Archive for the ‘writing’ Category
When Lorna untied the knot, she found herself — somewhere familiar. The trees were gray, the leaves were dark, and she could smell the dampness in the air. Beneath her feet, the leaves were wet. She glanced around. There were thorns. A crow screamed nearby. Somewhere — behind her, to the left — there was a brook. The brook led back to the village, if you went upstream.
Lorna walked forward. She untied the knot fully, and then she plucked a different string from her pocket, her fingers working quickly. She had to hardly look at what she was doing. She could feel the strings vibrate. Someone was near–
She barely stepped out of the way in time. A figure fell. Lorna stopped and turned. The figure scrambled in the leaves, regaining her feet. A dull brown dress, a grey apron, dark brown hair, cut short, and finally the girl turned to look Lorna in the eyes.
Lorna looked back at herself. Her eyes were wide, frantic, terrified. There was a cut on her cheek and on her neck. Her nose was rubbed raw with dirt and more dirt, or perhaps blood.
“Quickly,” said this Lorna, “Which way to the village?”
“A doppelganger,” Lorna guessed.
“Tell me, stranger, please, which way to the village? The witch has been gone for three days, I only just escaped — father said mother could hide me, that she would, she could, where is the village?”
“A specter,” said Lorna. “A mirror specter, or an uncreative one.”
Lorna grabbed her shoulders. “Please, miss, please tell me, I have to find my way home — the witch could be back any minute–”
“You’re the witch’s girl,” said Lorna. “The one everyone keeps talking about. I saw you, you were throwing leaves in the king’s palace.”
“It was me, miss, please, tell me where the village is.”
“You have been Lorna the whole time,” said Lorna.
“Please, please, miss, please, where is the village?” Lorna fell to the ground. There were tears in her eyes, they looked so much like her mother’s, like Lorna’s. “My father only just cut the scarf, and I’m free, and the witch will be here soon, I’m sure of it, please, tell me where the village is!”
Lorna froze. She looked around. She scuttled off, struggling on four limbs. She found a tree, and hid behind it.
Lorna could sense it too. She looked around, clutching her knot. She wrapped the two ends around her two index fingers. She wrote runes in her head, thinking of the power. The air smelled of swamp and rot. The witch was coming.
She turned, and there she was, the witch.
“Where is my sister?” asked Lorna.
“You have no sister,” said the witch.
“I do have a sister,” said Lorna, “She is my only family, and you will return her to me.” She twisted the knots in her fingers.
But the knots struggled against her fingers. One knot poked a different direction than she meant. Lorna felt the mud beneath her feet. The witch was trying to throw her off her balance, take away her movement. “You never had a sister,” said the witch, “You even called her Cousin growing up.”
Lorna started a new knot, feeling the roots beneath the mud move. If the earth was free, then so were the trees.
“She is like a sister now.”
“She is not even a girl.”
“She is my only family now.” Now, with Jonpast’s daughter huddled behind a tree, Lately would be Lorna’s only family indeed.
“I am your mother,” said the witch.
“You are not my mother.” Lorna frowned.
“I am your mother,” said the witch, “I carved you from the rotten earth of this forest and nestled you in the arms of a dumb animal of the village.”
“Then the earth of this forest hates you,” said Lorna.
The roots snapped out of the earth, throwing mud every which way. But the witch threw out her arms, and great rocks knocked the roots out of the way, leaving her unharmed but covered in mud.
“Are you surprised then?” said the witch.
“I have met Jonpast’s daughter,” said Lorna. “She is no peer of mine, dumb and scuttling on the earth, throwing leaves every which way. You cannot touch the soil of humanity.”
“You threw leaves into the halls of great kings because you cannot touch their ground.”
Her right foot sank into the mud, but Lorna’s magic undid her shoelace, and she touched the mud with her own stocking foot, feeling the ground between her toes. The witch’s lip curled in fury. A vine snapped behind Lorna, but she plucked a snot. The roots caught the vine and pulled down the tree. The witch sailed into the air. She lifted up her hands, and water poured into the earth.
