November 13, 2010
Sitting at a cafe, editing the work I've done so far on the novel. I think I've realized that I'm not going to finish the Nanowrimo project in a month. I can't seem to resist the urge to edit what I've written, and that ends up taking up a lot of my time. I just can't speedwrite through 25,000 words in two weeks. I've written 4,000 words (13 pages or so) of a rough outline and that's good enough, I think. I'm not sure that I really like the idea of writing a throwaway novel in a month just for the sake of finishing a challenge, although I guess that's the point. If anyone is interested, here is a very unedited rough sketch of part of the first chapter.
I am told that there was a first house that collapsed, but I have no memory of it.
According to my father, it had been built in the traditional style, square and on stilts. One day the whole thing came down with a great crash and they salvaged the hand-peeled logs and began anew, building a second house that became a sprawling octagonal home for both humans and goats who lived underneath, waking us with their constant headbutting, indignant at being left out in the cold.
The expanse of soft, sheltered ground under the house was dark and cavernous, and one afternoon my mother and I discovered one of our female goats named Abigail lying under the house, white belly heaving softly in the dim light. I can't remember seeing her face or even her head, just the great expanse of her curled body lying prone in the dirt.
"We need to get her water," my mother said, taking my hand and hiking up her skirt to climb back out from under the house.
"Then we've got to to go down to Tony Roselle’s and see if he can help."
I gripped her hand tightly, still listening to the slow wheezing in the dirt and feeling a crawling dread. We emerged from under the house and walked to the spring, where I waited while my mother filled a bucket and brought it back down to Abigail. The water, ice cold even in the summer, dribbled through my fingers. The spring flowed down the mountain, making a brief stop in an antique refrigerator that my father used to keep our perishable food in, which was also outfitted with a screen to keep the frogs out.
Sunlight dappled on the leaves of the tall trees surrounding the cabin, making harsh shadows against the bright green. Suddenly my mother reappeared without the bucket.
“All right, Ren. Ready?” I nodded.
She took my hand again and we began the hike down to Tony Roselle’s cabin. Tony had a wizened look and smelled of pipe smoke. My parents had sold him a few acres of their land to build a camp on a few years back. He was a teacher who usually came up on weekends. We couldn’t be sure he’d be home, but he was our only chance for help because my father was out running errands with our 1940’s pickup truck, Clara, and wouldn’t be back until late that evening. Tony’s cabin was small- more of a camp than a house. He saw us coming down the hill from his small plant-filled porch. He was wearing a plain white T shirt and had the usual pipe stuck in his mouth.
"Well, hello there." "Hi Tony..how are you? Hate to bother you, but it’s one of our goats…there’s something wrong with her and she’s lying under the house right now. Ben’s away…. you think you could come up and take a look at her?"
"I don’t know all that much about animals, but I’ll see if I can help you out. Maybe try to get her out where we can take a look at her."
We three began our hike back up the rough road to the cabin. As we walked, I forgot about the goat and focused on stepping in and out of the ruts along the edge of the road, some part of my brain watching out as always for the bears I was sure I would one day spot on a walk through the woods. The rhythm of adult voices provided a lilting background hum to accompany my marching footsteps.
In my dream I am running down the familiar path from the field and garden, past the compost pile toward the house. To my right the woods are a dark mass in which I can see the bears, waiting and watching for the right moment. I trip over the little rock that sticks up on the path and I go down. Now I am unable to move, unable to scream- I know that the bears have left the woods.