Sometimes when you get off track it’s hard to know how to get back on track. Two and a half years ago I had a little boy, and was pregnant for nearly a year before that. Who knew that exhaustion and a small, needy human being could derail your creative writing efforts so thoroughly? Okay, yeah, I should have seen that coming…
But it’s time to put that choo-choo back on the tracks (forgive me, I have a toddler). So this year I’m attempting a modified version of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for the cool-kid in crowd). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month, but considering I haven’t been able to write 50,000 words in the past year, I thought that would be a bit of a stretch. I’d rather not set myself up to fail.
My November pseudo-NaNoWriMo goal this year is to write every day on a novella that’s been brewing in my head, even if it’s just a sentence. And I’m going to do it publically here on my blog (ulp), in hopes that it will keep me accountable and keep me going. See mom, I’m using the guilt reflex you installed for something good!
I hope that I’ll write more than a sentence a day, but hey, every little bit helps. It all adds to the word count. So, without further ado, here is what I wrote in my notebook on last night, November first. Please excuse any rough transitions or clunky metaphors. This really is raw off the top of my head.
Welcome to my first draft, folks….
Clara stopped at the foot of the Metro stairs and took a deep breath as she adjusted her backpack. A few other commuters did the same as she did, girding their loins for the toughest part of their commute, while a few others set their jaws in grim determination and pelted up the stairs without stopping.
Clara glanced at her watch and knew she didn’t have much time to pause if she wanted to make it home before Sophie started to worry, especially if topside was busy. Best to get moving.
She took the steps two at a time, trying not to think about what waited above. At the top of the stairs the Metro entrance broadened out, open to the streets. Once a shelter for the homeless and busking musicians, city detritus blew somberly in the empty space in the pitch black evening. Clara’s hand went to the machete strapped to her side and stroked the handle absently. Her eyes darted left and right. No vampires or zombies, just the sound of some slow moving ghouls at the other end of the square. At least that was all she could sense as a normal human.
She could outrun the ghouls easily if it came down to it. She licked her lips and jogged off, keeping her ear out for them and scanning the sidewalk as best she could. No sense running flat out and not having the energy to fend off an attacker.
Clara was one of the lucky ones. Her apartment was near enough to the underground safety of the Metro. A few turns and she was slipping her key into the vestibule door. As she slipped her body and her backpack through the smallest opening possible she whispered to herself, “You are not welcome,” just in case. She yanked the door shut behind her and locked it, and stood quietly listening to her own breath and the much changed sounds of the city. In the distance she heard a werewolf howl, but it was just a call to pack mates not the sharper sound of an actual hunting howl. Otherwise, all was silent.
Clara sighed with relief and turned to climb the stairs. No one had followed her.
Three flights up sitting on a well-worn couch, a seven-year old girl sounded out words from a dog-eared workbook by lantern light. A middle-aged woman sitting on the other side of the coffee table smiled and tapped her cane on the floor in approval. The girl’s head whipped around when she heard the key in the lock.
“Mommy!” she cried.
Clara came in with a grin and caught her daughter in a bear hug. She kissed the top of her head.
“Sophie.” Her name came out in a sigh. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too, Mommy,” Sophie said as she pulled away and clasped her mother’s hand and drew her deeper into the lantern light. “Mrs. Turner was just finishing my lessons.”
Clara nodded to the other woman as she levered herself up, careful to avoid weight on her bad left leg. “You don’t have to get up, Stacy,” said Clara.
Stacy shrugged and reached for her bag on the coffee table. “Joe is supposed to be home any day now. If I can I want to be there when he comes through the door.”
Clara smiled and nodded as she whipped off her backpack on the coffee table. “They paid in food today.” She pulled out two cans of baked beans and a can each of beef stew and chicken noodle soup. “And one of the patients had some old currency that could be useful.”
Clara pulled out a few meager bills and split them evenly, handing one pile to Stacey. “Do you want the soup or the stew?”
“Soup sounds delightful,” Stacey said as she tucked the six dollars into her pocket.
“I think I might be able to scrounge you some real crutches soon,” Clara said as she handed her a can of beans and the soup.
Stacey raised her eyebrows. “That would be nice. It would sure make it easier to get around.” She started to hobble for the door.
“See you tomorrow, Mrs. Turner!” Sophie called brightly.
Stacey smiled and called over her shoulder, “Don’t forget to do your math, you have a test tomorrow.”
“Tell me about your day,” Sophie chirped as her mother lit the small camp stove on the kitchen counter.
“How about I tell you over dinner and you go study while I cook?”
Sophie thrust out her bottom lip and crossed both arms.
“Don’t try that on me, young lady,” Clara said as she turned to pull a pot out of the cabinet. “You heard Mrs. Turner, you have a test tomorrow.”
“Alright, alright,” Sophie grumbled, but she returned to the living room and her studies.
After dinner and two lively rounds of checkers, Clara and her daughter started their nightly ritual – check all the doors and windows were locked, all but the most necessary candles and lanterns were extinguished, check all the salt and garlic was still fresh enough to do its job.
As Clara tucked her daughter into bed and kissed her on the forehead, she said, “story or song tonight?”
Sophie yawned. “Mama, tell me how the night ends.”
“This one again?” Clara said with a sigh and a sad half smile.
“Or tell me what sunlight looks like.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of this, baby?” Clara said as she brushed the hair off her daughter’s forehead.
“How can I be tired of something I’ve never seen?”
And there you go, 934 words. Tune in tomorrow (or very late tonight if I can stay up that long) for the next installment.