Lorna screamed, and fire burst forth. The water evaporated into steam.
“You tricked the hunter into switching his child, and then you were trapped by your own servants for fourteen years!”
“I own my slaves,” hissed the witch. She flew behind Lorna.
Listen, I haven’t written the parts before this so I’m just gonna stop it here, okay</i<
“What else could it mean?” asked Mother. “That awful place, that awful religion, they chose that husband. And the Hole told me to bow before him.”
“Maybe bowing means something different in Hole,” said the other twin, who hadn’t spoken before now. “What do you do when you bow before a hole?”
“You dig into it,” said the first twin.
“How do you dig into you husband?” asked the Convert. “You, what, you stab him?”
“You stab him,” the mother said, quieter.
The kitchen grew quiet. The candles flickered. Out there, the Island was waiting. He was waiting.
In an underground tunnel. Claire and Eva are waving flashlights. Claire, 21, is taller, more secure and in her element; she walks briskly, and seems to be looking for something. Eva, 18, follows. She slumps, and has an air of exhaustion about her at all times. Every movement seems to be made of extreme effort.
They find an area lit from above. The light blinks. Claire stops to study it. Eva, uninterested, simply looks around. A camera flashes, not too far away. They turn and look. The camera flashes again. Then another girl steps out of the shadows: Andy, 23, dressed warmly. She has a warm presence, and is smiling. In this case, she seems to be asking for forgiveness.
Andy: Hey, sorry! Your figures just seemed to good, you know, just lit up against the darkness. Your silhouettes were fantastic. I should have warned you. I should have said something. Hi, I’m Andy.
Claire gawks at her. Eva waits, tired.
Andy: I’m an urban spelunker! Explorer. I like Explorer better, don’t you? It flows better. Anyway, I’ve always like exploring abandoned places. There’s just an air of…rawness. Of the humanity that left this area behind.
Claire: Nature creeping in!
Andy: I guess, but you don’t see a whole lot nature in the city, do you?
Claire: We are also urban explorers. Yes. What got you interested in urban exploring?
Andy: I started when I was maybe ten years old. I started exploring all the sewers by my house. I don’t think they were actually sewers, just water runoff. But it was nice and cool there in the summer, and you didn’t really know where you were. I loved that. I just loved being separated from the world. You meet all sorts of cool people doing this. Lots of homeless people, lots of drug addicts. Really interesting people. I tend to just do this by myself, mostly, I’m surprised to see you guys do this in a group.
Claire: It’s just the two of us.
Andy: I guess it’s safer that way.
Eva: We’re here to hunt ghosts.
Eva: We hunt and kill ghosts for profit.
Claire: Not at all.
Eva: We hunt and kill ghosts for fun.
Claire: We don’t kill anything. Ahahahaha.
Andy: You’re ghost hunters?
Claire: It’s a side business. Not even profitable.
Andy: It’s a legit business?
Claire: I guess so? I mean, we’re a registered LLC with an EIN and everything, but, like, that’s mostly just so I can claim business expenses on my tax return. Eva does a lot of the work but I can’t hire her technically, she’s like sixteen.
Eva: I’m eighteen.
Claire: What? Since when?
Eva: The entire time that we’ve know each other.
Claire: What? She’s eighteen.
Andy: You guys are funny.
Andy: I don’t normally hang out with people. I like the quiet. It gets the muses going.
Claire: We’re normally very quiet. Eva hardly talks at all.
Indeed, they look at Eva, and Eva is looking elsewhere, tired and bored.
Andy: So do you think there’s ghosts here? I can feel an energy here.
They Gaze at each other.
Andy: I didn’t catch your name.
The wind blows.
Claire: Is that what I think it is?
Claire: Let’s get it.
Guys I’m kinda tired and I’ll write the hunt later.
