Another Short Story Saturday has come and gone, and while I have admittedly spent most of today with my boys and my husband, and I even got the opportunity to sleep in and take a nap today (A miracle. An utter luxury! I haven’t slept past 8am since my youngest son was born–over a year ago!), I did get a chance to do a little bit of writing.
As I wrote on Friday, a story idea flew into my head on my way to playgroup on Wednesday. I had to make my son a little late so that I could e-mail myself the story idea. I’m calling this story “Escort Mission,” and I am excited about the idea. What I’m not excited about is how I’ve executed the idea so far. The beginning feels….good…not perfect….but gooood….but somewhere things when splat. Here’s where things feel good:
Three children sat at the kitchen table, fastened to booster seats and highchairs, chewing on hotdogs and microwaved peas while their mother stood in the kitchen, eyes glued to the evening news. “The numbers have dropped lower than have been seen in a decade. Indeed, we might be witnessing a crash worse than that of the Great Depression.” The handsome news anchor stated, opening music to the national evening news strumming in the background. She had her hand to her chest. The news had been this way all week, and now it was culminating into everyone’s worse fears.
“More apple juice, please!” Her eldest called from the dining room.
“Just a minute, baby!” She called back. She had no intention of giving that child more apple juice. Her mind went toward filtered water, but her body did not move.
“Protests in four European countries and terrorist attacks on the markets of Tokyo and Beijing have brought the world economy to a grinding halt. Despite the efforts of the Fed and other organizations, the repercussions have come to our shores…”
She shook her head in disbelief. Water evaporated while her mind turned to an inventory of supplies. Did she have enough food and baby supplies to get them through a few weeks if they needed to ride things out?
“Mama! More apple juice, please!” Her eldest called.
“Juice, please!” Her second son echoed.
She took herself from the television and poured water into two brightly colored plastic cups. She delivered them to the table with the best smile that she could put on. “We’re all done with apple juice, gentlemen, but there is plenty of water!” She announced, though the caveat of for now came to the forefront of her mind.
The front door opened and closed right on time.
“Daddy!” All three of their children chimed merrily.
“Hello gentlemen!” Her husband said in an exhausted, but cheery choice. He walked up to her and gave her a kiss. “Hey, Viv.”
“Hey, Cal.” Vivian answered. She couldn’t mask her worry anymore. The news could still be heard from the kitchen.
He noticed, of course. “NPR is full of reports, too. I’m going to take a quick inventory. Do we need to make a baby and food run?”
“Maybe.” She frowned.
The boys didn’t appreciate their mother hogging of their father’s attention. They peppered him with questions and requests. When was he going to sit down and eat dinner? When was he going to shower them with love and attention? Would he please bring them more hotdogs?
I like how I started this. I know that there are issues, but I like the start. But then I get bogged down: Viv gets a phone call from her friend Henry, who needs to get to New York. She hesitates, and that hesitation leads makes the entire dialogue awkward, and tedious to read. Here is the rest of the story:
Vivian managed their food requests while Calvin went to change clothes. By the time he returned, a plate full of risotto and baked salmon in hand, Vivian was all but ignored by her children. She first went to the kitchen to turn off the television set. She didn’t need to hear anymore about the world falling to pieces. She then went to the nursery to assess diapers and pull-ups. The eldest, three and a half, was mercifully potty trained but for the occasional wet night. The other two, two and one respectively, were still dependent on diapers. She had enough of both of their sizes to last them a month. She had to pass by the laundry room in order to get back to the kitchen, so she went to check on her supplies there. They were running low. She made a mental note.
Walking through the living room and glancing outside toward the cul-da-sac, she noticed neighbors outside, huddled quietly, hands to breasts, speaking with worried faces. She was tempted to join them, but a vibrating sound distracted her. Her cell phone was ringing.
Picking up the device and looking at the caller ID, she quickly answered. “Hello, Henry! I’m surprised that you are calling.”
“Hello, Vivian. I am sorry to bother you. I know that we usually correspond over e-mail, but I am in great need of a favor, and I can’t really wait.”
“What’s wrong, Henry? Are you alright?” Calvin had pocked his head in. Vivian gave him a concerned look, but dismissed him with a shake of her head. He retreated back to the family room.
“I need a ride to New York, and due to various reasons, I can’t get a ticket for any train or bus that is leaving within the next 24 hours. I need to get there as soon as possible. Vivian, I hate to ask you this, but would it be possible for you to take me?” The desperation in Henry’s voice came through loud and clear.
Yet, she could not help but hesitate. “I’d have to talk to Calvin…someone has to take care of the boys…”
“I know that this is a grave imposition. I wouldn’t do it if I could avoid it. I really need this. Please, Vivian.”
“Let me just make sure that I can logistically make it happen. I’ll call you back in five minutes.” She didn’t wait for an answer, she simply hung up the phone. She stared at it for a few minutes, then looked out the window toward the still congregating neighbors.
Shouts from the family room indicated the end of dinner. Indeed, the clank of dishes on the kitchen counter heralded Calvin’s impending arrival. “Who was that?”
And here is where I got bored writing it. And you probably got bored reading it. It’s as if my Muse read through that and was like “I gave you brilliance and this is what you produce? I’m outta here…”
But the thing is, I really love the idea and I think that it’s worth pursuing. The journey, as they say, is worth taking. But clearly I need to find another way to get the trip started. A phone call isn’t going to work. We lost the urgency over the phone. I’m looking forward to going back and rewriting. The goal, to finish the first draft by Wednesday (and I’ll post for accountability).
Here’s to recognizing that the first draft sucks. Here’s also to recognizing when you need to cross the wide river in a different way.
Happy Saturday Evening to you!