I intend to remain open kimono on this blog, at least in regards to the writing process and photography. Who knows, perhaps someone will stumble on it one day and gain solace in their own work. Maybe by putting this energy out there, my own work will be discovered and appreciated.
I just finished editing a scene in Discovery wherein Charlie visits his great-grandfather. It ends with a premature termination of the visit, with Charlie going to visit the elderly ladies at the Senior Center. It originally started and ended quite differently. In my early drafts, we meet G’pa Joe via a dreamed remembrance of his past. It was touching and one of my favorite scenes, but wasn’t needed in the book’s plot flow. So, sadly, I plucked it out. That’s what editing is about — finding what fits and what doesn’t.
All wasn’t lost, however. I managed to turn that short chapter into a short story that fans of the book have complimented. That’s the second part of editing: if something doesn’t work in one venue, try another. If it’s good work, you’ll find its place.
The Senior Center adventure also ended differently in the early drafts. Charlie met with G’pa Joe one-on-one and got guidance on some personal issues at school. Then, as they returned to the elevator, they were met by Charlie’s mom, Charlotte, in the scene below. That was even followed by another scene where his two parents got in a brief argument. Again, pretty good work, but it was becoming another book. I was writing fantasy fiction, but my logical half wanted to write about the boy’s family life. The end result is a compromise, but it think it pulls the two pieces together.
The moral of this story is: keep working; there’s always an answer.
Anyway, for those who might be curious, here is the extracted scene between Charlie, Charlotte, and G’pa Joe. You will never see this anywhere else. Since it’s 2 am, I’m not bothering to edit this. It’s rough and probably contains typos, but it hasn’t seen the light of day in 3 years. Sue me.
For those not interesting in reading the excerpt, thanks for reading up to here. 🙂
Charlie and G’pa Joe reached the elevator just as Charlie’s mother arrived. She had been checking with the nurses on her grandfather’s progress (as well as making sure her absent-minded son had remembered to check in). Fortunately for Charlie, he had remembered this time, mainly because he stopped to give one of the nurses a biscuit.
“Hi Pops!” she greeted her grandfather with a smile and a wave. It was good to see he was dressed. On their last few visits he had been in pajamas the whole time. That had been really hard for her to see.
Her grandpa had been her idol growing up. It had been his “up from nothing” life stories that had convinced her she could be the first woman in her family to finish grad school. He was the inspiration to her whole life — him and the kids — and watching him fall apart in pieces was more than she could bear. What made it worse was her son, being just like her, idolized him as well. She could not let her fears show in front of him. So, after she dropped Charlie off, she would ride around a bit, pulling bits of courage from wherever she could find them, and come in. Some days, her grandfather was barely there, and it was all she could do to give him a kiss, grab Charlie, and get the hell out of there before she started bawling. How would she look crying like a baby in her $200 running suit and matching shoes? She’d look like a yuppie lunatic, that’s how.
“What mischief are you two about to get into?” She asked, excited to see the clarity in G’pa Joe’s eyes. Charlie was really good for him.
“Hey Charley girl!” G’pa Joe smiled, and held out his long arms for an embrace. Charlie’s mother’s name was actually Charlotte Alice Tettleton Patterson, but her entire childhood she’d been called Charley. At around age sixteen, she had decided that was not feminine enough, and changed it to Charlotte, along with exchanging her jeans for skirts. Shakespeare was wrong — a name is everything. She had stopped being Charley the goofy tomboy and had acted like a Charlotte ever since.
Even though she was fiercely proud of her family history, the little that she knew, she dropped the Tettleton from her name. Somehow, Tettleton Patterson didn’t exactly roll off the tongue. She’d never be a CEO with a name no one wanted to say. So, instead, she was now Ms. Charlotte A. Patterson, LLC. Charlotte found it not at all odd that she signed her name as if she were in fact her business. Charlie sometimes would wonder aloud if her business had the same kind of identity problems. He also made it known that he thought Charley Patterson, Inc. would have been a much cooler name. Charlotte would always roll her eyes at both suggestions, especially because both points hit far too close to home for her comfort. Her son was annoyingly insightful, but fortunately, did not yet know.
“G’pa is going to show me the blues,” Charlie shot back with a grin. He loved all types of music, and knowing things other kids his age didn’t know gave him a genuine sense of pleasure.
“I sure hope you mean music. We have enough blues already.” No one smiled, just looked at her flatly, so she decided to perk up the mood a bit. It was she with the gloomy mood, but of course she couldn’t see that. It takes quite a bit of self-awareness to be an accurate mirror of oneself. She reached into her Dolce & Gabbana bag and found the objects of her search without looking. Nothing in that bag would have dared been out of its designated place. She pulled out three CDs, and waved them triumphantly over her head. She had, at some point, tried to switch her grandfather to an mp3 player, but he had balked, saying he was “about as high-damn-tech” as he “planned to damn get.” That man and his mouth. G’pa and Charlie both tried to read the set of discs as they waved back and forth. On the third pass, Charlie grabbed her arm and pulled them gently away.
“My usual perfect timing, I see,” Charlotte beamed, sincerely proud of herself.
Charlie read the CD’s titles. “R.L. Burnside, Matthew Block Recordings. Elmore James, Shake Your Money Maker. Okay, I give up. Who are these guys?” Somehow, Charlie had expected to have heard of some of them. He had in mind B.B. King. He had seen him on YouTube, and loved the guitar work.
