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by Sarah 

Posted: 13 August 2003
Word Count: 4204
Summary: to go or not to go

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

My name is Heather-Leigh, but Tom calls me Heavenly. Everything's good except that mom has a leaky heart and Kelsey's been away all summer. She came home last month with her new man who’s got the same name as his grandfather, a famous Canadian poet. Meril Byrne. I’ve never read much poetry but I should have heard of him – he was an Okanagan boy.
Me and Tom were drunk on Buster wine when she came home. She came in through the front door and surprised us on the back porch; she must have crept through the house holding his hand, pulling him behind her a little (and he must have noticed the smell of our place in summer: a little sour, a little bit like sickness). She came out through the back door grinning at me with all her teeth, hoppin’ up and down and presenting her man like a model on a game show would present a dishwasher. Her hair was too short. Her eyes were all puffed out because the black flies had got to her out in the bush there, where she worked at a camp for people with problems in their head, and where she met Meril. He was a surprise, nothing like the bruisers she’s brought home before. He was about an inch shorter than her, head shaved clean down to the skin and a thin beard pulled into a long braid that moved up and down when he spoke. He was skinny as hell, but then so is Kelsey, and had a long face, sunny eyes, long hands. He had really defined arm muscles, veiny forearms, hardly any hair. I felt like I was in the presence of a monk. He said “it’s a pleasure to meet you,” to me and Tom and sat down on the top step of the porch. He said pleasure like it really was a pleasure to meet us. Kelsey went back into the house to get him and herself glasses for the Buster wine, and this Meril just looked out over our river, his arms over his knees, his chin rested on his arms, and that braid of his blowing a little in the wind. After some time, with all of us being silent and Kelsey not back with the glasses yet, he said, “do you ever swim in that water?”
“Only if you don’t mind the weeds around your legs,” said Tom, comfortably, as if he’d known this Meril all along. But then again, that’s Tom. It’s never awkward with him.
“We got a paddle boat,” said Tom, “if you ever want to go for a ride, it’s just there, behind the shed there. Kelsey’ll show you how to use it. You steer it with a little joystick.”
“I used one on the Seine.”
Kelsey came out then, with the glasses, and filled them from the plastic bottle we had sitting between us.
“This is Buster wine,” she said. “Our neighbour makes it out of huckleberries.”
Meril smelled the wine like a connoisseur, sipped it, and smacked his lips.
“So what were you doing in Paris?” I asked him.
He looked like he had forgotten that he even mentioned it. Then he looked like he was surprised I knew the Seine was even in Paris. “Oh, god,” he said. He pulled on his braid and smiled at his feet, which I noticed then were bare. Me and Tom leaned back in our chairs, Kelsey gazed at him. “I got mixed up with this woman who thought herself an artiste. We got into all kinds of things. We stayed in Rambuteau and became addicted to kosher falafels. I ended up busking on the Place de la Concorde as a golden Pharoah, like a mummy. I wore an Egyptian mask, this thing with horrible, blank eyes, and wrapped myself in this shiny gold stuff, this satiny material. I stood on a pedestal as still as I could, and bowed for people when they put money in a gold box next to me.”
“Why the hell do that?” asked Tom.
“It was easier than trying to play an instrument.”
Kelsey laughed hard then, slapped the porch and beamed at her man. She liked this one.
“So have you done a lot of travelling then,” said Tom.
“Tell them about New Zealand, Meril,” Kelsey said, and pushed his chest.
“What, all of it?”
“They don’t mind.”
“You kids let me get you something to eat first,” I said. “You must be starving. I’m starving.”
I realised just how gone I was when I tried to stand up, but then again isn’t that always the way, drinking in the afternoon sun until it flies over your house and all that’s left of it is its long legs stretching out on the yard to the river. Me and Tom, we’ll do that sometimes, sit out on a Saturday and just drink. Buster wine or beer or rum n’ cokes. We won’t bother with food and we’ll just smoke his roll-ups, and get slaughtered, and laugh and laugh until we cry. If I’ve got nothing else in this life, I’ll always have these afternoons of recklessness with my husband, and the sound of our screeching, and that look he gets in his eyes when life is good.
I could hear Tom honking out there with those two as I leaned against the counter, eating pistachios out of a jar, looking in the fridge for something to feed them all. Mom called from St Mary’s then, as furious as she was the day we moved her there, a few months prior. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but with her heart she needs 24-hour care and I was beat. She’s only 82. I was too drunk to talk to her.
