Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Fiction

Hey everybody. I'm participating in Friday Fiction today so here is an excerpt of my current NaNo project. Remember it's a rough draft but comments are encouraged. This will be a story about God's redeeming Grace so I want it to be good.

Chapter 1
 January 1970   
      Consuela put the thick envelope deep inside the old roll top desk.  She had taken her mail next door to have a neighbor read while her baby slept alone in the apartment she had up until recently shared with her husband John Richardson. “All lies,” she hissed. “How dare they challenge my competency as a mother? Retinitis pigmentosa is stealing my sight. I won’t let it steal my baby. John was just as much to blame as I was. He never helped with Jack, but he’s going to let them lie and say the baby was left in his own waste. How dare he. How dare he!” Consuela’s anger boiled up inside her. She paced the living room muttering under her breath through clenched teeth. A painful throbbing started in her temples. “I don’t care what anyone says. I am a good mother!”  Consuela collapsed on the couch. Instinctively she picked up one of the ashtrays John left behind off of the side table and hurled it at the wall. She heard it land with a muffled thud on the carpeted floor.
       The noise woke up 8-month-old baby Jack sleeping in his bassinet in the bedroom. Consuela took a deep breath and went into the bedroom. The baby was in need of a change. Before taking him to the changing table she got paper towels to clean him with and wet them with hot water. Jack wailed as his bottom was wiped vigorously. “Now you just hush. You have to be clean. The snobbish social worker says so. She says I can’t take care of you because I’m almost blind. I’ll show them. I’ll show them all.” After diapering him Consuela yanked the baby off the table and sat with him in the living room.
       The couch sagged in the middle so she moved to one side. The fabric was fading from old age or maybe it was her failing eyesight. John had promised new furniture someday but someday never came in their short three year marriage. He was so sure he could handle marriage even marriage to a woman losing her vision but he was wrong and shortly after Jack was born he just up and left. Their marriage wasn’t all unhappy so his leaving caught her by surprise.
       Jack’s crying brought Consuela out of thoughts of the past and trying to figure out what she could have done differently.  She laid him in the sagging part of the couch and went to the kitchen for a bottle. She filled it with canned formula and warmed it in boiling water on the stove. She screwed on the top and tested it on her wrist like she’d been taught in her Mother’s With Low Vision class at the Los Angeles Braille Institute. She had been reluctant to go at first thinking it was only for those who read Braille. She had never learned the print system of raised dots. But a social worker had convinced her it was also for people with low vision. They had cooking classes and mobility training as well as support groups.
      The bottle was a tad hot so she ran cold water from the faucet on it and tested it again. It seemed fine. Before leaving the kitchen she got a towel out of a drawer so she could burp the baby. Thinking of happier times with John when their romance was new had put her in a better mood. She picked up the baby gently and cradled him in her arms. He sucked the bottle eagerly and quickly. She set the empty bottle on the side table and put him on her shoulder for a burp. They didn’t have a coffee table in front of the sofa. One of John’s last acts of kindness was to remove it because Consuela had started bumping into it all the time. She patted the baby’s back until a burp came with a velocity she didn’t know an infant was capable of.  “That would have made your daddy proud.  Now it’s a bright sunny day so why don’t you and I go for a walk?”
       Consuela put the baby in the stroller which she kept by the door. She knew her neighborhood and her eyesight was still good enough to safely go out for some fresh air as long as it was a nice day.  She wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to see well enough to go out. Her vision seemed to be failing more rapidly than ever in the six months since John left. She forced the accusations of the social worker out of her mind and hummed a tune she’d picked up from the radio somewhere. She wasn’t sure of the words but the tune cheered her.
     When she got back home she put Jack in his crib and got a spoon for the pint of rocky road ice cream she had bought at the corner market. She turned on the television. She didn’t bother with a bowl but dug right into the carton finishing it off while the TV droned on in the background. She tried to listen but the voices in her head were loud today. The louder they got, the quicker she ate. She was sick and exhausted by the time the condition of the carton equaled that of her heart-empty. 
        Consuela had felt shame when news of her divorce got out and she left the church. But it was only a few blocks from her home and most of her neighbors went there. She’d only felt this alone once before: when she was a teen ager and her mother had done the unthinkable. Her father had moved the family then and that had seemed to help so that is what she planned on doing now. Consuela didn’t know how but she would leave this place and start over.
        Before she went to sleep that night she thought of ways she could save money from her Social Security Disability Check. The rules didn’t allow for a savings account. It seemed like for every dollar a person saved two were cut from the small check which was barely enough to survive. If John hadn’t promised to pay for the apartment, she didn’t know what she would do. But she also knew he wasn’t always good at keeping promises. But Consuela was determined to get out of the neighborhood where everyone knew her shame.
        “I’ll go where no one knows me. I’ll let them believe I’m a widow. John never comes around to see Jack anyway and if he does, he’ll just have to play along with my secret. I just have to get out of here and go somewhere. But where?” she pondered aloud as she drifted off to sleep.
     Months passed routinely. Consuela went to Braille Institute for classes. She was thankful for the daycare since it gave her a break from the demands of motherhood. Her declining vision stabilized and she was happier than she’d ever been as Mother’s Day approached. She had been ready to burst the year before. She was sure Jack would be a Mother’s Day baby but he came 4 days later. It reminded her of a song she heard once about the story of Lazarus. There was a line about God being 4 days late but still right on time. Sometimes she wondered where God was.

