Thursday, August 28, 2008

Christmas in July. A novel exerpt by E. A. Monroe (who writes like a pro)


My great novel of love and loss, self discovery and untimate redempion (or funk) will have to wait.

I was going to offer a chapter or to here, but, as I'd said before, my files have become corrupt. And so have I.

And, by the way, have you ever tried writin'? It's impossible.

Genius in literature might be defined as a richness in human content.

I have had one editor say "I'm not sure if writers are really human."

The sense of detatchment when something really awful happens to us. The rush to the computer so we can get it all down. The suffering on your face. Hoping somebody else will notice....Your blindness to friends who too may be on a raft, very much like yours. Humanity on its raft; you on your raft. And it's so much easier to fire up the old Evinrude or airboat and get the hell out of there. Thing happen to writers and they seem to somehow get themselves detached from the tragedy, as if they were somewhere else.

Are writers really human?


It is then that I uncorrupt my files by the aid of my slightly incompetent techie (my son can't help me any more; he's got his own box of riddles)--and I finally retrieve a file. Hey it's E.A. Monroe, whose writings I am particularly fond of.

Richness in human content? The Oklahoma lady sure has the human content. Certainly from her youth.

So without further conundrums (Sean Connery manque: "A conundrum is like a puzzle--Aw forget it. Your mother is a whore!)--I will set on these pages something I consider really fine from a book she is putting togfether. She complains that it's hard to pare your writing, beat up on your own child, but I certainly like this exerpt from Liz's work in progress.

SUMMER DOLDRUMS


by


e. a. Monroe


The summer doldrums come when the sun bakes the Granite Mountains into a hard boil scorcher and the wind, what little wind trickles through the dust and the heat waves, blows a breath that withers and browns the wild grasses growing in the fields and along the roadsides. It’s a wind that rushes straight out of Momma’s oven and singes the eyebrows right off my face when I open the oven door.