“You left your bloody sweater here this morning.” Her voice was like acid.
“I knit that for you. You said you had a chill at night because they’ve been leaving the windows open in the common room so I knit that for you. ‘Specially knit that.”
“I’ve got plenty of sweaters.”
“But this was special.”
“I don’t want it. When you leave tomorrow you can take it with you.”
She hung up. The phone rang again.
“You’ve always been an incredibly fast knitter,” she said, still accusing.
“So what?”
“How did you do this so quickly?”
“You said you had a chill. I wanted you to have my hugs, all the time.” I twisted the phone chord around my body.
“What are you talking about?”
“The sweater. It’s a hug.”
“Well, thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”
It really wasn’t always like this. It was the thing with the home, and now she’s tried to escape, and we’ve had to call the police. There’s all this water under the bridge now, and it’s all full of turbulence.
I made ham and cheese sandwiches and found some crackers in the cupboard, a bag of oatmeal cookies and washed a bowl of spectacular peaches. The three of them started right in on the food and I had to remind them we were waiting to hear about New Zealand, all of it. Meril took small sips of wine, like he only wet his lips with it, and Kelsey was doing the same. He rubbed his hands together and crossed his legs, and he grinned a few times so that beard of his wagged. Kelsey put her head in his lap and closed her eyes. The soles of her feet were black as the ace of spades. The sun was nearly down.
He traced those big veins of his on his forearms, with these great boxy fingers, as he began to speak. “I was in New Zealand about six years ago; I was 25. I slept in the back of a station wagon in a parking lot next to a marina, up on the west coast of the North Island. I wanted to get a job on a fishing boat; I’d heard they were taking people on, like anyone, you needn’t have fished before. You could go on as a cook, or just a hand to do the grunt work, or clean the fish maybe. I don’t know. I never did get any work on any fishing boat. I had to leave because I’d found out that some beefcakes decided they didn’t like me hanging around the marina. They figured I was plotting something, or maybe it was just weird for them to have some strange foreigner hanging around their town, eating in their greasy spoons. I don’t know.”
“How’d you find out?” asked Tom, genuinely concerned. “Who were these guys?”
“Oh, people would say things to me in passing, quietly. Then they’d act like they hadn’t said anything at all. It took me a few weeks to realise this place was like the Twighlight Zone. It wasn’t a big deal. I took my station wagon down to Auckland, and it didn’t take long to find some work there.”
Kelsey opened her eyes and grinned up at him, and tugged at his braid. She took off her glasses and laid them on her chest.
“Your poor eyes,” he said to her, and kissed her nose. “They still look so sore.”
“So what job did you get?” I asked.
He looked at me and I could tell he was deciding whether or not he wanted to tell me. “I’ll tell you, but you can’t make any judgements.”
I held my glass of Buster wine towards him, and he reciprocated with a clink of his glass, still barely touched.
“I stayed in one of those backpacker hostels. This one, people were staying there for months. They were mostly from England, some other Canadians, some Germans. Mostly English. And they were mad for drugs. They were working the shittiest jobs, like in butcher shops or pubs, or meat pie stands. Really degrading stuff. Then they’d go and spend all their money on drugs, and complain that they had no money left over to travel with. I found myself in a pub with this English guy, from up north England, and he introduced me to this Kiwi called Max who he knew from his job on a building site. Me and this guy Max got to talking and by the end of the night I’d agreed to sell acid for him at the hostel – all the hostels.”
“LSD dad,” said Kelsey, and Tom nodded his thankyou.
“Was the money good?” Tom asked, and that’s how I knew he was really gone, because he wouldn’t have been so bold to act that cool if he were sober.
Meril smiled at him, grinned at him, and nodded yes. “It was great, until some guys ratted on me. I was arrested and spent nine months in the Auckland penitentiary.”
“No,” said Tom, aghast, and drained his glass. “That must have been really something.”
“It was,” said Meril.
“What was that like?” I asked, and looked at Kelsey to make sure this was a suitable question.
“I met some really beautiful people. Some really sound guys. I spent a lot of my evenings singing with a group of Maori fellas – they call each other fella – and I studied Buddhism with a Japanese guy.”
“Meril is a Buddhist,” said Kelsey. “He’s teaching me all about it.”
Now here was something new altogether, yet I was still back at the Eiffel Tower or wherever it was, trying to picture him as a golden Pharaoh, bowing for coins.