G’pa Joe snatched the CDs from Charlie’s hand. “Give me those, boy. Bukka White? Charley girl, I knew I done raised you right! Wha’chu know ’bout Bukka White?” G’pa Joe seemed all the more impressed because she had made these CDs herself instead of asking some clerk.
Charlotte threw her head back and laughed as the elevator door opened. “Pops, how come you only sound like you from the South when you’re excited?”
“‘Cause that’s the onliest time it matters, I guess.” G’pa Joe was happy, the happiest he had been in quite a while. It wasn’t just the gift, or having something new to look forward to, though those little things made Saturdays worth getting up for. It was that she knew what he’d like, and that meant his Charley girl was still in there, just a little lost in all the fancy gift wrapping she cloaked herself in.
“Onliest,” Charlie repeated, laughing.
“Boy, you bet’ not pick that up from him,” Charlotte said. I don’t send you to school to sound like a Bama.”
G’pa grabbed the wheels of his chair more firmly than anti-lock brakes. Charlie almost fell over him, grabbing G’pa’s arm to keep from going butt-over-curls into the dining table they were passing.
“And what’s wrong with being a Bama? Miss Fancy? I’m proud to be a Bama.”
“Nothing Pops, if you earn it. We just can’t have him be a wannabe Bama.”
“Yeah, nice recovery Charley girl. You’re back in the will.” G’pa gave a half-smile, half-smirk, and started rolling his chair himself.
She smiled, the first real smile she had smiled in days. “Thanks, Pops. I wouldn’t want to miss out on all this here,” she said, waving her arms like a game show hostess as she looked from side to side.
G’pa Joe was ahead of her, and would not let himself turn around to watch. “Ignoring you,” is all he said.
From the distance behind them, Singer could be heard calling out in his New Yawk accent. “I sure hope you brought something good this time. I’m really starting to get sick of the gangsta rap.”
G’pa called back without looking. “Tell M&M that. It’s her noise, not mine.”
“You tell her. She’s your girlfriend,” Singer yelled back.
“Ah’m gon’ kill that fool, I swear I will.” G’pa muttered. Charlotte and Charlie were grinning broadly, and buzzing at him like a swarm of sugar-happy bees.
“Girlfriend, Pops?” Charlotte teased. “Tell us, who is she? You gettin’ any action, you old dog?”
“Girl shut up with that stuff in front of the boy. He at an impressionable age.”
“How is that different than the stuff you said to me earlier?” Charlie said, stirring the pot more.
“Don’t change the subject,” his mother said. “We’ll get to what kind of influence your great-grandfather is in a minute. I want to know who this Eminem you getting ready to marry is.”
“I know who she is,” Charlie said, egging his mom on now.
“Girl, I’m 167 years old. I ain’t ’bout to marry nobody. I’m liable to have another stroke in the middle of the ceremony.”
“You are not going to have another stroke,” Charlotte said.
“If the wedding don’t kill me, the honeymoon would mos’ likely be fatal. And I swear, I would sho’ miss that woman when she died.”
Both Charlie and his mom giggled. G’pa Joe was on a roll. “Pops, you are something else.” Charlotte shook her head from side to side, still smiling broadly. She plopped herself down on G’pa Joe’s bed with the mismatched floral print sheets, and leaned back against the wall he used instead of a bed rail. “So, seriously,” she said, “do you have a girlfriend?”
“Mary is not exactly a girlfriend; not at my age.”
“You’re never too old for love, Pops,” she replied.
G’pa Joe patted Charlotte fondly on the knee. “Maybe you’re right; in any case, she’s my friend, and she’s not doing so well. You know, she’s only 69, but she’s got Alzheimer’s and it gets bad sometimes.”
“Like today?” Charlie asked.
“Yeah, I think so. I’m going to check on her soon as you folks leave.”
“Pops, go do that, it’s more important. We’ll come back next week and listen to the CDs, maybe even go to the park.”
“I’d love that, Charley girl, but you don’t have to leave. You just got here and Mary Margaret’s probably asleep now.”
“She got upset before,” Charlie told his mom. “G’pa said they would give her something to sleep.”
“Yep. ‘Sides, I want to hear me some Bukka White.” G’pa Joe said, turning to Charlie.
Charlie popped the CD in G’pa’s boom box. They had gotten him a portable when he complained that the desktop version that sat on his night stand couldn’t go with him outside. Charlie gave the other one to the sunroom downstairs, much to the absolute delight of the residents.
Immediately “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues” started playing, filling the room with a beautiful gravelly baritone voice, and down-home Mississippi guitar playing. Charlotte grabbed Charlie by the hands, and the two started dancing up a fool while G’pa kept time slapping both knees and his chest. Charlotte grinned, her pink gums showing, and threw back her head, twirling with her son. For a moment, it was the old Charley, and time was not the absolute commander of her life.
Charlie and his mother began singing. Charlotte realized they hadn’t sung together in what seemed like years. It had been so long in fact, Charlie had forgotten she couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag. Oh. My. God. Her high notes sounded like a squirrel being caught in a vice. Carrying a chainsaw. While scratching on a blackboard. To her delight, Charlie loved it.
G’pa Joe reached in his night table and pulled out two spoons he’d secreted from the dining hall. It was Toot who had taught him to play. He couldn’t remember what he did last week, and increasingly, had trouble remembering the people he lived with every day, as the dreams began to take charge of his mind and his life, but lately, he could remember every beat, every rhythm, every note that Toot ever taught him. It was as if he was living in 1942 and 2012 was a dream.
Today, 2012 seemed pretty darn good. His family was happy, and that’s all that mattered. All, that is, except Mary. He would have to deal with that fairly soon.