Sharptooth: 10

Repeat: If this isn’t your thing, please come back on 12/1 (why yes, that is this coming Wednesday…). Just delete as you receive each new posts, and on Wednesday we’ll return to regular blogging.

Side note: Today through Tuesday you might expect to see multiple posts each day. Again, read or don’t read.

Not sure what this is all about? Quick refresher: 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 (1,000 words or more), 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. Unlikely that I’ll get past 25,000 words before the deadline at this point, but why quit?

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


10

“Are there people over there? People like us?” the girl asks.

They are standing in a small park near the river landing, mother and daughter, side by side. The girl, who is seven now and old enough to ride a bicycle with her mother all the way to the river landing, has been busying herself with blowing tufts of breath into the cold air, marveling at the sight of puffy clouds forming and dissolving. Twice she’s traced a Vee of birds passing overhead. “Look!” she had said, and her mother looked up, smiled, then resumed her watch.

Now, growing impatient with waiting, she has turned her attention to the mystery on the other side of the wide river, where a riot of red, yellow, and orange trees stretch over rolling hills as far as she can see.

When her mother, whose attention is elsewhere, doesn’t respond, the girl asks again, but in a different way. “What’s over there, in the trees? Are there people, like us? Tigers? Bears?”

“People, yes,” her mother finally answers. “Yes, there are lots of people on the other side. They’ve lived there for ages.” she repeats, more brightly and engaged, as if she has only just now remembered that her daughter is with her. “Treedwellers.”

“Like in my book?” the girl asks.

“A little like that, yes,” the mother says, sounding pleased. “Those treedwellers, in your book, lived a long time ago. But yes, those early people, like the people now, on the other side of the river, make their homes in the trees. They live a bit differently from the way we do, they – ”

But she does not get to finish this explanation, because the girl cries, “Boat!” and jumps with delight, forgetting her other curiosity.

The boat is what they’ve come to see, what pulled them out of bed early, inspired them to bundle up and bicycle all the way to the park, before school starts.

They’ve been to the park before, seen boats come and go. But today is special, because today she – only she, not her sister – is old enough for a special assignment to help her mother with work. And the work is watching for this boat, the faded red boat that looks vaguely like a house and that has arrived, later than expected, with delivery of the day’s news.

As the boat gets closer, the girl can see bodies moving, stacking bundles of papers on the boat’s deck. She sees a man in a green hat standing on the deck, signaling to the people at the dock where things have suddenly come alive.

She and her mother are the only people in the park, and as they stand there, observing, she notices that the man on the boat has taken note of them. He gives them a long look, then says something to the people who are moving bundles, but they’re too far away for the girl to hear.

The boat pulls to the dock, and the girl is fascinated by all of the things happening simultaneously, like a well-rehearsed ballet. The bundles are passed, one by one, along a receiving line until they are all stacked neatly by the row of bicycles lining the side of the small building. A tall man holding a book or pad of paper, she can’t tell which, comes out to count the bundles and make notes. Satisfied, he walks toward the man in the green hat.

The two men stand there together for a few minutes, apart from the others, and the girl imagines they might be talking about the weather or asking about families, or other things she has overheard adults say to one another.

Then, while he is talking, the tall man steps closer to green hat man and reaches into his inside coat pocket so carefully that it looks like his hand is on a secret errand, outside of his conversation. Green hat man coughs abruptly and nods his head up the steep cobblestones toward the park. The tall man stills, withdraws his hand, and turns to the girl and her mother. He waves. Her mother does not wave back.

This, apparently, is what her mother came to see, because she says to her daughter, “We should be on our way, shouldn’t we? Don’t want you to be late for school.”

Her legs feel stiff from standing so long in the November air. Her mother holds the bike steady for her until it’s clear that she’s gotten her balance. The park is still empty but there are a few people on the path now, some out for morning exercise, others heading to work or to school.

“Does the news come like that every day?” she asks as they ride.

“Yes, every day.”

“Who brings it to our house?”

“Messengers – a whole fleet of them. I’m surprised they aren’t here yet,” her mother says, with a hint of disapproval. “They’ll each take a bundle or two, and by the time we’re all home this afternoon the papers will be waiting at our doors.”

“Did you ever do that, deliver papers?”

“Goodness no,” her mother laughs. “The women in our family are all Writers, have been for generations. You know that. We write the news.”

“I thought you wrote books? You said I was named for great-grandmother Katharine who wrote my school book.”

“Yes, of course books. Books and news. A few in our family even wrote plays.”

“Is that man a Writer, the tall man who waved to you?”

“Certainly not,” her mother snorts. “What makes you think that?”

“He had a book, or something like it, and he was writing.”

“He was noting the delivery, yes, writing notation. That’s entirely different.”

“Do you know him, that man?” the girl asks. They are stopped at an intersection, standing astride their bicycles, yielding to a passing bus.

“Jacob? Yes. I know him.”

“But you didn’t wave at him, when he waved to you. Do you not like him?”

A chirp sounds from the light post. “Time to cross and be on our way,” her mother says, pushing off for her daughter to follow behind.



Total word count as of 10:30 a.m. on 11/25/21: 11,642/50,000 (don’t even…)

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