Because of the heat, Kelsey and Meril decided to sleep in the sun room at the back of the house. It was a little awkward there sometime around midnight, when I woke up and heard them making love. I’ve never heard my daughter’s fucking sounds before, why would I, I guess, and I have to say I was moved. She sounded like she was having a hell of a passion, and I could hear the way her voice excited him. I turned to Tom, to see if I could rouse him, play with him, but the Buster wine had him instead.

That Meril was already up before me, sitting at the edge of the river with his shirt off, trying to eat a crab apple. I came down and sat next to him, and laughed my ass off when I saw what he was trying to do.
“Tell me you know what a crab apple is,” I said, taking it from him, perhaps a little more violently than I needed to. “You don’t eat these, you nincompoop.”
“Nincompoop?” he said, and splashed me. “Who uses the word nincompoop?”
“You sleep well?” I asked him, and my cheeks burned at the thought of it.
“It’s like sleeping outside, that room.”
The sun was shining in our eyes and we had to squint. It bounced off the river in flints and reflected off our faces. This Meril had nice blue eyes, and he just kept smiling, and he was happy.
“So how’d you meet my daughter?”
“At the camp. We were in the same raft.”
“Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn?”
He smiled, pondered the implication, and said no. “Whitewater rafting. Down the Golden. She steered the boat. Grade three rapids too you know – no small chickens.”
“Where’d my daughter learn to drive a ship in the rapids?”
“They taught her, at the camp. They’ve really got it together at this place.”
“For people with problems in their head,” I said.
He spoke to the water. “They encourage teamwork, initiative, trust. It’s all about setting tasks and getting them done, and building confidence. Operating within a community where everyone is as crazy as everyone else. It’s a trip man, I’m telling you.”
“So you like working there?”
He put his hand on his chest and feigned surprise, and laughed, and said, “I’m one of the campers, dahling. I’m as crazy as snow in July!” He said July like Juw-lai, like he was from the Dukes of Hazards.
I looked at him sideways, and waited for the guffaw, or a slap on the back, or any indication that would tell me whether or not he was serious, but he was already pulling himself up, asking for something to eat.

A couple of days passed with me not knowing whether or not he was crazy; it was impossible to tell. I couldn’t get Kelsey to leave his side without it being too obvious. And he was so full of these incredible stories. We’d all be sitting around on the porch with a couple of beers, or watching television and eating cinnamon toast, and he’d break in with some story about some country he visited. He once lived on an island in Honduras, Roatan, and he lived with this woman he’d met scuba diving. She was his instructor. She fell in love with him, he said, and asked him to stay at her house for a while. So he did. She was a marvel, he said. She was Spanish, and she could speak English, French, Yugoslavian and a bit of Chinese. She played guitar in one of the drinking holes and where her voice didn’t suffice, her humour kicked in. Well, he came home late one night, middle of the night, and walked into the bedroom, or maybe it was the kitchen, only to find her standing there, pointing a gun at his head. He said she was like driftwood. She’d left Spain so many years before, and she’d travelled so much, too much, she’d lost her base. She’d been robbed at this house a few months before I guess, they took everything, and she was terrified. He didn’t know that, until he came in and found his nose up against the barrel of her gun. He said he couldn’t really live with her after that, and it was sad, as he figured she had a lot of people moving in and out of her life. And she’d moved in and out of a lot of the lives of others.
Well I can’t really fathom that, losing my base. These roots are deep. This was my mother’s house. The furthest I’ve been is Toronto, and that was a five-hour flight from Vancouver so I’m thinking that’s pretty far. And I’ve made plenty of trips down into Montana, through the canyons near Glacier National Park, to hang out at Red’s (Tom’s brother) cabin in Whitefish. Go skiing or swimming, depending on the time of year. But I’ve never been without family, whether it’s Tom or mom or one of my kids. Can’t imagine that. That poor little Spanish girl, cooped up with all those languages and no one to speak them to. Mental note: look up Roatan in our Atlas.