The day was dry and hot, but the brook was cool. The women all bunched their skirts around their thighs, knotted them in place, and waded into the brook. Some of them carried baskets and others washboards. The brook was perfect for doing the wash. Large rocks littered the whole brook, so that they could rest the baskets on top of them, or set the whole washboard against the rocks and not worry about them falling over.
Lorna loved going into the woods. Other girls might shirk the duty, but she never did. She loved the smell of the water (other girls said that the water didn’t smell, but of course it did). The other girls said that there were beasts in the woods, bullywogs and will o’ the wisps and bugbears and death dogs and trolls and wolves and bandits. So what if there were? Wouldn’t that be neat?
Her cousin Lately set her washboard down. Lorna set the basket on top of a rock nearby. They set themselves apart from the other women. It was just the two of them, and the shade of the trees. Lorna could feel the rocks under her feet and between her toes. She could feel the dirt wiggling under the current. She could feel the tension of the ground above the river bank, the tree roots snuggling into the ground, the leaves swaying in the breeze (“but there is no breeze Lorna” “there is always a breeze Kaetlan”).
Lately began whistling. It was a bird song. Lorna recognized it. She didn’t know exactly what bird it was (who cared) but she knew what the song was about. The bird didn’t want anyone on his tree, except for ladies, obviously, but the ladies had to know that it was his tree, but they were welcome, but you know, it was his tree. Lately was so good at whistling.
They pulled the clothes one-by-one from the basket and rubbed it into the washboard. They didn’t speak. Lately just whistled, and Lorna just listened. A bird called back to Lately, demanding who she thought she was, this was his tree and his forest, she better apologize and get out of his way. But Lately just kept whistling the same song. Lorna grinned.
The bird became frustrated. Did she want to fight? (well actually he was using the second person, he was saying you, but recounting this, I must use the third person, she)
Lately kept whistling the same song.
Lorna giggled. Lately smiled at her, but she kept whistling. Lorna sometimes wondered if Lately understood bird song. She was so good at whistling.
Lorna heard the bird fly. She turned to look at him. He was a blue-chested songbird of some kind (who cared). He hopped from tree and shrub to tree and shrub, looking for the intruder. Lorna tapped Lately and pointed to him. Lately frowned, confused. She stopped whistling.
The bird hopped around, looking around. He whistled a few notes. He called the intruder a coward, told the intruder that next time he would get what was coming to him, and to never come back. Then he flew back up to his tree.
“That was a pretty boring bird. Why did you show me that bird?” asked Lately.
In 2001, the film Josie and the Pussycats was released. It was part of the trend of adapting old TV shows to movies. In the movie, Josie, Valerie, and Melody are aspiring pop stars called “The Pussycats”. When the biggest boy band in the world, Du Jour, all disappear in a plane crash, the trio are plucked off the street by a desperate studio head. In the end, it turns out that all pop music that exists has subliminal music telling your subconscious to buy new clothes and eat McDonalds. It was a pretty dumb movie.
This song makes it all worth it somehow.
Someone online pointed out that the movie predicted the rise of female power pop artists, and that said rise would replace boy bands.
In 2002, Avril Lavigne released her first album, and she was unleashed onto the world. For those of us who rejected the mainstream, studio-generated, wholesome bubblegum pop, she and her ilk were the perfect alternative.
Not that pop-punk didn’t have its share of interchangeability, no sir.
They were angry and they wore terrible clothes terribly because they were real artists, not just models reciting generic love songs written by five people at studio headquarters.
Her first big hit was probably Sk8tr Boi. It was about a preppy girl and a skater boy who are totally into each other.
He wanted her.
She’d never tell.
Secretly she wanted him as well.
And all of her friends stuck up their nose.
They had a problem with his baggy clothes.
He was a skater boy.
She said, “See ya later, boy.”
He wasn’t good enough for her.
She had a pretty face but her head was up in space.
She needed to come back down to earth.
So the preppy girl was a bad person for listening to her friends and being high-and mighty in her social status. That’s not how it works in the real world! Don’t we all relate to this feeling, being rejected by the popular people? Later in the song, Lavigne crows:
Sorry, girl, but you missed out.
