Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fiction first draft - why not?

Untitled (Volkswagen) by Don Eddy, 1971 - Photorealism

Who would name their baby girl Fontana?  A place of auto wrecking yards, trucks, a steel mill and original turf of the Hells Angels.  She wore it through grade school, wishing she could outgrow it like the hideous oxblood faux Mary Janes that she didn't pick, would never have picked.  And how come Elizabeth, by the sixth grade, had become Renee and wouldn't turn her head unless you said the new name and said it right?  She could almost live with Tana, with the endless Name Game teasing, Tana Tana bo banna,  bonana fana fo fanna, fee fie mo manna, Tana.   Something genuinely exotic but still weird like Cuernavaca, rhyming with Frere Jacques was out of the question.  She heard them ask, who would name their baby girl Cuernavaca?  Marrakech.  Coeur d'Alene.  Fontana.  Fuck.

If she thought about her name, which she tried, with narrow success, not to do, it still felt like ugly clothes, crap loser blue plastic raincoat, the hand-me-downs from her aunt and not the pretty ones that made her look almost twice her real age, which at the time was 10.  While we're asking questions, who sends a 10-year-old to school in one of her 21-year-old aunt's sheath dresses?  If she had ever once drawn a normal breath, held a normal thought, she couldn't say when.  She imagined the big old freak wagon rolling through town and her being tossed on board with the rest of the trash, her parents laughing after her,  "Write when you get work."  Things like that, they thought were so funny.

How she ended up with her beaming beacon of a son she never knew.  It was one of about two things at the time that made her think maybe God was real and maybe even paid attention.  It was enough to balance all the other evidence that said God?   Who are you kidding?  Two things, her son and her still being alive.  Two not small pieces of evidence, though smaller than, say,  two obsidian bird-point arrowheads, but solid like you could find them in your pocket when you needed to be reassured, which felt like about 14 times a day.

She missed her son, the weeks he stayed over with his dad and usually she worked late,  declaring it bedtime when she got home.  No one to read to, no one who insisted on staging elaborate dramas with his stuffed animals, mentioning from time to time that the voices she did sounded kind of the same.

It was one of those empty house weeks that Ray called and said he'd stop by when she got home.  Even when she knew nothing, like nothing, was going to happen unless you counted a version of messing around that spiraled around itself over, how many? maybe 15, 18 years, if she squinted just so, it almost looked like romance.  In her skin it felt like romance.

That day she had lunch by herself, the Japanese place between the supermarket and the drugstore.  An outside table where she could watch the cars and not feel extraordinarily singular and conspicuous.  It was April and there were Santa Ana winds, air so dry it would curl toast, the sun bouncing off windshields and bumpers as the cars slipped past.  She kept her sunglasses on.

All the usual particles get blown out to sea during a Santa Ana.  The light in the valleys, even downtown, doesn't have to struggle so hard to make ordinary things shine.  Everything seems closer and more defined, no cloaking haze to cloud perception.

(to be continued - I ran out of time today and thought if I didn't post it, I'd talk myself out of it.) 


beth coyote said...

O I like this. It's a perfect description of the oddness, the otherness we feel as children when everyone else has new dresses to wear to school, not the hand-me-downs from some distant cousin, the sweater set too old for us and doesn't fit and we have to pretend we went with our mother to the only department store and bought *new* not pilled up already and we wear the damn thing every week. Even though we live in a detached house and not an apartment and our mother doesn't work but still, someone's else's clothes.

Melissa Green said...

Marylinn, this is wonderful. It's wry, ironic, touching, familiar and terribly funny at the same time. It's really very well written, and I can't wait to see more, read more, inhabit that awful/awry/second-hand yet still shining world the oddly named Fontana inhabits

another girl in pilled, used frumpiness that never fit, Mary Janes which were hated and hurt the feet that stomped through life with them. This is a keeper. xo

RachelVB said...

"In her skin it felt like romance."
I love that. And the description of Santa Anas and LA smog which I can see in my bones.
Looking forward to you having more time for this.

Anonymous said...


totally sucked in by the third sentence.

And we dont even know who the lady is.. you've got me.

Love the style.

more please

Jayne said...

Marylinn- So glad you didn't talk yourself out of posting your WIP. It's wonderful! Cuernavaca made me laugh. The voice is engaging, and the pace is pitch perfect.

This is a girl, a woman, to whom we can all relate. Who didn't have the hand-me-downs? Or ill-fitting, wrong shoes? Or a name that made them cringe? (Me! The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, dear Jayne... you pain... ahhh!)

Interestingly, I've been posting fiction off the cuff, working in the mistral wind of southern France. It must be spring--rebirth, breathing new life into the old (or just new life), the willingness to explore. Stay with it Marylinn. It's wonderful. :)

Erin in Morro Bay said...

"A place of auto wrecking yards, trucks, a steel mill and original turf of the Hells Angels" - not to mention the world's biggest slag heap! This is wonderful writing my dear, I could feel my lips parching with your description of the Santa Anas. I think on some level we can all relate to Fontana's feeling of otherness during school days - even the girls we all thought were perfect.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Thank you. Add to that a grandmother who saved feed sacks to make clothes for the children, which never happened, whew. It takes so little to be cut off from the mainstream. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Thank you. I'm pretty sure there is more to come, I don't know how much but then, I don't need to, do I? Thank you, especially, for funny. Even my Girl Scout uniform was too small, and I think we got it new. Sigh. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - Thank you. Right now, it seems the main thing for which I am trying to find time. I would not have imagined... xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - Thank you. More is what I want, too. Stay tuned and please check back. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - Thank you. I woke up last night thinking about this, the next sentence, the next scene. Our parallel winds; something is afoot. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Thank you. And a SLAG HEAP. That shouldn't go unmentioned. I would like to know from some of those perfect-seeming girls, what was it like, not feeling like squirming or wishing for invisibility too much of the time. xo

Melissa Green said...

Erin nailed it- 'otherness'

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Yes, in most of the cases we know, Early Onset Otherness. xo

Sherry O'Keefe said...

yes. don't back out. see how many of us hear you?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Sherry - Thank you. It is/you all are a wildly affirming number. I think there may a new increment today, needing a quick read-through. xo