We have rebuilt our tree house in the old mesquite tree that grows beside the road a couple of times. Every year, as soon as school lets out for the summer, we tackle last year’s tree house and give it a remodel. The tree house isn’t much more than a frame of 2x4s nailed to the mesquite tree’s limbs and covered over with warped planks salvaged from the scrap heap left by the carpenters who are busy erecting another new house on our street. We scrape together all the nails we can find, plus a few nails confiscated from workbenches and garages.We nail boards to the rickety tree house and brag about how grand this summer’s tree house is gonna look, our voices droning like the cicadas high in the branches above us. I nail a couple of boards across a Y-branch higher up in the tree and claim my look out perch.
Tired of hammering and nailing, the gang sprawls on the floor and dangle their feet and legs over the edge. The tree house doesn’t have any walls and we figure the space between the supporting tree limbs and the bottom of the floorboards an excellent place to cram any “prisoners.”
Beneath the floor the boards bristle with nail spikes.“Hey, what do ya wanna do now?”
“Wanna ride bikes down Tin Can Hill and jump the ditch?”“Wanna ’splore Devil’s Canyon and pick up arrow heads?”“Hey, let’s climb Mount Baldy and search for your grandpa’s treasure chest!”“Naw, it’s too hot,” meets every suggestion of what to do next .
We’d done everything there was to do that summer. Thanks to ideas stolen from watching too many black and white Tarzan movies and Johnny Weissmuller swinging from tree to tree to rescue Jane and Boy, we had hacked and trampled jungle trails through a couple acres of tall Johnson grass, posted warning signs, and laid booby traps — mostly trenches covered over with cut Johnson grass.
We’d caught, tamed and released horny toads. We’d done our best to dig a hole clear to China, before we finally gave up, splashed water into our “swimming pool” from a hose stretched across the street from our house, and wallowed in the resulting mud bath.We’d made numerous trips to Lake Lugert where our dad fished and to Craterville where we rode the Ferris Wheel and the Tilt-a-Whirl, smacked into the maze of glass walls at the Fun House, and bruised our butts at the skating rink.We’d climbed all over the mountains that rimmed our small town and played dead for the turkey vultures. We’d been to the movies a couple of times. The Craig family who owned the Five & Dime store also owned the tiny movie theatre and it was only open during the summer, except for an afternoon matinee on Christmas Eve.We’d been carted off to church and revivals and church camp; spent nights on the farm at Grandma and Grandpa’s Timmons or in Guthrie with the other grandparents.
We’d played and cheated at every game we knew how to play or had invented. We’d camped out in the yard, hiked the network of bar ditches and explored all the nooks and crannies around town. We’d ridden our bikes everywhere and even played countless games of bicycle hockey with baseball bats and a baseball
.One time, Momma gave us a dollar and sent us to town to buy a loaf of Mead’s Fine Bread. We almost didn’t survive the hot mile walk home from town. By the time we hiked into the yard, our tongues dragged the dirt gravel road and I had smashed the loaf of bread flatter’n a pancake. Momma was mad about the squashed bread but we figured she wouldn’t make us walk to town for bread again any time soon.“We oughta clip some coupons from the Reader’s Digest and trade ’em for candy at Cothrum & Reeser’s Grocery Store.”The folks at the grocery store always let us trade coupons for candy; didn’t matter what kind of coupons either — 10 cents off a box of laundry detergent or 5 cents off a bar of soap.
With coupons we could fetch a bunch of 1-cent candy, 2-cent cinnamon suckers, 5-cent candy bars and divvy up the sweet loot between Robert, Susan and me and any neighborhood kids hanging out with us.“I swear it’s hotter ’n the Sahara Desert!”
“So, what are we gonna do now?
Can’t build any more on this old tree house without nails.”“I’m thinking,” I said, wondering why I always had to come up with all the ideas. I scratch my butt, fingertips scraping the patch Momma had zigzag stitched on the seat of my shorts after I ripped them taking another trip down the Devil’s Slide during one of our Girl Scout cookouts.I didn’t have to think too hard before an idea struck — a grand idea and maybe one of my best ideas all summer long.
“Here’s what we’re gonna do, see. We’re all gonna run home, make up some kinda costume and a mask, too — don’t forget a mask if you got one — and then we’ll meet back in our yard.”We all scrambled or jumped out of the tree house and everyone darted off home. “And don’t forget to bring a brown paper bag!”Robert, Susan and I dash home and root through the closets looking for costume stuff. Robert still had his Mad Hatter costume from his school play; Susan only needed to add her battered straw cowboy hat, gun holster riding low on her hips and cap pistols twirling and she was Anne Oakley.
I swiped Momma’s flouncy purple and pink lace petticoat she never wore and some costume jewelry.We met the other kids in the yard, our paper bags crinkling, costumes rustling and the summer heat a dull memory lost to the fun of a wishful plan.
We set off and make our circuit through the neighborhood, house by house, knocking on doors or pressing doorbells. Only this time we didn’t run away and hide. We wait until the lady of the house answers the door and then we shout, “Trick or treat!”After a surprised look and oh-my-gosh-don’t-ya’ll-look-cute laughter while we giggle and rattle our paper bags for a handout, she said, “Let me see what I’ve got in the house. Don’t ya’ll look so cute!”We made an unexpected haul of cookies and candy that hot summer afternoon going from house to house trick-or-treating. Later, when we sprawled around in the tree house, our feet and legs swinging over the edge of the floorboards, the torture chamber below empty of prisoners, and we feasted on our treats, we decide we’d make this an annual event — Halloween in July.We didn’t have to clip any coupons from the latest Reader’s Digest or hike to town and back. And, the best thing of all? Momma didn’t even get mad.Trick or TreatSmell my feetGive me somethingGood to eat!
Posted by EA Monroe a
Thursday, July 19, 2007

9 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Great opening. I love these kinds of openings myself, although I hear they are not that popular these days. I'm swamped at the minute but will come back and read the rest later.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Take all the time you need, Charles.

But you- all come back now, hear?

ea monroe said...

Hey, I enjoyed your opener, too, Ivan! You caught your breath after all that puffing! Well, I've certainly wondered if I was human the way I'd rather sit back and observe all life's craziness instead of jumping right into the mess. ;-)

It's back to the word whacking for me! Thanks for all your encouragement. I'll sail on your raft any ole day! ~Liz

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Liz,

I think in this segment, you pretty well hit your stride.

It is inimitable, save by anybody like a master, like Joyc Carol Oates, or the late Carson McCullers.