Well, tough luck, that boy’s mine now.
We are more than just good friends.
This is how the story ends.
…I’m with the skater boy.
I said, “See ya later, boy.”
I’ll be backstage after the show.
I’ll be at the studio singing the song we wrote
About a girl you used to know.
She even brags, “Too bad that you couldn’t see/ See that man that boy could be/ There is more than meets the eye/ I see the soul that is inside.” Because, you see, this girl is so shallow! Not like Avril Lavigne! Are you shallow? Or are you like Avril Lavigne? “Does your pretty face see what he’s worth?” Avril Lavigne mocks.
One of the most-remembered parts of the song is probably the opening (He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?) but I think that a key part to the subtext is in the next line:
He was a punk
She did ballet
She does ballet. The girl does ballet. Now, in elementary school, maybe being into ballet is rather girly — lots of girls do it, they dream of being pretty princess ballerinas in poofy pink tutus. But I had a friend in high school who did ballet, and let me tell you. It’s hard to balance school, friends, and ballet. You’re always tired. You’re not left with a whole lot of time. Certainly not enough to pursue a relationship outside of your immediate friends group. But Avril Lavigne only knows her boyfriend’s side of the story.
The other big single on that album, Complicated, did take a kinder view to finding relationships outside of your immediate social group. But that’s not saying much.
Somebody else ’round everyone else
You’re watching your back like you can’t relax
You’re tryin’ to be cool
You look like a fool to me
…I mean, relatively speaking. After all, Avril Lavigne is one of the guys. That’s her persona. Check out the music video for this.
She is literally surrounded by her dudes at all time, equally active in aggressive, boy activities. She’s even specifically shown rejecting femininity by straight-up attacking it:
Except that she’s not one of the boys. She’s singled out by her damned womanhood. They do things with her that they wouldn’t do to their fellow dudes. They put on a fashion show for her, trying on the outfits of different personas. When she teases them for it, they pick her up.
Like, they literally pick her up, playfully, because she’s a woman and they’re guys and they’re bigger than her and so they can and so it’s funny. As someone who has been picked up for similar reasons, it is funny! It’s fun to be picked up by big strong dudes! But, you know, guys don’t lift up other guys just because they can. It’s far too physical and, specifically, flirty.
That’s the dream of being One of the Boys, but it’s also the tragedy.
In 2007, Avril Lavigne released a single called Girlfriend. Some people have called it the end of the “punk” part of her career, and that’s not without reason.
She lost the iconic tie, her shirt is white, she has on a miniskirt and fishnets instead of the bulky cargo pants that were inexplicably popular in the early 2000s. It’s more than just the fact that her outfit changed significantly five years, though. The content of her song has changed too.
The early 2000s white adolescence was marked by a culture war between “preps” and “punks”. I referenced this even in the beginning of this essay. When I said, “For those of us who rejected the mainstream, studio-generated, wholesome bubblegum pop”, what I meant was, “For those of us who were punks.” There was an alternative, geeks, and their neutrality eventually rose to supremacy above preps and punks. But for the first few years of the twenty-first century, everyone had to be either punk or a prep.
A large part of this culture was the assumption that preps were on top. It was assumed that they had money and popularity, that they wore the right clothes and listened to acceptable music and that adults would listen to them because of their perceived goodness. We all knew they were secretly terrible, cruel bullies to punks, lording over us with their ill-gotten power. So punks had to wear terrible clothing and listen to terrible music, because it was real and cool.
That paragon of great literature, My Immortal, has a great example:
A fucking prep called Britney from Griffindoor was standing next to us. She was wearing a pink mini and a Hilary Duff t-shirt so we put up our middle fingers at her.
Avril Lavigne’s One of the Boys persona fitted this attitude perfectly. But with Girlfriend, she flipped that on her head: the punk was outright stealing another girl’s boyfriend.
