Writing Consult Update I

I finally selected a piece for the writing consult.  Yay!  All is well with the world.

On the submission due date I discover that the manuscript must be double spaced.  (!!!)  My options:

  1.  Have the consultant stop reading at the double spaced page limit.
  2.  Submit another piece that meets the double spaced page limit.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get peaceful with the idea of my submission being chopped at the halfway point.  The solution was easy enough:  re-work the piece to halve the length.  Turns out that wasn’t so easy without altering the storyline to the point where the story was diminished.

I wanted to submit an excerpt from my WIP but none of the sub-stories or scenes fit the page requirement.  I went through other stories and found a non-WIP piece that fit quite nicely.  I revised it (quickly, since this was the due date — there is more finessing I’d like to complete!  Too bad, so sad, lol. 🙂 ) and sent it off before I could change my mind.

I was tempted to postpone the consult until I had an appropriate WIP piece — or at least a fully edited submission — but managed to push past the perfectionist spectre.

And now, beautiful people, we wait.  And wait.

P.S. It occurred to me some of you may be interested in the submitted piece.  Allow me to present, Lily of the Valley Soap (Revised Expanded Version), below.  Some of you may recognize it….

.

***

Lily of the Valley Soap (Revised Expanded Version)
by Danica Piche

Ingrid awoke in the pre-dawn mist.  Turning over, her bruised bones screamed against the damp concrete.  The coffee shop would open soon, beckoning its customers.

Rolling up her stained sleeping bag, she heard a familiar voice behind her.  “Mrs. H — good morning!  Come in and keep me company while I set up shop.”

Ingrid almost smiled.  She finished packing her cart and made her way inside. The warm air soothed her nerves.  She watched Billy steam the milk then deftly pour it over the espresso, scooping the foam last. He dusted the foam with sugar and cinnamon powder, the way she liked it. “Test this one and let me know if it’s ok.” He slid the cappuccino across the varnished wood counter.  “I cleaned the machines but sometimes the oils are resistant.”

She closed her eyes, savoring the bitter and the sweet.  Inhaling deeply the bold richness, she was back on her balcony.  Her wrought-iron chairs, velvet cushions and the little matching table for her coffee cup and books.  Candle pillars in one corner and the herb and flower garden in the other.  She lingered until she couldn’t bear it any longer.

Billy, it’s heaven.”  He seemed pleased with this assessment as he went about his tasks.  She waited until he’d gone out back to place her cup in the plastic bin and silently let herself out.

She pulled her cart down to the railroad tracks and watched the sun climb the horizon.  The world stood still and she was normal; just another being.  When she estimated the community breakfast would start in an hour or so, she turned and started the trek eleven blocks east.

An amplifier blared through the near-empty streets. Ingrid pulled her hat low over her eyes.  The tour bus announcer’s tinny voice grated against her ears.  “Here it is! One of the country’s most notorious neighborhoods!  Take care that you don’t find yourselves in this part of town on your own, especially after dark.”  Tourists gawked, pointed and aimed cameras at the tarps, lopsided tents, cardboard-littered entrance-ways and garbage bag-wrapped humans strewn about.

At the side entrance of the mission, Ingrid placed her cart among the other shopping carts, suitcases and assorted bags. She hoped nothing would be stolen this time.  Fighting her pride, she made herself stand in line.  Her hunger pains finally overpowering her humiliation.

Volunteers manning the buffet warmers scooped scrambled eggs and asked if she wanted sausage and potato mash.  She’d been vegetarian. Before.  She supposed that no longer mattered, so she nodded. Any protein was better than none.  She hesitated before taking the plate from the man’s outstretched hand.

Fine-looking woman. He thought, surprising himself. She could have been pretty. What a shame. His hand accidentally brushed hers as she finally took the plate.  The pity in his eyes extinguished the last of the light in hers.

***

Digging through the donation bin, Sissy shrieked. The Rolling Stones! She pulled out a faded denim jacket covered with commemorative pins and patches.  Slipping it over her art-therapy painted tank top, she posed in front of the mirror.  “Lookin’ good, girl!”  She shimmied and blew kisses to her reflection.

Her new room was better than anywhere she’d ever lived.  She had everything in the whole world ‘cept her friends.  If she left, though, she’d lose her place on the lists.  She’d go see Coll.  She knew how to fix things.  Sissy sang to herself as she packed her duffle bag, hoping she’d be able to stay over there a while.