I dasn't cut anything anywhere. At least in this piece.
It is so much the unique you as a writer.
I know many an Ivy League intellectual would be hard pressed to write in this "souhern lady" heartfelt way.
Stay in this groove and you'll be all right. Anything beyond a style like this might be just journalism.

We all cut, cut cut. I do.
But like my late uncle Dave said, "If you rub too much you might rub the balls right off a piece."
My uncle Dave Allenby Smith, of Audubon Films, produced a minor Canadian masteriece Which he titled
"Sharptooth. The Year of the Beaver." He won a prize and his book was in all the grade schools in Canada for a while. Well darn. Why not? The beaver is Canada's national symmbol.
My son thought it was corny, but Dave did come through.
Wish I'd have listened to him years back, when he said that with my THE HAT PEOPLE, Id only just scratched the surface.
It was so. It takes forever to discover plot.

Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Ivan: Puff, puff. Just keep on puffin'.

Beautiful piece from our EA. We did many of the same things over in Willow back in the day. Had the bikes and rode all over creation. All the way out to Haystack Mountain and back. One of our hot spots was the Willow cemetery. Used to pack a lunch and bike out there and eat. And we scarfed down the Charms lollipops. I'll bet they don't even make them anymore! And the vanilla cokes at Mrs. Dodson's drug store. I'm writing Mrs. Dodson's drug store into my Indian story, by the way! Hey, there were lotsa things to love about Oklahoma. Heat and grit being among them. Love the story--and you! Donnetta

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnettta,

I am right now three sheets to the wind, but what a lovely comment.
You an Liz. "Bronte sisters" forever!

the walking man said...

Ivan...Replying to your question about Escort battery hold downs brings many bad memories back. Fords...argghhhh!

There is a penetrate called PB Blaster, it is far and away the best of all of them, much better than WD40 because of it's foaming action and smaller molecular size. if you don't have access to this then use whatever you do have access to.

Spray the entire area at the bottom of the battery near the bolt, soak it. Wait 1 hour and then see if you can get a socket to grip the bolt. If you can, exert downward pressure while turning and hope for a SNAP, it will either be the bolt turning or the head breaking off. either is ok. because the hold down will come off.

If the bolt is too rounded for the proper size to make good contact, take the next smaller size socket and using a long extension with the socket attached use a hammer to pound the socket on the bolt head this should give you grip enough to turn the bolt.
There are tools to use for this situation but the cost of them are not worth it if you are only going to use them once.

In all cases soaking the offending bolt in penetrant is the most important step.

I doubt you have a drill bit long enough to work at drilling the bolt out so those are your options.

After you get the thing out you'll have to secure the battery in place with a bungee strap because you really don't want it bouncing all over hell and gone in the engine compartment.

the walking man said...

oh yeah

bdd44m5@gmail.com

ivan@ reativewriting.ca said...

Walking Man,

Well, I did tell a lady once I might have known more about Popular Mechanics l01 than literature; my wife had been the well-read one. No dumbrod.

But I guess I didn't know about Fords.

Your advice is valuable and very detailed: right on.
I had used just ordinary Three in One oil and couldn't unzeize the rusted little bolt.

Overwhelemed at what I perceived to be my own incompetence, it was not only till I read your ionstruction of how to extract that damn battery
that I readlized it was Ford's bad design in holding that battery fast.
...So fast that after a few years, you couln't get the damn thing out at all. Yeah.
Guess he next time I go to this other city where the car is parked, I will have looked up the site you recommend before I take another wrench to the battery mount; I have already skinned my knuckles once or twice.

The miracle was that I got the old MoFo started with jumpers and a new battery.
My older sister, who is selling (giving?) me the car, and who has said for decades that my books were dull, finally admitted that I could be an adept here and there.
Heaven forbid that I should be better at motor mechanics than at literature; but I come from the kind of family which assures you you are no good even if you prove otherwise.
My sister seemed to stop short of saying that all idiots have a mechanical bent. Heh. Only only my family! Dominated by women psychotics who wouldn't know how to get you across the street but bossy as hell all the same.

Still, it was triumph to get the dame thing going. It had been sitting for years, on blocks (Appalachia?) so the rubber and the body is still fine...Damn it when you are effed op and separated from somebody, Simple things seem almost impossible to do.
...Till you're surprised by that first roar of that stubborn Ford engine.