Thursday, September 05, 2013

Does this make you want to keep reading? Is it too heavy from the outset?

I am 11 when I learn I am good in a crisis, and that my mother is not.

While I am a prolific reader, I don’t actually yet know the phrase, “good in a crisis.” Nor have I ever heard of suicide.

But I know that something is terribly, terribly wrong when out of the blue my mother turns from rinsing vegetables at the kitchen sink, blurts out, “Jesus God!” and rushes for the stairs, leaving the faucet running. I sprint after her, up the hardwood stairs, turning left into their bedroom at the top, and follow her into their bathroom.

We find my father naked and pale, slumped in the bottom of the shower.

I do not yet know what he has done - and even when later he tells me about his cuts, it will still be years before I actually understand - but I know this is an emergency.

My mother seems flustered, and so I say firmly, “Call 911!” We both run for the phone in the next room, and she dials.

It is an ugly damp winter morning. In my memory, it's December. It might be November, though. It is grey and cold and we have recently bought my Christmas dress - a rich green velvet. I remember my delight over the color and texture of the dress more vividly than I remember my terror over my father.

The ambulance arrives, and men rush in and upstairs. We stay in the living room while my mother figures out what to do with us. We've only been living in McLean for just over a year, so we don't know a lot of people.

In what always seems to be an impressively short amount of time they carry him out, covered. My mom follows them to the hospital.

She doesn't tell us anything. In retrospect, I know she doesn't know. You never know, until they get him to the hospital, until they see how much damage he's wrought.

My brother (who has either just turned eight, or is about to) and I spend the rest of the day with neighbors. They are kind, and we are scared and confused, and my main memory from the afternoon is of the heavy greyness hovering at the windows. And that we had baked pear for dessert.

34 comments:

  1. Yes, I want to keep reading. It's spooky and beautifully written at the same time.

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    1. Thank you, Kaysha - "spooky and beautifully written at the same time" is a lovely compliment!

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    2. Yes, I totally agree with "spooky and beautifully written!" Great choice of words.

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  2. I would keep reading. I already feel emotionally invested in the story. Heavy can be good.

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    1. Thank you, Miss Dallas! What I really want is to get people invested quickly...but I don't know if I am able to do that with strangers, you know? That's the trick!

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  3. "And that we had baked pear for dessert."

    You and I had very similar childhoods, and not just because we are both third culture kids . . . I also grew up with crises that involved blood and ambulances, and I'm also fantastic in a crisis.

    It's when things are boring and dull that I fall apart.

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    1. I understand that, for sure. Boring and dull, too much the same, no adrenaline, nothing new. I used to create my own crises, agitate.

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    2. Which *might* be where a certain pair of "idiots" in my case come in . . . :)

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  4. They always tell you to arrest the reader (not literally) with the opening few lines and you certainly have done here. At first I wasn't keen on the present tense but it actually adds to the drama. The only question would be are you going to write the whole book in the same tense and if not, how are you going to switch?

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    1. Thank you for this input! My answer is: I don't know. I obviously don't want to annoy people, and I don't imagine writing all in present tense...but not sure how to transition. (If you have thoughts, I would love to hear them.) This is a big work in progress!

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  5. I'd keep reading for sure.

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    1. Thank you, Wendy. I know you are honest and do not sugar-coat. And to answer your question below, the hot water suddenly went cold, like it had all run out (which it had) and she had a bad feeling.

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  6. get thee to a publisher, stat! with the horribleness that is (eventual) suicide, coupled with your upbringing and fantastic story telling present day, i'd buy anything you wrote. with real American Dollars!

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    1. Love you love you love you! With real-life crap, you have to write the whole thing first, as I understand it. But one day I hope to have something to offer up for your real American dollars!

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  7. Out of curiosity, what was it that made your mother exclaim and run up the stairs? Did she hear something?

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  8. I ditto everything above, including Wendy's question (and also I love present tense writin. Keep going!

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    1. The water ran cold. I think it must've been more than that, some sense that things were wrong. But she told me years later that the hot water suddenly got cold.

      And thank you...I really don't know what to do about the tenses. But I suppose you've gone through all of this multiple times. You know, I bought your book (on maternity leave) and then I haven't read a book since. Next book I read - hopefully soon - will be yours!

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    2. Trailing starts out in present tense (the prologue) and then moves into past. But I am working on a second book right now that is entirely in present tense, and I honestly love the way it reads (not my book, necessarily, but any present tense piece!) Can't wait to read more -- and talk writing! xxx

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  9. I would definitely keep reading! But I agree that the present tense is not my favorite

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    1. Thank you. I understand. I have been struggling with where (in time, space, etc) to begin, and I think this is the place for me...but have quite a lot to work out.

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    1. I'm working on it, my dearie dear!

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  11. This reminds me of "A tree grows in Brooklyn." One of my faves. I believe that book, too, was written in the present tense. And it actually doesn't bother me, just so you know :)

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  12. I'm reading. You know I am. I bet you never eat baked pear again.

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  13. I'll keep reading :)

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  14. Yes and yes. Emphatically and in a good way respectively.

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  15. Also I think your present tense voice is what we need for this story/subject matter.

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  16. You haven't done "heavy" in a while. Even though this not how I would've described your post. Its engaging and personal and ugly at the same time. I hope you understand why I used ugly as a compliment here.

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  17. I cannot wait to read your book, lady. This is heavy but it doesn't turn me off - I want to read more.

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