She’s like so, whatever
You could do so much better
I think we should get together now
(And that’s what everyone’s talkin’ about)
Over the course of the video, Avril:
Flirts with her boyfriend in front of her:
Knocks her go-kart off the track:
(I just want to point this out)
Snatches her out of a photobooth so she can take pictures with the boy:
Steals the giant churro just before they finished eating it (just before kissy times ensue):
Whacks her in the head with a golf ball:
She actually hits her hard enough in the head that she loses her balance, stumbles, and falls over. That’s a pretty mighty hit.
Then, in the resulting confusion, Avril finds the boyfriend and finally steals him.
Upon finding them, the girlfriend charges them, but then trips and falls into a porta-potty, where she screams in impotency.
Avril’s antagonist is an interesting character. She’s also played by Avril Lavigne, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her play a not-Avril.
In each skit, the first few seconds always shows Boyfriend and Girlfriend doing their dating thing. They actually seem to like each other. He’s always smiling at her. She can sucker him into doing what she wants. They go out and do all these cool things (go-karting, golfing, eating giant churros), and they do them just the two of them, so clearly they enjoy each other’s company. Visibly they’re a completely mis-match, because she’s wearing pink and plaid and he’s wearing black and white, but if they were wearing similar colors they would probably look fine together.
It’s only when Avril Classic enters the picture that trouble enters paradise. Which means that the protagonist is the villain of the story. We can’t trust Avril Classic or Avril Lite’s interpretation of the story. So when the Boyfriend is shown smiling after Avril Classic steals the churro, kisses him, and runs, what does that mean? Is he just so easy-going that he’s just happy to be kissed? Or does he really, truly, want to date Avril Classic and not Girlfriend?
I find Girlfriend’s outfit fascinating. It’s a pink cardigan over a pink polo shirt, with a knee-length plaid skirt, knee-high socks, and black flats. It’s hideous. It’s disgusting.
It’s also totally, completely, 100% in. Not the colors, oh no, not by any stretch of the imagination. No one would mix that bright pink with that dark plaid. And the skirt is formless. But the schoolgirl style is in: part geek chic, part layered, equal parts classy and casual, it was especially popular in the mid-2000s, when this video was made.
Preps wear pink. Preps wear schoolgirl outfits. Despite our rejection of those atrocious colors, Girlfriend is meant to be a stereotype of a prep, seen through a pop-punk so pop-punk that she’s forgotten how to behave in social situations. The protagonist (the villain) shows her making snotty faces in her introduction, but why should we trust her interpretation?
I also find it really interesting that Avril is shown having female friends for the first time. In fact, in contrast to Complicated, Girlfriend features a lot of female faces. They also happily help Avril in her quest to torment Girlfriend.
We see here again two Preps — note the schoolgirl/layered outfits, although less insanely colored this time. Avril and her friends intimidate them into the leaving the bathroom, breaking into their personal space and jumping at them until they leave. They don’t really do anything wrong, they’re just standing where Avril and her friends want to stand.
Pretty much the only male face that we see in this video is that of Boyfriend, who is more of an object than a character. He could very much be a Sexy Lamp Test fail. This video, unlike her earlier videos, takes place in Girl World. And it’s a nasty, vicious place, isn’t it? Boy World features inept mall cops and friends banding together to have a good time. Girl World has cat fights, personal vendettas, and concussions as conclusions to romantic drama. But it’s okay, because the punk beat the prep!
I spent my early teens in that mindset: punks vs. preps. When I see the writings of kids that age in these mid-2010s, I see the discussion focusing on gender and equality. Why should girl attack girl? Where is the boy’s consent in all this? The kids might not have the best vocabulary to think their arguments out entirely, but they can sense something wrong in this piece. Why should Avril get the boy just because they both wear black shirts?
That is why Avril’s last big hit was Girlfriend. The song was too far from the perspective that built her up. One of the Boys cannot live in Girl World.
28: You know what? Look at all these Ill Girls, dispensing wisdom and such. I was an Ill Girl. I wonder if being that sick makes you as wise as they show in the movies. I’m going to go find out.
