“Should we tell her?”
“She’ll figure it out, soon enough.”
I overheard them whispering while I tried desperately to shed the futility of fifty-thousand thousand words in an afternoon. I’d seen it done, once or twice; instead of giving me hope, the knowledge that it was possible only heaped a larger dollop of inadequacy on my head. The realization that I’d picked a genre that required little more than wild imagination and cursory research wasn’t adding to my feelings of confidence. This should’ve been a breeze; I’d allowed reality to derail my train of thought, and was kicking my own caboose up the rickety-tickety tracks, picking up pennies left on the rails by trolls. “Tell me what?” I snarled. “I can hear you, you know. And you’re telepathic – if you hadn’t wanted me to hear you, you’d have shut the hell up and thought at each other while I work, over here, so spill it.”
“Oh, what happened to little Miss Merry Sunshine?”
Sun’s set. She’s grimly dancing on moonbeams and tiptoeing lightly, ever-so-delicately over the graves of plot bunnies, over here…
“She’s struggling with adverbs,” the Bonny Anapest whispered loudly.
“Adverbs are our friends, at least in November,” I said, smirking. I put the pen down and waited for them to include me in their conversation.
“Write from the heart,” suggested Emmett.
I glared at him again, realizing that this was getting to be a habit and my eyes might get stuck that way if I continued down this irritable path. I took pen in hand and began to scribble: Finding the jinn to be troublesome creatures, Morna took the computer to the shop and had it repaired. She returned to New Orleans, handed it to Mayette as a peace offering, and hoped she could stuff Emmett back–
“That’s from the heart?” Emmett asked, looking sad.
I sighed. “No. Not really. And you can quit with the sad puppy-dog eyes, Emmett, because being a mind-reading jinn, you already knew that.”
“Write from the heart,” he urged, gently.
I erased “Emmett” and changed it to “the Bonny Pest.” They both laughed. That was disconcerting. “Fine. What is it you two aren’t telling me?”
“Why do you think you ended up in Mayette’s shop in the first place? Of all the billions of humans she despises, why do you think you’re special?”
“I don’t. I’m not.”
“You are,” Emmett insisted. I felt, rather than heard, reluctant agreement from the Bonny Anapest.
“You don’t know much about your roots, do you?” asked Emmett.
“I started a family tree thingy, once, on Ancestry.com,” I said.
“How far back did you get?”
“Five generations, maybe? Got kind of stuck when one branch of the family decided to name their kids after their favorite cousins. Why?”
“Oh, stop it, Emmett. She’s better off this way.”
“What are you two babbling about, over there?” I asked, feeling a roiling conflict between my desire to write more words and my desire to encourage their storytelling, so that I would have a good excuse not to. This coyness and melodramatic foreshadowing was getting on my nerves, though, and I mentally ticked off about ten better ways to procrastinate while they dithered over whether to make my family tree a cliffhanger or a plot point.
“You have mixed blood.”
“Oh, for the love of God, tell me something I don’t know. German, Swedish, Scottish, Native American, French,” I rattled off a list of the nationalities and ethnicities I could remember. “All-American mutt. What’s your point?”
“You missed one.”
“Italian? Chinese? Inuit?”
“No. But don’t you have a word count to achieve?”
I tallied up the words while considering how best to feign “I don’t give a damn” despite the nagging curiosity he and the Bonny Anapest were stirring up within me. The persistent, nagging curiosity the tall, muscular jinn who now stood shirtless in my living room and his sarcastic blue call box that was once a proud pirate ship were slyly stirring up within me. I sketched a Jolly Roger on the page, and made the Death’s head look like Emmett’s beady-eyed twin.
“Make her get to twenty-five thousand before you tell her!” exclaimed the call box, cackling like static on a SETI monitor.
“Fine.” I wrote: And as the flames licked the wood at the base of the call box, the blue paint began to bubble and blister. The call box stood there, stoic as Joan of Arc – which was sort of a given, since Joan was tied to a stake and the call box had no legs – and listened as its sides began to hiss and pop…
The Bonny Anapest began to recite extemporaneous poetry:
And so it begins, for the girl with the pen –
She discovers the page, can give life to her rage…
The Bonny Anapest appeared to glow with red hot embers, embedded in charred, cracked wood. I jumped up, but Emmett had already produced a fire extinguisher. So sorry, he thought towards the call box.
Nothing a little ice and time and a good sand-and-varnish won’t cover, she sighed back.
“What the hell? Why did you do that?” I asked, alarmed.
“I didn’t,” said Emmett.
“Neither did I,” groaned the Bonny Anapest.
“Look at what you wrote.”
“Oh, come on,” I scoffed. There was a Stephen King story like this. It wasn’t even a new and unique plot device. I let my forehead fall and smack the table. “If I did this, then why didn’t my first paragraph work?”
“You weren’t writing from the heart.”
“I didn’t want this!”
“You sort of did,” said the call box. “You just didn’t realize I could feel pain.”
Oh, my God, I’m a horrible person. I’d always prided myself on empathy, and here I’d flippantly burned the Bonny Anapest to a crisp, figuring a mythical anthropomorphized thing couldn’t hurt inside like any other sentient being. “Wait, you have nerve endings?” It spit sparks on my rug. “Okay, sorry. Metaphorical nerve endings and feelings, then. I — I’m sorry.”
Confused, and sorry, and feeling slightly defensive, yet chastened, I picked up the purple pen. Seriously, what else would anyone use to write purple prose? “Twenty-five thousand?” I asked meekly.
“No, now it’s thirty thousand,” said the call box, with just a soupçon of pout.
“Okay,” I agreed, and began to write: With great sorrow and contrition, the writer gently sanded away the blistered paint and charred wood, revealing the raw, but still strong, hardwood beneath. She applied the salve of a good varnish followed by a fresh coat of royal blue paint, then lovingly replaced the small, square windows with a colorful mosaic of stained glass, so that rainbows shone on the surface of the walls as sunlight touched the panes.
That’ll do, Writer. That’ll do. I heard a happy sigh in my head and looked up to see the Bonny Anapest unfurl her sails.
If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.
Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):
- The Challenge
- Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
- It’s…Different on the Inside
- Madame and the Warranty
- Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar
- Like Sand Through the Motherboard
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Drunk on Freedom, Dancing with the Jinn
- Why Me?
- The Power of Imagination and Words
- Rebellion and Revenge