I don’t know what Meril said to mom when Kelsey took him to visit her, but he sure stirred things up. This is the phone conversation I had with her a few hours after his visit:
“I’m going on a trip,” she said to me.
“Are you now. Where are you going?”
“I’ve always, always wanted to see the Pyramids.”
“Well, everyone has always wanted to see the Pyramids.”
“What difference does that make? I want to go.”
“You need 24-hour care mom. Who’s going to take care of you? You can’t go to the grocery store without your oxygen.”
“So it’ll be the last thing I do.”
I put the phone to my boobs and took a deep breath, prayed to the ceiling fan, and continued. “Now, did you want me to bring you anything tomorrow morning?”
“Do I have a valid passport? Can you look in my dresser, top drawer. I think it might have expired.”
“Mom, it expired sometime in the seventies.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m still a citizen. I can get a new one.”
“Mom, Meril told you some of his stories, didn’t he? He’s had quite the life, that Meril, hasn’t he?”
“And he’s got no regrets,” she said.
“Regrets? What regrets do you have?”
I heard her sniffling over the line. I knew her bottom lip was trembling, and her wrinkled hand, dappled with veins and blotched like water marks on the ceiling, was tight over the receiver. It was all muffles and sniffles for a good minute.
“I just want to see the Pyramids,” she said. “I don’t need to explain it to you.”

I watched that Meril at dinner. No way was he crazy. Me and Tom, we were taken with him, almost as much as Kelsey was.
“I spent a few months in Australia before I went to New Zealand, eh?” Meril started.
“You didn’t hang out in the Sydney jail I hope,” said Tom.
“Tell us a nice story Meril,” I urged. “Surely you’ve seen something beautiful? Have you ever seen the Pyramids?”
His eyes brightened and he put down his fork. “Your mom was talking about that today!”
“I know she was. She thinks she’s going to go see them now. You lit some fire under her ass.”
“I think we should help her,” said Kelsey. The puff was almost gone from her eyes now, but she looked tired.
“It would kill her,” I said, “and don’t bloody say ‘so what’. I know so what. She’ll live for a few more years.”
“We could take her,” Meril piped up.
Kelsey looked shocked; she put her hand over his hand. She smiled like she thought that was a bad idea. I didn’t want to talk about it anyway, and I’d made this nice rhubarb crisp, and Tom had made ice cream, so we ate dessert. And I didn’t sleep much in the night.

I was having a cold bath on the Saturday night. It was too hot to do anything else. Kelsey came in and sat on the toilet, started clipping her dirty toenails into the wastepaper basket. This was her way. She didn’t say anything and waited for me to start talking.
“Why’d you cut your hair so short?” I began.
“That camp is rough on you.”
She turned around and pulled the wash cloth off the side of the tub, gestured for me to sit up so she could scrub my back. “It’s so good there mom. People really, all people want to do is make others feel good about themselves. Meril, he’s so amazing at getting people psyched up.”
“Like convincing mom she should go to friggin’ Egypt.”
“I would take her you know,” said Kelsey. “But with both of them – I’d be the one on medication.”
I grabbed the side of the tub and looked up at her. “So he really is a camper then eh?”
“He told me he told you, but I thought you would have cornered me about it days ago.”
“I’m not sure that it really bothers me.”
“I’m never sure what to believe.”
“He likes to tell stories.”
“Well that’s obvious.”
“No. I mean, all these places he’s been to, I’m not sure it’s anything more than bits and pieces he’s picked up from other people.”
“He’s a liar?”
Kelsey grinned then, and she had tears in her eyes. “I’m not sure that it really bothers me!” She laughed again then, and pulled at the neck of her t-shirt and looked down at her boobs. “Heavenly, tell me these tits aren’t going to sag like yours.”
She wanted to divert me then, and I wanted to talk about it more. But she’d moved on. She’s like her dad in that respect, so I left it, grabbed the pumice stone and went to work on my elbows and heels. That was the last we talked about it anyway because they left the next day. They confessed that they were only allowed a weekend away instead of a whole week, and there was going to be a bit of hell to pay when they got back. That Meril gave us a gift of crab-apple people; he’d done it well too. He scrounged bits and pieces from the kitchen – toothpicks, steel wool, cloves, a terrycloth, caraway and mustard seeds, a few broom hairs – and made a fat old couple with a jug of Buster wine between them. For the Buster wine, he used the cap from an Ajax bottle. He told me he’d learned how to make apple people from a guy who mended his shoes once in Mexico City. Great imagination that Meril, Mexico City or not.
As per usual, I felt like I was being ripped apart when Kelsey left. They wanted to hitch to the bus station, so we walked them up to Highway 6 and waited until they caught a lift. She hasn’t lived at home since she was 17, well that’s not true – she’s come home for a few months here and there to help when mom got really bad. But if you asked me how many addresses and jobs she’s gone through in that time, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I would think it’s somewhere in the twenties? Tom wouldn’t even proffer a guess.

