I’ve decided I’m going to start doing a weekly post on Monday titled, “Week’s Worth: Or What I Wrote Last Week.” It will offer little snippets of stories that I worked on over the past week. Why? Partly because I can and I want to. Also because I think it’s fascinating to look at the progress that stories go through, the way the writer’s mind works, the drafts and the false starts that happen.
Segue: If you ever want to keep track of what happens to the stories that I write and submit, you can always check out my submission tracker, which is online here and available for anyone to look at (I believe — let me know if you have trouble). I think that writing and submitting shouldn’t be a secretive process, although a lot of other writers feel differently, either because they don’t want to share information about where they’ve submitted their work or because they are afraid to show others all those little notes, like “REJECTED.” Which, honestly, is pretty scary. But then I hope that it will also give other writers hope and inspiration, to see how many pieces I’ve managed to get rejected in the last year or so (trust me, it’s a lot!).
So, back to the story snippets for this week. Notice these are all first drafts, and so they’re likely to change a fair amount before they’re finalized and sent off.
WHAT IS BROKEN CAN ONLY BE FIXED (first draft, fantasy short story)
“So, can you fix it?” Marla tried not to shift as she stood in front of the workbench, keeping her hands deep in the pockets of her cloak. But the Windup Shop, with all its clutter and bric-a-brac, parts both mechanical and animated lounging around on shelves and countertops, made her feel ill at ease. It wasn’t anything she could put her thoughts on, exactly, other than she much preferred the light, wide-open, watered spaces of the world.
This shop was the exact opposite of that. No water or plants anywhere, just metal and body parts. Just the dark, nearly windowless interior, small light coming from twin lamps that hovered precariously on either side of the tinkerer’s workbench. And this woman in front of her — Windup Witch, Tinkerer, a creature who’s true name hadn’t been known for a century or longer, Marla guessed. As soon as Marla had entered, the tinkle of living bells above and the scurried tick-tock of non-living things below announcing her presence, the Tinkerer had looked at Marla like she wanted to turn her into a timepiece for her pocket as soon as she walked into the shop. She was now looking at the object Marla had brought with the same barely veiled greed.
But she was the best, as far as Marla could tell from asking around, and right now, Marla needed the best.
The woman — she looked very much like a girl, and a young one at that, but Marla had a strong sense from the tinkerer’s deliberate movements and from her fingers, which were wrinkled, cracked lengths of bone and flesh, that the youth was very much an illusion — shrugged without looking up from the object beneath her hands.
“Maybe I can,” the Tinkerer said. “Maybe I can’t.”
FLOWER POWER (first draft, erotic short story)
We were never going to grow old. Didn’t believe in that. Didn’t believe in going down the corporate road or working for the man or paying social security or anything that had to do with giving it up for the man. It wasn’t just me and Daniel that didn’t believe we’d ever grow old. It was all of us.
Sure, we believed in some things. Free love, that was one thing we believed in. I believed in Daniel’s fingers, the way he licked them before he touched me and then again after, the first time to coat me, the second time to taste me. I believed in being on my knees beneath the apple trees, bending the grass beneath my shins as Daniel teased my mouth with the head of his cock, while Bobby or Brian watched or joined in, their movements echoing ours.
Together, as a collective, we believed in free love and free sex and free music and free-dom and, as often as we could get it, free pot.
Flower was the woman who brought us free pot. Not Daisy or Delilah or even some tongue-tangling herb name like Lavender. Just the simple, down-to-earth, bloom on your tongue, Flower.
FREE (First draft, horror story)
There are kittens and then there are kittens, and this batch — crawling up the side of the cardboard box, all dappled white and black and orange, except for one grey tabby curled in the corner — this batch of kittens might be the cutest that Mandy has ever seen.
Free Kitchens, it says on the side of the box. And Mandy thinks how most days, a free kitchen is just exactly what she wants, what she needs.
But today isn’t one of those days. Today is one of those days where she woke up feeling very very alone, the loss of Sheila sitting on her chest like too many heavy wool blankets in the heat of summer. Today is one of those days where Mandy spent the first four hours walking through the house, alternately touching pictures of her and Shiela with a sob and then knocking them over with a curse that came from somewhere in her bowels. It wasn’t a clean curse, not a good curse or a nice curse. It was a dirty, stinking, painful curse that would have disgusted Sheila, Sheila who always looked at her with that small bit of disdain when Mandy would do something human. Like fart. Or cry. Or blow her nose. And still, she had loved her. Had being the proper tense and all, because it was in the past, like Sheila was in the past. Was supposed to be in the past.
