abouts. We’re partial to ‘em I guess. One runs a cat ranch up on the ridge, drives this hotrod my kid brother drools over. She’s a raycluse, doesn’t come to town much. Even so stories of her doings would fill a library. And if they’re all true she must be ancient cause my gramma tells some she heard as a girl…”

Her attention riveted on Estelle Starr and the bag, Faye was barely cognizant of Sandra’s chatter. Her feet fairly itched to march over there so she could spew out the words of accusation and condemnation that flooded her mind. But helpless against the concerted front of Julia’s determination to be entertained and Wilma’s studied obliviousness, outrage withered and she sank in her seat with a sigh. She filled her mouth with chocolate to calm herself as she watched Estelle fondle the bag--patting it and smoothing its creases. Mesmerized by these motions Faye missed the moment she parted the lips of the bag to peer in.

to be continued...

Part One ~ Part Two ~ Part Three ~ Part Four

Next week I will post the fourth and final part to this story, which is slated to be the first chapter in the first novel of my intended series, By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them, or alternately By Their Fruits. The first novel is titled: The Substance of Things Hoped For. Faye will be the POV character throughout it as her character carries the theme of this book, faith, indicated by her full name, Jubilee Faith Fairchild Gardner. There will be eight to ten stories of various lengths in Faith's book. I call them stories instead of chapters because I hope they will each have an independent story arc like short stories. Though neither of the two I've finished can be called short. This one is over 6000 words. And Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes, which is slated for the third position in the novel, is over 16,000 words.

The second book belongs to Faye's twin, Julia Love Fairchild and is titled The Lever of Love. The title alludes to the famed quote by Archimedes that given a lever long enough and a place to stand he could move the world.

The following is for those who would like an update on my progress with the 70 Days of Sweat challenge or more info about this story world:

There are ten novels that I know about so far. Six of which I've got fairly decent story arcs drawn out for. Three of which contain extensive narrative word count.

This is what I've accomplished so far because of the 70 days of Sweat challenge: Though my new narrative word count is still under 10K after nearly three weeks, I am pleased because I have stuck with the project this time, breaking my previous record of five days. I have sorted out a whole bunch of the issues that had me stuck. One of which was the need to decide if it was a single novel or a series. Well getting those story arcs drawn out helped me estimate final word count for each one and it wasn't long before I could tell that a single novel would have to be well over 1500 pages.

Another major issue I've tackled was to begin to reassemble the roster of characters with their names--in many cases I've settled, for now, with the primary given name or nic name they are known by. I once had a stack of 3x5 slips with one character per slip that contained their bio in brief and their familial relationships, the theme they carried if they weren't simply a walk-on, the major events they were involved in and their primary motivation. There were over 100 of these. That stack of slips was one of the things left behind when we abandoned our storage unit in San Jose in 2001.

Loosing that and the timeline along with hundreds of pages of drafts and notes was a massive blow. Every time I tried to re-engage with the story world, I was faced with the daunting task of redoing those slips and the timeline. Until this time, I have given up after three to five days of struggling with the complexities of that multi-generational story arc that traverses nearly a century with settings that span the globe. This time I stuck with it and bludgeoned my way though many, if not all, of the issues blocking me. This much I owe to Sven and his challenge. Even if I am never able to catch up with the word count to bring my average in at 700-1000 per day, I will not allow myself to feel failure over it because what I have accomplished was major.
Now that I know it is a series though, I am going to settle my focus on Faye's stories and the stories I worked on for NaNoWriMo the last two years for the rest of this challenge. Because if I do not add narrative content to them, there are at least three novels which I could turn to for the NaNoWriMo this year. I suspect Julia's story is the most likely one for that as I know the most about it and her timeline is so entwined with Faye's that I will continue to add to that knowledge as I continue to write Faye's stories.

But I may not be able to resist starting to add narrative and dialog content to Julia's stories. And if doing so will help ensure that I close the gap in word count, then I won't resist. In that case I will probably fall back on To Sip the Light Prismatic, which carries the theme of joy and has four POV characters alternating stories. I once had over fifty pages of rough draft for this one but those pages were all lost. I have to start over so that makes it fair game for NaNoWriMo. And since Faye and Julia's timelines are only peripherally involved with any of the POV characters in it, I probably won't be tempted to start writing actual scenes before November.

Meanwhile, I think that it will serve me well for this challenge to settle my focus on Faye and possibly Julia. Something big happened in the last few days. I feel those stories just bursting to get out. It feels like my head? heart? soul? are like a bag full of squirming kittens eager to get out and play, and fight, and chase their dreams across the landscape.

6 tell me a story:

Joely Sue Burkhart 7/27/2007 6:16 AM  

I'm enjoying these ladies' story immensely. Great work on your storybuilding! Ack, it would kill me to lose so much work and background documentation. What an awesome achievement to work through those details again! When I've been forced to redo work (because I can't find it, or the computer ate it), I think the second version is almost always better.

Kait Nolan 7/27/2007 6:30 AM  

Nicely done! I'll have to go back and find the previous snippets to catch up on what's going on...

Bri 7/27/2007 8:00 AM  

Very nice! The most powerful image had to be the woman walking with the umbrella - the references to blood and light and her hair - all were incredibly strong. I loved it! Can't wait to see what happens.

Also - congrats on getting "it" back! I've never lost something that large for a story - and it is impressive that you were able to push on. Way to go! Sven would be proud. :)

Nicole 7/27/2007 9:10 AM  

Nice images! I love the description of the woman, but I really want to know if she took the cat knowing it was a cat...

Gabriele Campbell 7/27/2007 10:00 AM  

I hope Faye will stand up to those patronising ladies soon.

I wonder if Estelle is a real witch - this gets more and more interesting.

Anonymous,  7/27/2007 12:44 PM  

You have my undying admiration that you were able to rebuild such a vast amount of information!

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