She goes to 8’s bedroom
28: Hey there. I’m you from the future.
8: Why is your hair red?
28: Because you decided that you look cuter with red hair.
8: When do I do that?
28: Oh, after you shave your head.
8: Why do I do that?
28: Because your head is so hot just all the time. It’s itchy. And it’s just, it’s so hot, and it hurts.
8: You’re right! Sometimes all I want to do is just shake my head back and forth but it hurts so much.
28: Don’t worry. Soon Mom and Dad will find you a good doctor, and that doctor will make you all better. But for now, since you’re sick, you’re much wiser than healthy people.
8: I am?
28: Yeah, like, Beth in Little Women, or Eva St. Clare in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or, like, lots of movies.
8: But in The Secret Garden, Colin was a brat, he wasn’t smart.
28: You’re right. Maybe it’s just girls. Hmm. Right, so I’m going to ask you some questions. You can answer them however you want. Just whatever comes off the top of your head. Alright?
28: What is the meaning of life?
28: What is the meaning of life?
28: Anything. Anything at all. Okay, let’s go back to that one. Okay, how many road must a man walk down — that is a stupid question.
8: That’s a rhetorical question.
28: How…how do you know what a rhetorical question is, you’re eight.
8: Because I’m smart.
28: Like I said, that one is a stupid question. Okay, let’s go to the next one. When does life begin?
8: Life began four and a half billion years ago, when the earth cooled enough and amino acids started forming single-cell creatures.
28: Okay, wow, you aced that science test.
8: Hair is made of protein.
28: Yes, but, that’s not what the question is. Not when did life begin. When does life begin. You see, okay, Mom told you all about how babies are made. So the question is, when does the fetus become a baby, like, a living baby.
8: I was born premature.
28: Yeah, that caused a lot of your problems early in life. But like, at five weeks early, you could survive out of the womb. When is the earliest we can take the baby out of the mom and not be like, this is just a clump of cells, this can die.
8: I just finished reading the Giver and Mom says that Jonas and Gabe die at the end.
28: What do you think?
8: I don’t want them to die.
28: Well if it makes you feel better than they didn’t die. There’s some books that get published later. Jonas becomes the wise leader of a successful colony where everyone is free and he marries an awesome girl and Gabriel…
8: What happens to Gabriel? Does he die?
28: He becomes a very important messenger for the village. He’s very happy.
8: Does he die?
28: He uh. Yeah. He dies. It’s a stupid book though, I like to pretend it didn’t happen. You know what, let’s go back to — what’s the meaning of life?
8: But why does he die?
28: He sacrifices himself to cleanse the forest of the devil’s influence.
28: I know, like, the theme of the first two books what totally that evil came from within. Introducing a devil character was so stupid.
8: But why does Gabe die?
28: Here’s a question, if there is no God, why are sunsets so beautiful?
8 bursts into tears
28: She didn’t answer any of my questions.
I helped a woman with some blinds today. I helped her pick them out, and then cut them down to size. She kept commenting on how nice I was and how helpful I was being. I would simply say thank you.
As I was cutting the blinds, she told me about how she was just in town to help her sister move. Her sister had moved into a new house and was too busy to do the unpacking and settling in herself. So she had come from California to do it for her. I commented that that was very nice of her.
“Do you know Miami Boulevard?” the woman asked. “Do you ever drive down there?”
I said that I do. I actually haven’t driven down Miami Boulevard in several months, not since we moved to the townhouse, but I have driven down that road. That seemed like an unnecessary detail, so I just said that I drive down Miami Boulevard.
“You know the psychic on that road, right?”
I actually have never noticed a psychic on Miami Boulevard, but I said that I had.
“That’s my sister,” the woman said, proudly. “You’re so nice. She can help you with your issue. You know the one. I can get you a special rate, since you’re so nice and helpful. Would you like to meet her?”
