Monday, November 24, 2008

Whackadoodle Times: The Novel

I started a new novel today. I don't know where it will go, or what will happen with it, but it sure was fun writing it. It's first draft, finished it about three minutes ago. Enjoy!

Whackadoodle Times

I know exactly when things changed. Most people can’t point to the time and place when life went whackadoodle. I can. I suppose if I were introspective I might be able to look back in time and say that it all started dissolving when Henry Ford made the car. Or when God made man. Or Goddess made woman. Or when the first two haploid gametes fused to become a zygote.

Or when I got married. Had children. Became filled with ennui. Lived the dissipated life.

Only I wasn’t filled with ennui and my life wasn’t any more dissipated than anyone else’s. At least anyone else that I knew.

Which could have part of the problem. But I digress. I babble. Thus my father’s nickname for me: Brooke. I added the “e” just for fun when I was in college. I thought that would stop my classmates from asking me if my brother’s name was “Up a Creek” or “Down the River.”

It wasn’t a very good college.

Anyway, it began once upon a time, I suppose, the day Hayword and I were sitting out by the pool. It was a beautiful bluish kind of day. (We were close to La-la Land at the time, come on. How blue could it be? It’s what the locals call fog and the scientists call the Earth going to Hell in a hand basket--or in a designer handbag, given we were in Californ-eye-aye.)

Hayword was working on a script. Yes, I was married to a Hollywood writer. And he was such a cliché, really. One day he was in great demand; the next day no one would return his calls. This made him slightly neurotic and a little bit moody. Some would say he was manic-depressive, but he was not. Can’t a person drink to blackout some days and cry uncontrollably other days without being labeled? Maybe that person just has good days and bad days.

Not that Hayword ever drank to a blackout or cried uncontrollably.

Someone in our house did that, but I don’t think it was Hayword.

But let me get back to you about that.

On this particular day, Hayword was working on the rewrite of a script that had already sold. He had gotten the money. So he was on his way to the stage when he started feeling guilty over the massive amount of filthy lucre he received for writing down lies. That was how he characterized it. When he was talking to a stud head, he waxed on about story and drama and point of view. When he groused to me, Hayword said he was merely taking out a book from his library of lies, i.e., his brain, and transcribing it.

So the doorbell rang. We both got up to answer it. Hayword may have wanted a break from the manuscript--or maybe he was trying to get away from me. I was talking about our daughter Fern who had just quit college and moved in with her boyfriend in Santa Cruz. (Yes: Fern. I wanted to carry on the woodland fiction that began with my name. Was Fern grounded, rooted or feathery and wild like her name? No. She was as flaky as a French croissant. A real French croissant. Made with butter, butter, butter. And gorgeous white freshly ground flour. Of course, Fern was gluten-intolerant so this metaphor would be meaningless to her.)

We lived in an exclusive neighborhood near the beach (a beach that was getting closer every day). We knew all our neighbors and they knew us. We attended each other’s birthday parties, our children’s weddings, and any backyard barbecues, and we occasionally slept with each other’s spouses. And by “we,” I mean “they.” (Most of the time.) Personally, I’d seen too many of them naked and heard their views on too many subjects. This seeing and hearing left me unaroused.

We knew the people in our ‘hood, but still, Hayword should not have opened the door without even looking through the keyhole. We do have a gate. Hayword must have left it open. He wanted to pretend he was still that boy from the Midwest who knew and liked everyone. A boy from the Midwest who believed in the goodness of everyone. Every time he started dancing down this particular nostalgic yellow-brick road, I reminded him he grew up fifty miles from Detroit, Michigan which was the murder capital of the entire world when he was a boy. “Not the world,” he’d say. “Just the United States.”

Hayword opened the door and a woman stood on our threshold. She wasn’t dressed like a bag lady. But she was not dressed like anyone I ever saw in La-la Land or environs. Not that I paid much attention to stuff like that. Much. She was Caucasian, first. Probably Irish. English. One of those pale tribes. But her skin was slightly brown, as though she’d been climbing a mountain or windsurfing. You know what I mean. She had that burnished look of being outdoors a great deal. Her brown hair was pulled away from her head in those nasty Rasta braids. And she wore some kind of nondescript dress (truly) with pants on beneath it. She had a huge bag slung over her shoulders.