Are you sure you want to come back here?  People usually want something more stable.”  And clean, safe, functional, fit for humans…Colleen sighed.  She wasn’t surprised that Sissy hadn’t adjusted; it looked like she was still using.  More often than not the street doesn’t let go of peopleOr is it the other way around?

Can I stay here tonight?”  Sissy asked.

If there’s room when the doors are locked at ten.”  Colleen could find someone to trade places with Sissy within minutes.  That would overstep bounds, but the alternative meant waiting until she was kicked out.

Thanks, Coll!”  Sissy unpacked and arranged her shower basket.  How much longer ’til I can use my new soap?  AJ had given it to her with a sparkly scarf she loved.  She better not tell Coll; she wasn’t supposed to ‘sociate with him.

***

Ingrid stepped cautiously into the shower stall locking the door behind her.  She cringed at a clicking scurrying shadow. She choked back her revulsion as she smashed it flat.  She quickly flooded it down the drain.  She tried not to touch anything as she adjusted the water temperature.

Standing motionless, Ingrid let the water scald her back. Focus. Breathe. RelaxOne muscle at a time.  She imagined she was back at yoga class. The clean tranquil room.

Sudden yelling and banging on the metal door jarred her brain.  A few moments’ calm scattered across the days is the best I can hope for now, isn’t it? Always a step away from a hurricane. Drug-fueled rage, theft, vandalism, rodents.  Not to mention the endless, marching, biting, blood-sucking insects.

The steam enveloped her.  Suspended.  Silent. Her chest wrenched sending pain spasms down her limbs.  She had no more tears.

***

You been in there long ‘nough!  People is waitin’!”  Sissy banged on the metal door.  No response.  She stomped to the desk where Colleen was doodling on the crossword.

That old woman been in there over a hour!”

Sissy, she’s younger than you.”  Colleen tried not to tease her, but when she acted this way she couldn’t resist.

Everyone gotta follow the rules!”

Sissy, if it seems like a long time it’s because she really needs that hot shower.”  She’d have to issue a warning to ban Sissy from the showers if she continued with her confrontations.

So do I!”

What about your new place?  You can shower anytime you want.”

I like it here.”

And we like having you.”  Colleen smiled.  “But, Ingrid has priority at this facility.”

Sissy scowled.

You know, Ingrid is new around here.”  Colleen pointed at the cafeteria menu, remembering Sissy’s favorite.  “Maybe she likes fried rice too.”  Trying to impart life and social skills was an ongoing challenge. More often than not, these days, Colleen doubted it made any difference.

A thud echoed from the shower stall.  In an instant Colleen was pounding on the door.  Using her master key, she held her breath as she turned the lock.  Blood trickled down the walls.  “Call an ambulance!”  She yelled at a security guard.  Ingrid lay crumpled on the concrete.  “Now!”

Why would she do this?”  Sissy wailed, peering over Colleen’s shoulder. The water ran crimson with Ingrid’s blood. Colleen shut off the taps and knelt at her side.  She searched for a pulse.  She was breathing.

I don’t know.”  Colleen had seen it too many times and still didn’t have answers.  “At the right moment it could be any of us, couldn’t it?” Another security guard brought over two first aid kits.

Aw hell no, not me!”

Sissy, remember your compassion.”  Colleen elevated and wrapped Ingrid’s wrists with cotton and gauze.  “Ingrid’s troubles were too big for her to bear tonight.”

I’m sorry!”  Sissy cried.  What if it’s my fault?  “I shouldn’t-a been so mean!” She grabbed the red and yellow package from her shower basket. “For you, for when you come back.”  She closed Ingrid’s hand around the cellophane wrapping.  She has to stay alive and come back now.  Right? She turned to Colleen who was covering Ingrid with a blanket.  “It’s some kinda fancy soap.  Lily of the Valley they said at the church.”

***

Do you have any medical information for her?” The EMT asked, checking Ingrid’s pupils. “Is there a DNR in place?”  Stan knew the hospital may not obtain a complete medical history quickly enough. Colleen told him what she knew.

They loaded Ingrid into the ambulance and Sissy tried to climb in. “Ma’am, you’ll have to meet your friend at the hospital.”