I actually ran through a list in my head of all the issues I deal with — my depression, my career, my social isolation, my schedule, my marriage, writer’s block — before I realized that she was playing me. She was networking for her sister. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to go to a psychic. The fact that we have therapists indicate how helpful it is to have a third party to talk with. But psychics are an unregulated industry, use chicanery to do their work, and have been known to abuse their positions. I’m sure most psychics are very nice. I’ve been to a psychic once, at the Renaissance Festival, for the novelty of it. She was very nice and did not take advantage of me at all. But it was clearly just a cold reading facilitated by some props. So no. I was not interested in visiting her sister.
“Sure,” I said.
Saying no seemed to be rude. Anyway, I could take the number and then just never call her.
After she left, I went to go see if there were any returns in the returns bin. I spotted Don, one of the paint guys, standing by himself. I walked up to him.
“Do you believe in psychics?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I looked at him in surprise.
He told me that when he had been stationed in Hawaii, he had visited a psychic. He had been surprised at how much she knew and how much she figured out. “She knew I was a pilot,” he said.
I could imagine that hadn’t been hard to guess.
“She said I would go to school on the East Coast, which — I didn’t know any schools on the East Coast! She said I would go to Florida. I said that I had family in Florida so of course I would go to Florida. She said I wouldn’t go because of family. And she said that I would have one child, which, for reasons, I didn’t think would happen. I visited her twice. I went a third time, but her house had burned down and she was taking care of that. When I was stationed in Alabama, we had to go to Florida after a hurricane and help clean up. I was there for forty days. Afterwards I tried to apply to be an instructional pilot. I was turned down for that, but they offered to train me to be a maintenance test pilot — on the East Coast! And then afterwards my wife said that she was pregnant! Are you going to be able to cover my lunch?”
That seemed like an awful lot to try to disprove. So I simply accepted it. Andrew, another paint guy, approached. I asked if he believed in psychics. He said no. I explained to them both about what happened with the woman in blinds. Then I went and took care of returns (we had lots of returns).
Speaking of writer’s block, I have it. There’s two projects that I’m working on right now. One is the fairy tale story. The problem is that right now I’m working on a very plot-point heavy section. The protagonist/future princess/whatever is three years old and very sick. So her mother has summoned her cousin, the court physician, to cure her. He’s going to do some bloodletting, drop in the knowledge that Prince Orson is missing, and then inform Martha, the kindly governess, how she can get in contact with the local witch coven.
At long last the physicker arrived, after dark, when most of the household had gone to bed. The footmen sent a pageboy to the butler, who arrived in the foyer within minutes, straightening his tie and giving a formal greeting. He and the page escorted the physicker to the sickroom.
Dawn, Martha, and the staff were preparing the room for the night when the door swung open, and the physicker stepped into the room. His wax-lined cape shuddered around him, swing flatly from side to side. He wore leather gloves and black clothing, and peered down at the women behind his glasses. Did he have a big nose or was it just the angle?
He was also shockingly young, hardly older than Dawn. Everyone was starting to look young to Martha’s eyes, but he looked really young.
Martha shooed the servants from the room. The visit was a private matter.
Dawn stood up and curtsied before him. “Paul,” she said. “Thank goodness you’ve arrived. How was your trip?”
“I cannot stay,” he said.
“Have you come straight from court?”
“I cannot say no to you,” said the physicker. “But the timing is inconvenient. The queen is ill.”
Dawn glanced at Martha, who was already shutting the door firmly. Martha’s mind was racing.
“Hysterics,” said the physicker. “The prince has gone missing.”
Martha eyed the boy. She wouldn’t be trusting him with any secrets anytime soon.
Martha allowed herself to turn her head. Dawn was sitting on the bed, holding Lily’s hand. The physicker had not moved. Dawn glanced at Martha, then lifted up her daughter’s hand.
“She still has a fever, even after three days.”
The physicker finally approached Lily. He knelt down by the bed and took Lily’s hand from Dawn. He lifted up her arm and poked her armpit. Lily squirmed. Martha stepped closer to the bed. Lily was probably going to wake back up and try to get out of bed again.