Getting here, to this out-of-the-way grocery store where no one would know her, no one would ask her how things were or notice the purple half-moons that Mandy had picked up, the sprouts of grey hair, the way she couldn’t seem to keep her shirts clean anymore, yes, getting here had been more of a chore than Mandy would have liked to admit.
But here, tucked in the corner of the parking lot, between the old, broken recycling boxes and the rusted bike rack, there are free kitchen signs and adorable kittens crawling all over themselves to love her.
Mandy kneels in front of the box, her knees popping as she goes. Three weeks of breaking up and her body has been aging in dog years. She feels like a hundred birthdays have slid by unnoticed, like her body is no longer part of her.
There’s a fat man in a lawn chair watching over the kittens and the box, his bare legs sticking out of the kind of too-short and too-thin shorts that Mandy knows would probably offer more of a show than she has any desire to see, so she doesn’t look up. She keeps her eyes on the kittens, the grey one especially who has come awake and is blinking and mewing and curling its tail around and around her finger.
The kittens don’t know what they do, have no say in their cuteness factor or in their open-mouthed plea for sustenance. They’re young, barely two weeks, too young to be without their mother, too young to be here, curling around each other for warmth and comfort, mewing softly to each pair of hands that finds them, that picks them up, that promises without actually promising, to take them home.
The fat man isn’t just fat. It is only Mandy’s sense of kindness, her sense of not discriminating, that allows her to use the word fat in her brain. In truth, he’s ginormous. He barely fits in the extra-big lawn chair, bowing the arms out with the curves of his stomach and thighs. His breath is the sound of a huffing steam engine, a sound the kittens have come to hear and hear, and to think of as part of their world, no less permanent than the hard-and-soft walls that surround them, than the bodies of their siblings, than the hands the reach in, pick them up, but them down.
The fat man sweats beneath the sun, even though he and the kittens are in the shade of the building. He mops the beads of sweat from his brow, from his cheeks, from the corners of his eyes. While he watches and waits, slow fat lazy spider in the sun.
MUDDY WATERS (The Very Bad Novel that I’m currently rewriting. Consider this its debut. You’ll see more of it, I’m sure).
Sara’s Aether was a dark-skinned boy my age, which put him at least fifteen years younger than her. He was built like a cross between an athlete and a model, muscular, but with a feminine face. He wore black geek-cred glasses and a long-sleeved shirt that was just tight enough to smack of metrosexual. He would have easily passed for human if not for the pure white eyes that regarded me lazily through the lenses.
“Lovely,” I said. “Sara and Sara’s boy toy.”
“How ’bout you get out of the car, Sunshine,” Sara said, her bright lips opening to expose those shiny teeth of hers. Even before I had reason to be afraid of her, even back when we were on the same side, I had nightmares about those teeth. Now, I could almost pretend I had nothing else to lose, and that made me, well not less afraid, but more able to speak.
“Hello to you too, Walker Texas Ranger. You have a license to shoot bear with that glare of yours?”
The glare narrowed and she plucked at what looked like a silver spider pendant around her neck. It wasn’t a nervous gesture; the movement was a reminder of her status and her power. The fact that her totem animal was a tarantula and mine was a crab wasn’t lost on me. “I have a license from the Wheel to bring you in,” she said. “And if I can’t bring you in, I have a license to take you out.”
“Aren’t you supposed to wear those license things pinned to your hunting coat? Or at least to the lapel of that lovely lavender suit you’re wearing?” If I sounded more flippant than I felt, it was only because I didn’t know what else to do. Stall them, possibly, but to what end? She’d already moved all the water she could out of the area, so there was no way this was going to be a fair fight. But there was no way in hell I was going back to the Wheel. They may have wanted me alive now, but there are lots of versions of alive, and I didn’t like the Wheel’s version very much at all.
“Zoe. We both know how this is going to end. Don’t make me get my nails dirty.” She paused, lowering her sunglasses another quarter inch with a small flick of her head. “Not when we also both know that your hands are already dirty.”
So that’s all for the week. What do you think? Like this idea of the snippets? Or think they’re confusing and boring? Or maybe you want to follow suit and post some of your own? I’d love to see what other writers work on over their weeks, and how they juggle their various projects!
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.