For the next few days to a week, I’m going to do the scariest thing possible: I’m going to show you a rough draft. You know that dream you have when you walk into high school naked; it’s like I’m going to have that dream on purpose.
My hope is that I will be able to show the process and evolution of a story. However, the rough draft could possibly just get worse and worse, which is always a writer’s biggest fear. For the most part, I trust the writing process. I know if I come back to a story, day after day, and remember what my characters want, they will take me somewhere. The tricky part is letting it happen, shutting out the editor voices in my head that say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about” or “You’re not going to say that, are you?”
Without delay, here is the beginnings of a piece I started today. I’m only going to show the first section since I might want to publish it some day. Who knows? I have no idea where it’s even going right now. Remember, this is rough. I’m not even totally focused on tense, grammar, voice. Just feeling around in the dark right now. Stick around and we’ll see what happens.
This little piece started due to writer’s block, so I decided to just describe a setting–my grandfather’s old red truck. The rest is fiction that followed:
The old truck smelled of wood chips and oil, and something hardened. The door creaked like a woman howling each time you opened and shut it. The past was yelling at you. Inside, my feet could barely touch the pedals, and I would turn the radio dial, just to hear the click, click, click. No music. The floorboards caked with mud and clay made me search for footprints. I was an archaeologist in that truck. I’d stare at the one seatbelt buckle left for fingerprints. It stung my nose with the smell of oil and the hardening of everything inside it.
Mama let it sit and die in our side yard for five years. One afternoon, walking home from school, it wasn’t there. A big bald spot staring back at me. I went running down the middle of the gravel road, little rocks jutting against the sole’s of my Keds.
“He come home to get it?” I shouted before the door could even slam behind me.
Mama was in the kitchen, looking out the window at the empty space. “Are you out your mind? I had Paul Paul come pick it up.” She placed a newly dried plate on the counter. “Bout time.” She didn’t look up, but I seen how hard she swallowed. She missed him, too. Although, it was silly for me to say I missed somebody that I could barely remember, but you can. I’m here to tell you.
I pulled the chair out from the little kitchen table. Mama got these as a hand-me-down from Aunt Cissy, and I never liked them. They moan each time I sat in them, threatening to fall out from under you.
“How was school?” she asked. I guess we were just going to keep on pretending everything was alright, which was fine. At this point in my life, I didn’t know there was any other way, so I picked it right back up.
“Boyd Lee got caught flicking boogers on the back of people’s heads. You should have seen Ms. Bowen’s face when she caught him in the act. She sucked her breath in so hard, I thought she might pass out. Know what she made him do as punishment?”
“What?” Mama was interested now. She used to be a school teacher until the children became too much for her to handle.
“She made him go up to all the older boys and girls and tell them what he’s been doing. I thought he would blow up from embarrassment, and all us watching from the windows.”
“That’s horrible,” Mama said, yet her voice didn’t believe her words.
“It’s not so horrible if you’ve been finding boogers in your hair!” I tried to get outraged. Mama looked up at me in surprise because I never yelled at her, or to her. I pounded my fist on the table in this act. Then, I fell onto the floor in a conniption of giggles. I knew Mama was smiling, too.
“Honey, get up now. You can’t be acting a fool like this around anyone else.” She knew I didn’t.
I liked it under than table though. I searched for some kind of carving from him, my daddy. Nothing under there thought except some gum I stuck there once and waited to be caught for.
I sat back in that groaning, moaning chair. “I miss the truck.”