The physicker tapped along Lily’s neck, then tapped down her chest and to her bellybutton.
“How has her breathing been?”
“She has coughing fits, but then she’s fine.”
He leaned his head over and placed it on Lily’s chest. He waited for a few breaths, then lifted his head back up. Lily squirmed again. The physicker reached over and lifted one of her eyelids. He peered into her eyes. He let go, but Lily blinked and stared at him. The physicker didn’t seem to notice; he reached a gloved hand into her mouth and pried it open. Lily looked up at Dawn, at Martha, at Dawn, and Martha again.
“She’s hot and wet,” said the physicker.
Lily squirmed, trying to sit up. She coughed.
“It’s an imbalance,” said the physicker. “Too much yellow bile and phlegm, and it’s all trying to get out. This is a good start,” he gestured at the fire. “What have you been feeding her?”
“Broth,” said Martha.
The physicker turned and gave her a once-over. “Is this the nurse?”
“Martha is Lily’s governess,” said Dawn. “I nursed Lily myself.”
“That’s a terrible idea,” said the physicker. “Nursing is hard on gentle ladies. You would have been better off entrusting her to the milk of a physical creature.”
“Is that why she’s sick?”
“No, she’s imbalanced. All this sweat, this coughing, she’s trying to get the phlegm out of her. And this heat! You,” he looked at Martha. “Send for some bread and salt.”
Martha looked at Dawn, but Dawn was looking at Lily. She sucked in her breath and turned back towards the door.
“We might have to bleed her, she’s so hot.”
It was the first sensible thing the man had said. Martha went to the door and opened it. As expected, three servant girls were clustered by the door, listening in.
“I suppose you heard everything?”
Their eyes wide, they said nothing.
“You heard nothing, yes?”
“Good. Go get some bread. Or cookies. And some salt. Bring them here.”
The physicker had managed to convince Dawn by the time the servant girls returned with a half-loaf of bread and a bowl of salt. The physician took the bread. The bread had been made in the morning. The crust was hard, but his poke could still dent it.
“Excellent,” he said.
…aaaand now what. I have to write a sequence where a three year old gets cut open and bled, and write it as if it’s a good thing. And then roll right into more plot development. Ugh.
The other project, a modern adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm, is still in its development stages. I am honestly completely stuck on how to update the Starkadders. Flora and her friends are so obviously hipsters. But the Starkadders? They’re supposed to make fun of trends popular in literature of the turn of the century.
At first I thought it was just Judith Starkadder who was difficult to deal with. She’s obsessed with her son Seth. This is conveyed very well in the writing, but I have yet to see an adaptation that makes her feelings for Seth obvious. Seth is described constantly as manly (literally, he walks around in a masculine way, the curve of his neck is masculine, etc). He is described as unbuttoning his shirt constantly.
His conversation with his mother is punctuated by the porridge boiling over. It’s hilarious. But how to convey all that on stage? So I thought, well, there’s the modern-day problem of helicopter parents. So maybe she’s a helicopter parent? But no, helicopter parents want their children to go out into the world and succeed (thanks to Mom and Dad). That wouldn’t work in the cloistered world of Cold Comfort Farm.
I then started thinking about the other Starkadder son, Reuben. At first he has a one-sided antagonistic relationship with Flora, thinking that she’s here to take the farm from him. Once he’s convinced that she won’t take the farm, he becomes her ally. Then, randomly, he proposes to her. She turns him down. He continues his lunch. It’s out of nowhere in the book, and it’s supposed to be out of nowhere. I was driving home a few days ago and suddenly thought that maybe Reuben was written in imitation of some romance books where the girl goes to the farm and the guy is antagonistic with her, and then in the end they get married because Belligerent Sexual Tension?
How many tropes am I missing because I haven’t read most of the books Cold Comfort Farm is making fun of? Do I have to go on a classic novel binge in order to really, truly understand Cold Comfort Farm? Why is this such a difficult project?