I think it was about a week after they left that St Mary’s called me to say mom had run away. We called the police right away and by chance, they found mom at the bus station, half suffocated and delirious. So we didn’t really sick the cops on her, as she now will have anyone who will listen believe. An officer was at the bus station anyway and was alerted to her by the Quick Snack man who found her sweating and panting by the drinks fridge. When I got to the hospital she was hooked up to a couple of things, but she was bright as a Christmas tree, propped up and pissed off. Tom sat in a chair by the window while I fritted around her. There were other patients in the room, older and sicker, and the smell, one I always associate with the old and infirm, was like boiled chicken.
“Do you feel like telling me what happened mom?” I asked.
“I was trying to get to Vancouver to renew my passport.”
“I told you you couldn’t go anywhere without your oxygen.”
“And I told you it’ll be the last trip I do.”
That friggin’ Meril, I thought. I considered telling her the truth about him, but it only would have been to hurt her. They brought mom the prescribed soft lunch of rice pudding, overboiled carrots and pureed beef. She ignored it, which meant she was really and truly pissed off.
“I’m not a prisoner,” she said to me, and she looked at Tom. He nodded his agreement, but shrugged his shoulders too.
“Well look how far you got mom. How did you get to the bus station anyway?”
“Hitched.” She looked up, tried to cup her tears so they wouldn’t fall. “It’s so boring getting old.”

Mom and I have struck a deal now. I’ve sent away for passport applications, for her, Tom and myself. We’re each going to have one, which means we at least have the option of going to the Pyramids, whether we actually do it or not.

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Comments by other Members

Ellenna at 15:19 on 13 August 2003  Report this post
Sarah, I was transported into another world here ..earthy, plain speaking and the wonderful characters. I think you have really captured so well..I can see this all happening..and all clustering round the spunky mother who seems to manage to control everyone in her way ! Hope she does manage to see the pyramids..


Nell at 16:47 on 13 August 2003  Report this post
Sarah, this is wonderful, incredible, how do you do it? Your characters are so real, so fully realised, as Ellie says, so earthy. I loved the conversations with Mom - I could see her there on the other end of the phone, her grumpiness about the sweater changing to a grudging thanks. Again the wealth of finely observed detail that brings everything to life - little things like the bottoms of Kelsey's feet being black, eating pistashios out of a jar - things maybe that another writer wouldn't see or think to mention. And there's lots of love here too, a very true and basic love of kin that shines through.

Only one little thing - I'd have liked to know that Kelsey was their daughter earlier in the piece - I wasn't at all sure who she was until she calls Tom 'Dad' about half way through. But this is a small thing, and not everyone will agree. And should it be 'Twilight Zone'?

Great stuff, you have a unique and very special voice.

Best, Nell.

Nell at 16:48 on 13 August 2003  Report this post
Oh, and I just know Mom'll see the pyramids...

Sarah at 17:08 on 13 August 2003  Report this post

I like that you saw that simplicity. I worry though -- I don't want mom to sound like a bumpkin. Does she? I wanted her to be uncomplicated, but intelligent. It was almost scary how fast this story was written -- about four mornings was all it took -- you know those times when things don't feel bogged down? This was one of those times. I'm glad it came through for you.

