Saturday, June 25, 2011

Write-athon and on and on. . . .

Last time we left our ogre he was discussing his participation in the Clarion Write-a-thon, and then apparently fell into a wormhole or portal to another world. He is back, and will now talk about himself in the first person.

I have updated my Clarion page with my specific goal for the six weeks, which is to write a novella of at least 25,000 words, currently entitled "Waterfall Pulls the Sunlight Down." At 600 words per day, and no editing, I can make this goal, and I'm looking forward to seeing what emerges, raw as it may be.

The Write-a-thon officially starts tomorrow and runs until 6 August, but some writers started early, and I did some writing earlier in the week, which I will not count towards the 25,000 word total. Part of the process is promoting your writing and getting people to sponsor you, so if you enjoy this story, please do donate. As incentive, I will happily tuckerize every donor who wishes it into the story, and the person who makes the largest contribution will receive the final product in whatever form it is eventually published in.

Here's the first installment:

June, The Month of Hoping Things Grow

Eoin found Littlegrace Bear by the falls, strumming the dead woman's guitar. It had rained overnight and the water was roaring, throwing sparkling drops into the air and crashing down into a white maelstrom below the chunky rock formation it ran over. The little waterwheels craned out on the near side of the falls were spinning and rocking in the spray, but the din of the water drowned out their creaking and whirring. Maybe we'll get enough power for a movie tonight.

Gracie watched the falls sparkle and ran her fingers across the strings, lightly depressing them near a middle fret. That guitar twanged with poor tuning, but she swayed along with the slow rhythm. Eoin cleared his throat. The strumming changed, became lighter and slower.

"You doing alright?"

She smiled at the waterfall and blinked as the wind came up and blew a little spray their way. "It was nice of her to give me her guitar." The strumming picked up speed again. "The waterfall likes the music." She closed her eyes and raised her face to the breeze-driven droplets.

"Yeah." Eoin tried to quell the light shaking that had been in his hands since dawn. He looked down at them, thin but strong hands. He still had a bit of the dead woman's blood under his fingernails, he noted. He put his arms behind his back and stood up straighter. "If you need anything, you let me know."

She smiled at the waterfall. "I have a guitar. I ate breakfast." She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "There'll probably be a movie tonight." She moved her fingers down the neck and the guitar moaned. She bent over it and started playing it for real, bluesy and curt notes groaning out of it. She sped up the rhythm a bit and started shaking her head to the music.

He felt a tear form at the side of his right eye, like one of those cocoons a wasp would spin on its victim/protector. Maybe this one will take some anger with it. His stomach rumbled. His arms were tired. He nodded at Gracie, stepped back to the edge of the shade given by the massive tree they were under, the last one by the creek on this side of the falls. Far behind and up on the little bluff he could hear people talking, maybe shouting. He checked the sun, out beneath the cool canopy of the maple.

He stood there, still as stone, and listened to the rough, sad music until the sun went behind the shattered house on the ridge across the creek.

* * * * *

Leigh went out to the upper field as soon as she unloaded the runabout. She made sure the trike was charging this time, although according to the meter there wasn't much juice banked for it. She looked over at the smallest of the three houses by the main driveway and heard music blaring from it. As she walked by the rear door to cut through the backyard she shouted "Turn it off, Darkboy!" She heard the volume decrease as she fast-walked by the little playground and a patch of perky greens, rounded the last house standing on the block, and cut between two foundations (one that smelled more and more like a garbage dump; best get that on Damon's list too) out to the street. She cut across the pothole-filled road to the tax garden and waved to Nutmeg and Kit, who were weeding and looking for slugs and such under the self-standing umbrella.

She crossed Lake St., which was hardly a street anymore, partly cleared off but even more pocked than Falls St. Up the old driveway of the former parking lot to what was now the lower field, a combination of tomatoes and squashes slowly maturing in the harsh sunlight. She skirted the edge of the field and kicked at the rich soil along the edge, the imported stuff that had cost them a horse and 900 hours of server time. If Darkboy's stereo eats the reserve power I'm going to feed his testicles to the hounds. She scrambled up the rough steps along the top of the rockface overlooking the creek gardens and wished once again there was some sort of railing.

She found Damon on the little bluff near the falls in his sun hat and puffy shirt, squatting down in the new field, looking at a row of seedlings that were stunted, some of them browning. She made noise as she approached when she saw the gun on his hip. He let some soil drop from his fingers and wiped them on his trouser leg, then put his gardening glove back on. She pulled her kaffiyah back and cleared her throat.