There are more stories at An Open Book

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God Makes All Things Beautiful In His Time

     It's that time of year again, no not Thanksgiving. It's NaNoWriMo time.(Okay have to admit that now the tune Howdy Dowdy Time is going thru my head). But now back to the blog subject. NaNoWriMo happens during the month of November and it's the insane attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel  in 30 days. They say a 50,000 word novel but the reality is that 50,000 words, in spite of being a herculean task, is not a novel. And writing that fast and furious means cutting and editing later. I'm picking up where Atrophy of the Heart left off. It left off with a question about a neighbor boy. I'm mixing fact with fiction once again to explore how one's faith can be nearly destroyed and built back up. I've got new friends supporting me along the way. On Facebook there's a page called Writing  Fun and Support and as far as I can tell we're all Christians which is helpful. We can encourage each other to continue to glorify God with our words. Maybe it's because I'm so far behind (I may not finish) but I posted the other day that "Writing words that count is more important than word counts."

      This time around, the subject matter is out of the realm of my firsthand knowledge. My main characters are Catholic. The mother and father are divorced. The mother has some issues with mental illness and the son turns to alcohol and drugs. It is his faith that is all but destroyed and built back up. And it is this man's testimony that I am basing the book on with his permission. He is a friend of mine that I haven't seen since childhood. There are some holes in the testimony I pulled off of his blog and that is where my fiction storytelling skills come in. And of course he just states the facts mixed with his philosophical musing so being that I'm writing a novel, I need to call upon those storytelling skills.

    Now you would think I need alot of research because there are so many areas in this story that I know nothing or very little about. I do need to do research but not now. To get those 50,000 words I have to write fast and furious what will essentially be an outline with corrections to be made later. I have done a little reading so hopefully no major changes will have to be made.

     It just dawned on me that it might be nice to have a time machine and go back to fix my friends life so I have no testimony of abuse and pain to base my story on. Did I learn nothing from Atrophy? The main character in that book learned the hard way that to change the facts is to change the very essence of the person. My friend is doing very good things with his life now and is happily married with 4 beautiful children.

     So no time machines in this story, just seeing how God makes all things beautiful in His time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back to the Glory Hole

     My morning routine involves the morning news, coffee (notice I didn't say a cup) and whatever HGTV has to offer that day. This morning it was a re-run of That's Clever!
     One of the featured artists was Jeff Price, a glass blower from my hometown of Santa Ana, California. Today he was making an ornament and he explained that the reheating chamber (a very hot furnace) was called the glory hole. As he worked on the piece he said that when the glass gets too cold to work with he has to take it back to the glory hole. 
      That got me to thinking. How often does my faith grow cold? Are the trials and heartache due to God putting me in His glory hole so He can work with me? 
      Jeff used a long pole to get the glass out of the furnace and to put it in the glory hole. He had to keep his distance because of the heat. But then he sat at his work bench with the glass right next to him as he shaped it with the jack.
       When I am in the midst of a trial I feel as if God is distant. And when I realize he is working on me I am grateful that He'd care to put the effort into the hot mess that I am. I am grateful so I feel Him near. He is shaping me. I may have to go back and forth to the glory hole during the process but He IS Shaping Me. 
       When Jeff had finished shaping his piece and attached extra glass that he shaped into a hanger so the ornament could be put on display he put it in the annealing oven. This is an oven that allows the glass to be cooled slowly so it won't break. 
       It takes me time after a trial to really realize what God has done.  I wonder about it all through the process and when the worst of it (the reheating) is over I am not always sure what has just happened. He brought me through and was with me during the process but for what purpose. Sometimes my heart is in the annealing oven longer than other times.
     Oh, and I didn't even mention the torch Jeff used which is Hotter than the glory hole. It is used to smooth the glass and bring out the color. All in all, Jeff put in alot of time in a hot studio to make one little ornament.
     God is just as willing to patiently and skillfully work on little ol' me. He knows which oven to use and how much time is needed being reheated. He always picks up the right tool to shape me. And He knows how much frit (broken pieces of glass) and which colors to use to make the one of a kind ornament that is me. Hopefully I will display His glory.