You're such a confidence builder, thank you. I think you're probably right about the daughter disclosure. I'll have to find a way of getting it in earlier without saying "Kelsey is my daughter" because I want the narration to be without any of those sorts of formalities.

Ellenna at 17:11 on 13 August 2003  Report this post
No she sounds anything but a bumpkin .. that doesnt strike me at all.. she seems very canny to me ! and a real character..

Sarah at 17:14 on 13 August 2003  Report this post

Nell at 19:43 on 13 August 2003  Report this post
Sarah, I agree entirely, and I'm sure you'll find a way to slip it in easily. And mom sounds intelligent, canny and just right!

matheson at 23:34 on 13 August 2003  Report this post
Not to gush but, shit, you're quite good! ;-)

Better than that Sarah. Really great piece. The voice was enfolding and convincing and flowed on, drawing me into the slow paced yet complex world of this family. Loved the voice. Loved the word pictures. Loved the conciet that Meril might be mad and/or lying and it doesn't matter.

With an eye for water, "There’s all this water under the bridge now, and it’s all full of turbulence" - that's wonderful!

As well as the voice, your eye and "pen" for the physicality of characters, their sensual "roundness" is great...wrapping the telephone cord around her, checking her boobs and commenting on her mothers, listening to her daughter in the night...somehow a family at peace with itself (with possible occasional black eye?)

2 or 3 possibles to look at. Who's who was a problem for me in the first couple of paragraphs. It's not clear to me that Kelsey is a woman's name (coz its foreign innit!) so the "her" could refer to the mother and she/ Kelsey could be the narrator's sister and (for a little while as they get slaughtered on the porch), the narrator could be Kelsey's father not mother...so I found myself a little dizzy and distracted trying to figure out relationships.

I thought the margin note to look up Roatan in the Atlas was too "out of voice"/"literary" so it jarred a wee bit.

And...intake of breath...I felt the last line was too neat an underline/tie up of the story. The voice (for me) rolls on beyond the end of the piece so this "end" felt artificial. [COMMITS ULTIMATE ACT OF HUBRIS ]: I'd stop at "How did you get to the bus station anyway?” - but I know that suggestion is well out of line. Refer to above. This is stunningly good stuff. Thanks.

All the best


Becca at 06:33 on 14 August 2003  Report this post
Beautiful tender writing, Sarah. 'Heavenly' is perfect, the slight amazement she has at meeting Meril and the quiet matter of factness and acceptance of her lot in life that she has. I also noticed what John said about 'Mental note.....' But I didn't have any difficulties working out who was who, although at first I thought 'Heavenly' might be a young girl because the piece starts 'My name is...' However that was quickly sorted. The dialogue was wonderful between her and her mom. What a very fine writer you are, Sarah, I'm waiting for you to take your place alongside Lorrie Moore.
This one line got me a little, and I don't know if it's a typo or an expression I haven't come across: 'So we didn't really sick the cops on her...'
The whole idea of a man who could inspire people to think about their lives in a different way, but around whom there is some distinct mystery, makes a perfect short story, but could also be the basis for a fine novel. This is about travel essentially, had you thought about submitting to Aurora's next compo? I wait to be amazed by you again.

JohnK at 07:39 on 14 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Sarah,
Your descriptions show a genuine feel for the simple pleasures of life, and an appreciation for genuinely friendly people. I love the way you have built an atmosphere of trust and contentment.

I also loved the ending - nothing settled, but some compromise. Honour satisfied, perhaps.

Many thanks for uploading it, JohnK.

bluesky3d at 08:11 on 14 August 2003  Report this post
Yes Sarah, your writing is full of pathos, tenderness, humanity, and is well observed. I particularly liked... 'presenting her man like a model on a game show would present a dishwasher.'
Great stuff.
Andrew :o)

stephanieE at 10:36 on 14 August 2003  Report this post
I wanted to wait to read this until I had plenty of time...

It's great - well up to your usual standards, demonstrating your facility with the small town observational style. And I like the warm tone of this piece - I was slightly afraid that there might be something sinister around the corner - but the rightness of the relationships, and the obvious affection between family members makes the reader remember (with guilt? regret?) one's own failures to communicate with one's family sometimes.