Come to think of it her style was a bit bag ladyish.

She looked at us with clear blue eyes and said, “You got a pool house?”

They say women are sentimental suckers. Ain’t so. Men are. Yep. They are such soft touches. Especially when it comes to women. And Hayword was no exception. I don’t mean he was leering at this woman. She was about my age. Too old to be lusting after. Too young to be tramping around. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I don’t know. She looked smart. All there. He probably figured she was just down on her luck. I figured she was selling something. And I wasn’t buyin’.

Hayword was.

“Sure, we got a pool house,” he said. “Why?” I knew then he had stepped fully into his guilt stage of the game: He wanted to do good deeds to assuage his rich guilty conscience.

“It’s not a pool house,” I said. Hayword looked at me. “It’s more of a garden house.”

“Garden?” Hayword asked.

“I’m going to put in a garden,” I said. Some freaking day I was going to put in a garden.

“So you have a garden house?” the woman asked.

The wind shifted then, and let’s just say that she was a little earthy-smelling. Musky. Sweaty. Not sweat that has turned. But that rich smell you like on your lover, not on a stranger.

“Look, Eartha,” I said, “whatever you’re selling--”

“I’m not selling,” she said. “And how did you know my name? My father nicknamed me Earth because I smelled like dirt. I added the ‘a’ just so it wouldn’t be so strange. But then people nicknamed me Eartha Kitten. I didn’t really like that. Eartha Cat I can dig. Eartha Jaguar. Eartha Cougar.” She was looking at me, but I could tell she was paying attention to my husband too. “I would like to stay in your garden house for a while,” she said. “I’m a traveller, and I need a rest.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“In exchange,” she said. “I will do one great thing a day.”

I looked at my husband. He was smiling. A sly smile. He loved these kinds of distractions.

“Oh yeah?” he said. “What one great thing would you do today?”

“Let me see the garden house, and then I’ll decide.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Hayword,” I said. “Are you crazy?”

“Excuse us,” he said. “My wife and I need to discuss this.“ He shut the door gently on Eartha. I stood looking at him with my hands on my hips, just like some stereotypical women in some bad movie who was always ruining the fun of her infantile husband.

“Brooke,” he said. “This is gold, gold! We’re locked up in this mansion where we never experience real life. Here’s someone offering to do one great thing for us. Even if it’s just for today, don’t you want to see what it is? Just for fun.” He grinned. “Come on. In the old days, you’d walk a mile for a good time.”

“And I’d walk ten miles away from a bad time,” I said.

“Let’s just see where it goes,” he said. “Might make a good movie.”

“She could be a psychopath,” I said. “A serial killer.”

“I’ll make sure she’s not,” he said.

He opened the door again. Eartha Kitten was still standing there.

“We’ll let you do one great thing,” he said, “and then we’ll see. First, though, we need to know that you’re not a psychopath, a serial killer, or on the FBI’s most wanted list.”

“Oh good lord,” I said. “Just stamp sucker on our foreheads.”

Eartha held her bag out to Hayword. “You can check for weapons,” she said. “I am basically a nonviolent person, though.”

Hayword didn’t take the bag. Neither did I. I wondered if millions of people in the audience were screaming, “Don’t, don’t, don’t let her in, you idiot!”

She slung the pack over her shoulder again. “My name is Eartha Connolly.”

I squinted. Her real name could not be Eartha. It was just some kind of terrible coincidence.

She seemed to be waiting to hear who we were. I didn’t say a word. Hayword moved out of the way so she could come inside.

“First, the one great thing,” he said.

Eartha stepped into our house. I shook my head. He was going to learn to lock that goddamn gate if I had to shoot him to get him to remember.