"Hey," he said as she came up beside him. He kept looking at the seedlings. "How's town?"

"Still there," she replied. "Mail's late. Food drop's late. Treatment plant is down again." She looked over the field to the far side, where some recently cut-down trees lay near a tall chain-link fence. "I got the new parts for the tiller, finagled some grain for those extra tires." She heard him mutter and caress a wilted shoot between his fingers. "There's a Common Council meeting Thursday night."

He quieted and looked sideways at her shins; the fabric of her silky beige skirt clung to them in the rising breeze. "For what?"

"What do you think, Damon?" She sneered a bit at the top of his head. "Second week with no drops, no mail, just a few independents and tinkers rolling through with wares." She looked down the length of the field, which was farmed right up to a thin stand of trees about back to the creek before the falls. She squinted and saw one of the thin irrigation pipes dripping water, but as the wind kicked up soil blew off in stinging puffs. "How's the field?"

She was pretty sure she heard him whisper "fuck you" before he raised his voice. "Trouble with the irrigation; DeShawn and Alice are working on it, may just drag the manual gear up here and try to hose the field for now. Darkboy says weather forecast is for rain on Wednesday, but three days is a long time for no water." He flicked at the plant he had just been fondling. "But it's not just water; something else is up. I need to run some tests. . . ."

She sighed. "Really? Again?"

Damon finally looked up at her, his milky right eye as piercing as the clear green one. "Yes Leigh, again. This seed was supposed to be clean and delinked. Signal free. Parent. Untampered with."

"It's corn, Damon. What did you expect? I told you. . . ."

He hissed to cut her off. "I expected that my preliminary analysis was right. And this is not. . . it's not. . . ." he turned away from her and tossed a pebble down the row. "I'm not sure what's wrong, and I need to find out, deal with it before. . . ."

"Next week?"

"Thursday." He stood up, finally. Slowly, his knees creaking. His clothes were too big for him and the intermittent breeze pushed the roomy white fabric of his voluminous shirt sleeves against his bony elbows as he hooked his thumbs into his belt. "I need to know what's up by Thursday."

"Yeah, I guess." She shook her head at the tiny plantlings. "How's everybody doing?"

"Fine. The girls are working the tax garden, kids are over at the big playground, Mischa and El are bringing that pig back from McLean. Vim and Darkboy are doing their thing. I think the rest went down along the creek to forage, and check around."

"Eoin and Gracie are down by the falls," Leigh said after a moment. "They're under the maple, but I don't think they have any other protection."

Damon sighed. "Gracie I don't worry about; she's the proper skin. But Eoin, he knows better. They should be checking the animals and getting ready for milking."

Leigh rubbed her lower teeth along her bottom lip. "Right. But, how's everybody doing, Damon?"

"I just said they're fine. They're doing their stuff, except for Eoin and Gracie. Could you. . . nah, I'll go down when I'm done here and get them going on the animals."

Leigh sighed again. "How about I do it, and you just do your little tests." She turned to go before he replied.

"Please remind Eoin that we need him," he said towards her, then settled back down near the dying plants. He waited until the field was quiet again, then brushed the back of his fingers down a bending shoot of immature corn. "What the fuck do you want?"

* * * * *
Leigh trotted down the path to the lower field, then jumped down over the concrete wall and cistern that separated it from the creekside area. She remembered when she was a kid how she and her friends would clamber all over it, safe in the shade of the scraggly little woods. They would play tag on the big lawn near the bridge, sometimes chase each other through the tall grass that grew around the rocks and trees. One a week their teacher would bring them down to the creek and give talks about the ecosystem, about the geology, and have them hunt for rocks or just watch the creek flow. She had them write essays on how the water looked running over the stones, lapping at the shore, cascading down the falls.

Now the creekside was crowded with vegetable plots, some raised-bed, one an experiment in "lasagna" gardening. Without the trees, and with the smaller rocks removed, she found it uninviting. The huge old maple down by the falls stood out like an arrogant old fart. The skinny, almost leafless trees across the creek felt envious, the ones who hadn't snapped or died already at least. The carefully-plotted land on this side left no room for play, and it seemed to Leigh that it stole all the life from the areas around it. Perhaps that's the problem with Damon's stupid corn.


Note: farming, animal husbandry, and some other technical matters that come up in this drafting process may not be accurate, so if you see a gaffe or problem in the story, please let me know!

I will be posting each day's entry here, and as soon as I find a word count indicator I will put that up as well.

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