So... a charming glimpse into a real, earthy family. Well done

PS I would put a question mark to this and make it an asked...
“So have you done a lot of travelling then,” said Tom.

Sarah at 15:15 on 15 August 2003  Report this post

what a great resonse from you all, again, thank you thank you.

John, your points are well taken and I can see you're going to make me work hard!! I see that it's a common opinion about needing a little clarity at the beginning, and that shouldn't be too hard. And the last line...zoiks! I respect your opinion so I'm thinking about this... but, I want the story to end on a possibility, and to reflect what I see as being the focal point of the story: the fact that it doesn't actually matter whether you go anywhere or not, that it's more about the possibility, or the freedom of having the choice. I can see where you're coming from, and it does whiff a little of "and so they lived happily ever after..." I'm off to ponder this one. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

JohnK, I'm glad you liked the ending, because now I'm having second thoughts about it... but you saw what I was trying to portray, so that's good!

Becca... Lorrie Moore??? Give me goosebumps or what. What a lovely, lovely thing to say.
I used "sick" in that context in the same way people would "sick a dog on" someone. Have you never heard that? Maybe it's a Canadian thing. (Well, humph, let's be honest, probably an American thing.) Have you never heard the call "Sick 'em boy! Sick 'em!"?
I did write this with Aurora in mind. I think the deadline is the middle of September, so I have a little time to step away from it before I go back to rewrite. Hope it's enough...

Tanya... lately I've been writing such dark, deadly stuff, and it was nice to break from that. And you know what, there was a moment there in the writing when one of the characters tried to run away to shitty land on me, and I had to pull the reigns in. Thanks for your words and encouragement.

Andrew, thank you!

Hilary Custance at 17:15 on 15 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Sarah, this is the most atmospheric piece of writing I have read so far on this site. Writing that allowed you to settle in with the characters and relax. I love the way they all lean comfortable on each other and on their past, the way the stranger Meril is accommodated with an open mind, where the curiosity is loving, not searching for things to condemn.

I was a little astray at the beginning thinking that Heavenly and Tom were children (the reference to Mom did it). If somehow you could say that Kelsey is her daughter in the first few lines...(I know, I know, getting that sort of info across always alters the tone).

It is so good to have a story in which the reader is permitted to grow fond of the characters. These characters all came over as strong and individual, yet not gunning for each other, just at-one with themselves and the life they had.

Very tentatively I'm going to half agree with John, I think you could have another feel of the ending. I don't want you to lose the line 'it is so boring getting old.' I just have an idea that you might come up with an even better way to wrap it up if you just let it simmer for a bit. I want to emphasise that I wasn't unhappy with the current ending, I just had a feeling that you weren't in the same mood as when you wrote the rest of it and maybe if you got back in that mood, something might just arrive on the page. Similarly, I'd sift through a few titles and see if any alternatives suit better, again not because there is anything wrong with Passport. NB This lily does not need gilding, so you can ignore this para.

I had no trouble with 'mental note', or 'sicking the dogs on'. Ah well you are never going to get the same message from everyone.
I took half a day off today to catch up (a little) with the site. It was well worth it. The quality of writing that I have been reading is amazing and satisfying. Good luck with this.

Cheers, Hilary

What's this Aurora? I don't fancy the competition but I feel I should try everything.

Becca at 22:37 on 15 August 2003  Report this post
I so love what everybody has written about this and the passion of it. Yes, sarah, I did mean Lorrie Moore. Sick is fine.

Sarah at 11:04 on 18 August 2003  Report this post
Hilary, you've reinforced a lot of what people are saying, and I have been thinking hard about this ending. You are absolutely right, that the cure for whatever ails is a bit of simmering, a bit of time away so I can come back to this and read that ending a little more objectively. Your comments are wonderful and well thought out, thank you.

Aurora actually advertises its call for submissions on this site. They publish anthologies, quarterly I think, on selected themes. The next deadline is September 15, and the theme is called Flights of Fancy: Travel. I'm suspicious of any submission calls that ask for ££ along with them (I make it a rule not to send to these calls), but this one is only £5, and you can send up to three stories. So I'm going to send two. I figure, £2.50 each is worth it, and worth breaking one of my rules for. Check out the website.. I think it's www.aurora-publishing.co.uk

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