"I was standing in the school yard waiting for a child when another mother came up to me. "Have you found work yet," she asked, "or are you still writing?" – Anne Tyler
I’d have smacked her. Why? Because writing IS work. It is carved out not in one sitting but in painfully slow creative sentences until finally The End is banged out at the bottom of the page. Only then can I smile. But I’m a senior, so I’m usually too tired to manage a grin.
Digging coal with a pickax deep in a West Virginia mine might be harder than digging ideas out of my soul, but I bet miners have no trouble sleeping. Me? Not so much.
When the clock strikes three a.m., and it’s as black as the inside of that coal miner’s mine, what am I doing? I am awake trying to decide about the tenth chapter that’s been gnawing away at my brain for days with no results. I might be asking myself about the transition I had crafted; did it work or had I merely squeezed it in hoping for a fit?
Maybe I am thinking about the last verse of a poem that didn’t quite rhyme because the pace was off just a bit or the metaphor in the fourth line was cornier than a 1950’s Broadway musical.
In any case, the relief I feel when I finish any piece is certainly short-lived. In the middle of the night while other people are dancing with Morpheus, my work goes on and on until the sun comes up. Easy to understand why Ann Rice writes about nightly vampire visits!
The light of day invariably brings a fresh character demanding my attention. Yesterday, a creature strolled into my kitchen wearing a wide brimmed, floppy red felt hat and an attitude. She wobbled over to my nearly empty coffee pot on high heels. She wore stockings with seams down the back, circa 1945. Given the amount of face paint I saw, it was obvious that she was on a first-name basis with Max Factor.
When she drained coffee into a cup of my mother’s good china, her slurp was loud enough to make the skin on last night’s baked chicken crawl up from the garbage disposal. Casually, the creature turned toward me with a smirk.
I am smarter than a fifth grader, so it didn’t take long for me to figure out the challenge her eyes were sending, and I didn’t like it.
With a deliberate shake of the head, I looked away. I sipped cold coffee from my chipped Seize the Day garage sale mug and ignored her. A few minutes went by before I cut my eyes over to where this sassy character was seated on my granite countertop. Not sure how, but I knew this over the hill character’s name was Lucie McKenzie. Her eyes never left mine as she swung her crossed legs. Her singular look commanded me to grant her what she wanted. And what was that? A life.
But I was a pooped senior longing for a do-nothing day while Calgon took me away. I wanted the last thing on my mind to be plot twists or characters. My tired old brain needed a vacation from old ladies in floppy hats.
Get out of my kitchen, Lucie McKenzie! My voice bounced off the walls, echoed down the hall. Did it faze her? Not in the least. She yawned, took off that ludicrous hat, fluffed her over-bleached hair with bejeweled fingers, and then slurped coffee even louder than before.
That did it! I jumped up from my chair and marched over to where she sat. Pointing a finger in her face, I shouted. Don’t slurp your coffee like that. It’s rude. Haven’t you learned anything? You’re supposed to sip it like a lady.
She looked me dead in the eye, her attitude bulging from her much too tight sweater seams. Make me, she said with a smirk.
Those two words were seductive enough to make me drag my tired old body back to my cluttered office and the hum of my waiting computer so that my arthritic fingers could peck, peck, peck at the keyboard for yet another day.
Just before Miz Lucie sighed contentedly and ambled toward the door from whence she had come, she mumbled, Beats digging out coal with a pickax in a West Virginia mine. Don’t you think so?
I hate it when my character is smarter than a fifth-grader.
Editor’s Note: Cappy Hall Rearick is a humor columnist for the Lowcountry Sun in Charleston, South Carolina. She is the author of seven published books. Visit her at www.simplysoutherncappy.com.