You sayin’ cause she homeless that she gotta die alone!”  Sissy yelled.

Ma’am, she’s not going to die and you can’t ride in the ambulance with her.”  Why didn’t this woman understand there was no time for this spectacle?

Cause I’m homeless?  You discriminatin’ me cause I’m homeless!”

Just get in.”  Stan rolled his eyes at Micah.  “Try to be quiet, ok?”

At the hospital, Micah stopped at the nurse’s station.  “No indication of substance or narcotic use.  The shelter didn’t have any more information.”

Sissy jiggled a paper clip in a pay phone by the entrance until she heard a dial tone. She punched his number, clenching her fist against her forehead until he picked up.  “Baby, I need a boost.”  AJ promised to meet her in the parking lot in twenty minutes.

***

Get the rock off my head!  Ingrid struggled under its crushing weight. Slowly, her eyes focused in the dim light.  She was in a bed. Somewhere. The sheets smelled faintly of bleach.  Then she saw the tubes taped to her skin.  She groaned, remembering. What had gone wrong?

Hey! Welcome back!”  Sissy leaned forward in her bedside chair.  Ingrid stared at her blankly.

I’m from the shelter.  I wasn’t so nice to you.  Sorry ’bout that.”

Ingrid closed her eyes. Her jumbled thoughts came out a hoarse whisper.  Then her fingers grazed the cellophane.  “You gave me this. What is it?”

For your next shower.  You can stay in there ’til that soap’s all gone if you want.”  She wouldn’t let nobody give her a hard time.

Ingrid started to say something, then laughed as tears streamed down her cheeks and her whole body ached.

[END]

19 thoughts on “Writing Consult Update I

  1. Kevin

    This is great. Dark, but some light, also. I love the giving of the soap. A junkie with a conscious. Good character development; one of your strengths. “The pity in his eyes extinguished the last of the light in hers” – beautifully sad line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much! It would have been easy to leave it dark but it seemed to work better with some light. Yes, the soap was important and I’m glad you enjoyed that part. She has moments of sweetness, although they are manic. You also selected my favorite line — it was one of the first that came to me and I built the story around it.

      Like

      1. Kevin

        Really? You built a story around one particular line, albeit a pretty powerful one. That’s interesting. I know you can build song lyrics in such a way (and you may have inspired me to do just that). Do you remember what inspired that line?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It wasn’t a linear process, it went something like this: I had the concept for Ingrid’s character and I also had images or scenes in mind. This sentence was the first clear fully-formed one that came to me. That’s when I started the recognizable writing and developed the rest of the story.
          I’d be thrilled if I inspired you to build song lyrics around one particular line! If you end up publishing or posting your work please send a link!
          Inspiration for the line… I wanted to tell a story about a non-stereotypical homeless person and also illustrate some of less obvious dimensions of homelessness. First, I decided the character would be a woman, then that she’d be unfamiliar with life on the street or life on the fringes of society — whose background didn’t prepare her for any of it.
          One lesser-known element of homelessness is social isolation, being on the outside and labeled “other”; fundamentally unequal as humans. Had Ingrid and the community breakfast volunteer met under different circumstances, before Ingrid’s homelessness, he may have struck up a conversation with her, started a friendship or asked her out on a date. Instead, her homelessness and poverty created an impenetrable barrier unlike other socioeconomic distinctions.
          Many daily experiences and humiliations crushed Ingrid’s spirit and this interaction was the final blow to who she’d been previously. “The pity in his eyes extinguished the last of the light in hers” is a story unto itself, if that makes sense.

          Like

          1. Kevin

            Fascinating. Thank you, Danica, for your detailed response. It is always interesting to hear what goes on behind and within the creative process. I love it. And if I should write something worthy of that beautiful line, you will be the first to hear it (and maybe a co-writing credit – our first collaboration!). 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Absolutely my pleasure, Kevin! I’m always happy to answer questions and yours are particularly insightful. Thank you for the compliment and I’d love to hear it. A co-writing credit would be delightful! 🙂

              Like

              1. Kevin

                I’m going to start a band with Rich (he doesn’t know this yet), and you will be our lyricist!

                Btw, as I was channel surfing late last night, looking for something to relax and wind down to, I stumbled across Harold And Maude. Perfect.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Writing Consult Update II – Living a Beautiful Life

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s