This will be the first Thanksgiving in four years without the nagging sense of an unfinished Word document lurking in the back of my mind. Actually, that is false: This break, while seeing the completion of a whole physics problem (hooray!), has yet to produce an edited Irish literature essay or a dance history paper. So this Thanksgiving, I will in fact retain that lovely feeling that I should be writing. I just do not have NaNoWriMo to look forward to once my family is safely in a turkey-induced comatose state.
(Are you confused? Do you want a quick recap concerning National Novel Writing Month? Might you wonder why fellow-blogger Cathryn and I looked so snazzy and ready to produce 50,000 words of fiction in a month in our matching t-shirts last year? Follow the embedded links, my friend.)
In honor of a NaNo not written, I give you a selection of those NaNos that have gone before, brave lights in a wilderness of inchoate thought, intrepid souls wandering the fearfully embryonic haze of my mental process. (Last sentence = 38 words. Those thirty-eight words might not have made sense, but there they were, about a third of the way to one hundred, which is just under 1/16th of the way to a full day’s writing quota, which is 1/30th of the cumulative total of 50,000 for the month.) (Words in last parentheses = 52. It would have been more had I bothered to type out all the fractions.)
Excerpts follow the bold type. Please don’t judge.
2005: Grimly preoccupied in a strangely satisfying daydream in which he bit Austin’s fingers—which oddly tasted like fresh, crisply ripe apples—off and spat them onto the floor while the two girls giggled and the third girl glowered with the Irish boy, Will’s feet traced the path to the library automatically.
2005: Will stood abruptly. I will brandish my own eraser! he thought.
2006: Inside was all cracked green linoleum counters and fluorescent lights. I was enveloped in a hug as dry as the turkey.
“Penelope!” cried Aunt May.
“Aunt May!” I cried back. The conversation was the same, every year.
“How are you? How is school?”
“I’m fine. I’m glad we have a holiday. I’m so busy with school now.”
“That’s nice. And how is the cat? What’s her name? Lily?”
“Lilac. She’s good. She’s gotten fat. How is your cat?”
“Good, good. She’s very happy.”
A pause…. Then, the inevitable—
“Look how you’ve grown!”
I smiled and pulled myself up to my full height: five feet, four inches. “Last year, the doctor said my growth plates closed.”
Aunt May faltered: the cherished tradition had been broken. She seemed to sense she just witnessed the birth of an iconoclast. Her instincts always were uncannily keen.
I pecked her turkey-dry cheek and allowed myself to be pulled into conversation number two with Uncle Zach, who had been plaguing my little sister. She tossed a cheeky grin at me as we traded relatives.
“Cecilia!” I heard Aunt May cry as I turned to Uncle Zach. “How are you?”
The rest of the night proceeded as usual.
Aunt Abigail’s pies were glorious to gaze at, magnificent to inspect. They outshone any comet during their ephemeral blazes of glory.
The important word in that sentence would be ephemeral.
Aunt Abigail lived only fifteen minutes away, but the ride wrecked havoc on her pies. Somehow, the drive shook her masterpieces so the delicate balance between crust, filling, and lavish embellishment on top was disturbed.
“Help me with the pies!” she cried, before the door was even fully opened. Like rescuers carrying survivors out of a smoldering ruin, we formed a chain to pass the pies into the safety of the house. The pies looked perfect, of course. They always appeared to be unharmed in the beginning. But like a mother sensing danger, Aunt Abigail knew that all was not right with her beloved pastries.
We stood crowded in front of the kitchen table, staring at the pies. Aunt Abigail, her hair frizzed around her pointed face, gave a gasp as Grandpa Ralph pointed. “The one on the end!”
Sure enough, the magnificent swirl of jelly and peach sunk into the center of the pie, like a slow rendering of a meteor hitting Arizona. Soon, all the pies were in the process of a slow decay.
“Thar she blows!” Grandpa Ralph cried as one pie emitted a stream of clear, red liquid at least an inch into the air to come spattering back down on Aunt May’s white tablecloth, already spotted with the pies of years past. Grandma Margaret poked him in the ribs, as she did every year, and he fell to muttering about Henry Melville.
