Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And the race is on

November has begun and is almost halfway over, which means that so is Nano. I'm WAYYYY behind because of the cruise. Not that I'm complaining, because I had a blast on the cruise (photos to come later), mosquitos and all.

My other novel came pretty far. I got to over 32,000 words before the end of the October. Our writer's group is turning into a revolving door. One week, certain people will be there, and then the next week, different people will come. Last week, I didn't go. Who knows if they even had it. I'm excited for this week :) I've missed everyone.

So I've begun a new novel for Nano, and so far, my word count is around 3,000. Plus, I handwrote about five and a half pages while I waited in the airport and on the plane. I'm waiting until the end to enter those into my word count, just sort of as a last hurrah.

50,000 word novel in fewer than thirty days, here I come.

Pages 4 & 5 of my October novel.
Uncle Henry wasn’t around, so I skipped dinner and headed straight for my small eight foot by eight foot bedroom to work on homework. My room was similar to my office in that there were more books than anything else in the room. I did have a small desk with an ancient computer and printer for homework, and my twin bed, which I made every morning before I went to school. The rest of my room was filled with books. I had them categorized by subject, and my favorites were organized neatly on the bookshelves I had. The rest were stacked neatly and accessibly.
I made my way over to my desk and plopped down in my chair. It was time to attack calculus.

I didn’t work at the library on Tuesdays. Instead, I pedaled my bike over to the hospital to visit my mother.
“Hey, Janey,” I walked up to the receptionist window.
“Good to see you, Anna. Your mom is doing well today. She had her hair curled yesterday, and she’s still talking about it.”
I smiled and nodded and picked up the pen to sign the register.
That was all that ever passed between us, and I was content with that. Janey was chatty, but she had long ago gotten the message that I was not a talker.
Janey buzzed me through the security door, and I gave a little wave as I walked past the metal bars. My mom’s room was the third room on the right after the small reception area. Some days, the reception area was eerily quiet, with some people staring idly off into space or at the television in the corner. Others played card games silently at a small table. Other days were chaotic. It only took one person to set everyone else off. I had walked in on several occasions when orderlies were doing their best to restrain the more jubilant patients, and once, I had even seen an orderly jab a patient with a needle, whereupon the patient collapse almost immediately, out cold. I believe it had been the ornery Mr. Johnson, the man who believed that the mice in his closet were slowly eating away at everything, and soon there would be nothing left in this world except mice and their feces. Mother told me one day that there wasn’t even a closet in Mr. Johnson’s room. Nobody had closets.
Today, the reception area was nearly empty. I like it best when it was like that. Plenty of chairs for my mother to choose from if she decided to get out of her room.
I knocked on her door even though it was slightly ajar.
“Come in, Anna.” The voice from the other side of the door was soft and even. It was the voice that had sung me back to sleep as a child whenever I had nightmares. I swallowed. No matter how many times I visited her, it was always hard to see her like this.
I sat down on the bed beside her. The room smelled like disinfectant and old people, but it was clean and straightened—stark, bare of any decorations—very dark. I couldn’t understand why she liked it that way here. Our house had always been so light and airy. She couldn’t stand a summer day with the windows closed. The fresh air, warm breezes moving through the house and shutting doors unexpectedly. But her room at the hospital was always dark, the shades drawn over the closed windows. I felt closed in, claustrophobic almost. And definitely tired.
“Hi, mom,” I said as I gave her a hug. She did not hug me back.
“Don’t ruin my hair, please, Anna. They curled it for me yesterday.”
I smiled faintly. “It looks lovely.” It did look rather nice. Her hair had once been a glorious golden chestnut that fell in waves down her back naturally. She had never used an ounce of product or any tools to shape it. Her hair had turned dull in the hospital and had been cut to just above her shoulders. It was flipped out at the bottom, as the last of the curl clung to her hair. I had inherited her hair, only mine was less wavy and a little darker. We also had the same almond shaped brown eyes and the same high cheekbones and round faces. The only thing I had really inherited from my father was my long, slim nose, which turned up just slightly at the end. I only knew that I got it from him because my mother’s nose was small and dainty. She said she didn’t have any pictures of him, which was fine by me, because I harbored just a smidgeon of a grudge toward him for leaving like he did.
We sat in silence. The light had gone out of her eyes a month before they admitted her. She never really talked anymore, which was difficult for me because she had always done all of the talking. I struggled to come up with something to say.
“I’m almost a third of the way through organizing Mr. VanWauld’s collection,” I said as brightly as I could fake.
Mother shook her head. “Please don’t talk about the library. You know it upsets me.”
Well, I hadn’t until that point. I’d never really talked about the library before with her. Not since I had gotten the job. The only reason I was hired was because my mother had worked there before everything went wrong.
I changed the subject. “I got another ‘A’ in English,” I said.
No response.
So I plunged forward again clumsily, “I’m still having some problems in calculus, but that’s only because I didn’t figure out until two days ago what a derivative was.” I was no good at this small talk thing.
We sat in silence, I was lost in thought, and I had no idea where she was mentally. She seemed okay, smiling slightly, as if she knew something the rest of the world didn’t. I didn’t watch her for very long. It made me feel sick to my stomach to see her so different than the mother I knew and loved. I still loved her, but it wasn’t the same as before, sometimes, I think because there was a bit of pity mixed in.
As much as I loved my mother, the days with her often depressed me, and I went home feeling morose and sorry for myself. It didn’t make the dumpy brown house any more inviting.
As I trudged up the walkway, I noticed the lights were on. My step father, Henry, was home.
“Someone called for you,” he said to me as I rummaged through the refrigerator. “It was a boy.” He walked in and settled himself into a chair at the tiny kitchen table.
I froze. “A boy? Called on the phone?” I frowned slightly, puzzled. “Are you sure he didn’t have the wrong number?”
“He asked for you, Anna. Said his name was Ethan or Edward or something.” Henry pulled a small vial of alcohol out of his pocket and took a sip before screwing the cap back on and slipping it back in his pocket.

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