Hayword led the way through the house and out the back to the pool. Eartha didn’t look to her left or her right. She was not obviously staking out the place. We walked along the pool and a bit away from the house to the garden house. Hayword opened the door and let Eartha go in first.

I stayed outside.

“Go sit by the pool,” this strange woman said. “I’ll be right out with the one great thing.” She handed Hayword her backpack. He took it this time. He looked at me and grinned. If I hadn’t been so annoyed with him, I would have laughed.

We went back to the pool and sat in the lounge chairs. Hayword started looking at manuscript pages again. I lay back and wondered if I could really put a garden somewhere back near the pool house. And I kept looking over my shoulders to see what Eartha was doing. Probably sticking our valuables under her baggy dress.

And then, she came out of the pool house--garden house--carrying two filled martini glasses. She handed one to me and the other to Hayword. I looked at the drink. It was slightly darker than any martini I had ever had. And the glass was warm. Room-temperature.

“This is your one great thing?” I asked.

“How do you know we’re not both recovering alcoholics?” Hayword said, “and this will end a decade-long dry spell.”

“If that’s the case,” she said, “you might want to do something about that garden house. If you went by the contents of the house, it should be called the liquor cabinet.”

Hayword laughed.

“There is one caveat,“ Eartha said. “You have a choice. This will be the one great thing for the day. And there are only two glasses of this drink. Once you drink it. It’s done. It’s over. I cannot make another. This one great thing will be gone forever. Do you understand?“

I frowned. I wasn’t sure I understood.

Hayword said, “Sure.“

And then he downed the martini. Just like that. I yelled his name to stop him, but it was too late. She could have poisoned it. She could have put drugs in it. She could have done anything to it. We had no idea.

“Oh man,” Hayword said. “What did you do, Eartha? Brooke, you’ve got to taste this.”

I sighed.

“She’s waiting to see if you’ll go down,” Eartha said.

“What?” Hayword asked. “Oh.” He laughed. “I don’t think she poisoned it.”

I smelled the drink. The scent of juniper went up my nostrils and seemed to tickle my brain a bit. I closed my eyes, carefully brought the glass up to my lips, and took a sip.

For a moment, I thought I was in a forest. I could smell the pine trees. I could feel the slight chill of the snow on the floor of the forest. And somewhere, someone was brewing hot chocolate.

The martini had a slight sweet taste of chocolate.

“Just the right amount of gin and vermouth,” Hayword said. “And maybe lemon? I love lemon. Or orange. I wish I had savored it. That is a continual lesson for me to learn. Savor, savor, savor.”

I took another sip.

It was the best drink I had ever tasted.

I held my glass out to Hayword.

“No,” Eartha said. “One each. That’s yours.”

“Do you want the rest of it?” I asked.

“I don’t drink,” she said. “So do we have a deal?”

Hayword looked at me. I looked back at him. “I want to see some ID,” he said. “And then we’ll take it one day at a time. One great thing at a time.”

“Good,” she said.

Hayword stood and reached out his hand to her. “I’m Hayword,” he said, “and this is Brooke.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said. “And now, I’ve been walking for a long while. I’d like to rest.”

“I’ll show you where everything is,” Hayword said.

He picked up her pack and together they went into the garden house. I sat in my lounge chair looking at the martini. It was absolutely the best thing I had ever drank. I suddenly felt like that little boy in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who just wants more of the magical Turkish delight the White Witch feeds him. I wanted to keep drinking this liquid forever. I felt so relaxed after two sips. Happy. Contented. I wanted more. And more.

I stared at the gulp of drink left in the bottom of the glass.

Who did she think she was creating something like this and only making enough for two drinks?

I was no Edmund Peevish in Narnia. Or whatever his name was. And she wasn’t the White Witch.

I tossed the rest of the drink in the straggly bush next to me.

I gasped. What had I done?

I stared at the bush and licked my lips.


Cynthia said...

Very intriguing Kim! This is exciting. Love following your blog dear.
Thank you.

kerrdelune said...

More, more, more, please.............

All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.