Sharptooth: 8

Repeat: If this isn’t your thing, please come back on 12/1.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Bang out a 50,000 word (shitty) first draft in a month. It’s my 4th attempt. This time I’m free-writing in Word, copying and pasting here when I get a chunk finished, to put some pressure on myself to get this thing done. There will be typos and inconsistencies. Aiming for young adult genre, with my 18-year-old daughter as my test reader. Yes, I’m behind where I should be by now. But I’m not a quitter.

This one’s short, and it’s three parts in one.

Need to get caught up? Here are the previous entries:


2 November

Aunt Elizabeth brought us a puppy. A PUPPY!! And we’re keeping it – keeping him. And he can sleep in my room, on my bed.

I didn’t think we’d ever be allowed to have one, and even if we got approved I didn’t think Dad would say yes. But he did!

He’s brown and furry and has big feet and floppy ears that are so soft. He is licking my toes, and he is so soft, and I know he’s an animal, but I love him already, and I don’t even want to do my homework or practice for my interview. But I have three more weeks to get ready for that. And in the excitement about the puppy Elizabeth didn’t say a single word about meeting to prepare (maybe she’s changed her mind?). Maybe she thinks now I’ll want to be a Veterinarian. Actually, that’s probably why she did it, but I don’t care. All in all it was a good time, much better than I expected.

And I won the spelling bee. Perturbance. P-E-R-T-U-R-B-A-N-C-E. Perturbance.

That was the winning word. It’s kind of funny, now that I think about it. But when it happened it was just natural. The boy ahead of me said “P-E-T-U-R-B-E-N-C-E” and it was just the two of us left, and I knew he’d gotten it wrong, so I knew I was going to win and I wasn’t nervous. Then I won, and I saw Dad in the audience smiling at me, but he had to leave to go back to his class.

We walked through the orchard today on the way to school, and we looked for pears, and we talked about my mother, just a little, but I think it made him sad. When we came upstairs for bed Dad whispered so quietly that I almost didn’t hear him, “Your mother would be very proud of you today.” I thought he meant the spelling bee, but now I’m not so sure.

He came from River people, and he’d never entirely gotten accustomed to living on dry land, to having furniture and a garden, to staying in one place.

His people delighted in sampling things, waking to a new world every morning. They were River people before the floods and the wars and the Resettlement, and they’d never known anything different, for as long as anyone could remember. This was the story his mother told him, and he believed her, believed this story about himself.

So it was strange to him, still, that being in this house made him feel safe and settled and calm. That he wanted to come back here at the end of each school day, always to the same scene and setting, as predictable as eastern dawn.

Now, as he lay in a firm, steady bed, under double quilts, holding an old photograph in his fingers under his pillow, he wondered why he felt unexpectedly unmoored and awake.

She focused on the man’s boots, now that he was a few feet ahead. He walked with purpose and efficiency, bringing his foot down firmly with each step to make a path through the bramble. As they made their way toward the boat, leaving their catch and their belongings behind, she recalled the day they’d met, thought of all of the possibilities she’d considered in that moment when he’d invited the boy to come fishing.

Their arrangement, formed over time in the years since that day, was based on convenience and practicality. He had skills and materials and information. In the beginning, she had nothing to offer in return, and he didn’t press on that front as other men, in different times, might have done. He did not ask why they had come to live in the trees. He did not ask her anything, in the beginning.

They were acquainted for more than a year before she introduced herself by name, and then only vaguely. He did not reciprocate.

But he did ask, that second summer of their relationship, for things from the forest: honey and birch bark and mushrooms. In exchange, he brought news and bread and clothes and tools. Since both news and bread were perishable, they had to commit to times and places for the exchange and neither of them wanted to do that at a trading post.

So they had a private schedule and a private signaling system, known just to the two of them.

The rise flattened out and opened to another meadow where she could see the boat tethered in the distance. There was a ledge between hill and flat land, and she watched him jump down then turn and reach for the boy, who was too small to climb down alone. She stepped carefully through the last of the tangle, onto the rock that separated one terrain from another. He extended a hand to help her descent.

“Not bad for a practice run, yeah?” he said, after the boy was out of hearing range.

“No, not bad for practice,” she replied, looking up at the sky. The clouds were getting thicker. Within an hour a storm would set in, and they’d have to take shelter in the boat. “Next week we should have the landing to ourselves,” she said, thinking of the women who were either still fishing upstream or enjoying the benefit of her catch.

Total word count as of 11/10/21: 9296/50,000 (bird by bird…)


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