Once the pies had finished collapsing and Aunt Abigail was soothed, Cecy and I exchanged glances. “Fifteen minutes,” I told her. “Or I have take you along the next time I go somewhere and you’re stuck at home.” The betting was not new: the offer of a ride was—I had held my driver’s license for only three months, but I was already intoxicated with freedom.
“Don’t be stupid,” Cecy said. “It will take her at least forty-five minutes to remember. Otherwise it won’t be dry enough.”
Exactly sixteen minutes later, Aunt May exclaimed, “The turkey!”
Cecy smirked as she passed me. “Fifteen minutes isn’t long enough to suck the moisture from a bird.”
2006: “I will come for the girls in two weeks. They need only their dancing shoes. Any questions can be forwarded to the Department of Supporting Characters.”
2006: The syntax rushed out to meet them, wringing his browned hands. Gwen had only seen syntaxes flitting around the edges of a festival the Academy danced at, hurriedly setting up something for the plotline. The mark of a good plotline was the seeming absence of any of the Administration, though it was the driving force behind the story. Frantic syntaxes, weighty languages, dangling prepositions (the code name for a character stranded somewhere, usually the result of a fake death), misplace modifiers (characters who were separated from their proper plotlines), and many more things could, in a cursed instant, be visible.
2007: Rhys pulled her aside and began explaining in heavy, rapid Welsh. Lugh, Fionn, and the Dagda headed uninvited into the house to make some tea. Boudica shrugged and followed, claiming she had to use the bathroom—an anachronism that no one, not even the author, noticed. Arthur prudently left Molly and Owen alone.
2007: Molly could hear Aunt Mali talking on the phone. “Sut mae? Mae hi’n Mali. Dw i’n cael newyddion drwg. ”
2007: “I was here looking for the Pied Piper in case he decided to see if the Scottish exile spell thingy had worn off. So I was here when Lughnasah rolled around, and I happened to be trapped inside the castle fortifications. Luckily for you, I had decided to rent a troupe of ninjas to help me.”
2008: “Nofiais i, nofiais ti, nofieodd he, nofieodd e, nofi… something ni, nofioch chi, nofi something nwh. Nwh? Maen nwh?” She conjugated the rest of the way through breakfast, forgetting her mutations, butchering her mental pronunciation, and having a thoroughly enjoyable time. George Sanderly, secret nerd. That was her.
2008: George brushed her teeth and folded her laundry and jotted off some inane answers to the chemistry lab report. Error margin: 105% Was that possible?
2009: Verily sat miserably in her beautiful home on Moscovia. House arrest. Just because she had hired the dancer who killed another of her dancers. That wretched Karina. She was never as turned out as she thought she was, and Verily took grim satisfaction in that fact.
Also miserable was Dave. He had not been granted any part in the novel for about twenty pages, and he was bored and hungry. Bored because all he’d been doing was hopping from ship to ship, selling his stash of digital, contraband watches. Hungry because he had sold his last one a few days ago and had no more money.
2009: Reguis was nice, but he had a hankering for some Latvian galert, and he’d heard there was a nice little country-colony called Riga on the United Holland States.
2009: When the migraine struck Moscovia and Ffionios, it also struck Deep Space Convertor Triple Delta. Rowan felt the full force of it in her left temple. She looked up. Every other traveler was bent over in pain—every other traveler, that is, except for the children. A baby waved its rattle in the stroller. Two toddlers had discovered one another and were tangling hands and bumping nearly bald heads in greeting. A six year old sucked contentedly on her lollipop, eyes intent on her broken ocular screen, her free hand busily waving away the constant stream of steam that was blocking her vision of the picture on the screen.
“What’s your hometown called?” asked Rowan politely.
“Esgairgeiliog,” said Lowri.
2010: N/A. So sad.
If you managed to make it all the way through this monstrously long post… Happy Thanksgiving!