Repeat: If this isn’t your thing, please come back on 12/1.
Quick refresher on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): Bang out a shitty 50,000 word first draft between 11/1 and 11/30. I’m posting as I write, so there are typos and inconsistencies. Between mother-work and work-work, I haven’t written nearly as much as I would have enjoyed writing, if I’d had more time. With two days left, it’s unlikely that I’ll even get past 25,000 words before the deadline, but why quit?
Need to get caught up? Here are the previous entries:
Katharine wakes to sound of rain thumping against her bedroom window. In the gray light she watches the fat drops strike the glass in circles then drip and puddle on the sash before dripping again out of sight. She closes her eyes again and pulls the blanket up to her chin. She loves the sound of rain.
She hears her father whistling in the kitchen and imagines him flipping pancakes, the way he often does to entertain her sister.
“KitKat? Are you awake?” he calls, and she slides out from the warmth.
“Coming!” she calls back.
She presses her cheek to the window to test the temperature then unrolls a pair of thick tights to wear with her galoshes. She pulls on a striped sweater and the soft skirt with colored leaves sewn in around the bottom, the leaves she stitched in herself for camouflage. When she is at school, she imagines that she, too, lives in the trees like Sharptooth and her baby boy.
In the kitchen she finds her father and sister, as she’d expected them to be. Her mother has already left for the day, as she does every day. Yesterday’s adventure was an exception.
“Apple or plain?” her father asks, as she pulls out a chair and sits at the table.
“Plain,” she says, “with syrup, please?”
“Coming right up!” He puts on this same morning show every day as if it is the first time, and she, somehow, never tires of it.
“Are we walking today?” she asks, looking out at the rain, which has not let up.
“I think so,” he says, pouring syrup into a small bowl for her. “Although at this rate it might call for swimming. Looks like a day for hats and umbrellas both, doesn’t it?”
Through the kitchen window he can see pools of rain gathering in the garden. By midday the ground will be entirely covered by water.
When they have finished eating and put away their morning dishes, he pulls hats, coats, boots, and umbrellas from the hall closet. He ties a hat on the younger girl, who pulls it off immediately. While the two of them negotiate, Katharine wraps her satchel in another bag to protect the contents, pulls on gloves, and selects her umbrella.
“My ‘brella!” her sister cries, abandoning the fight over the hat. “Mine!”
“I got ready first, I get first pick,” she says, holding the umbrella out of reach. She has chosen this particular one out of spite, though she does not yet know to call the feeling by that name. “Mine.”
Her sister tugs at Katharine then hits, screaming “Mine! Mine! My ‘brella!” But Katharine does not move.
Their father, looking at his watch, says, “Please can’t Elizabeth just have the umbrella, please, because we really do need to get going.” Still Katharine holds it in the air, taunting and resolute.
“Give her the umbrella, Katharine,” he says, suddenly stern. “It’s time for us to leave.”
They stand there, the three of them, Elizabeth whimpering, Katharine unwavering, and their father matching his older daughter’s will.
With the tiniest movement, she opens her fingers and lets the umbrella fall to the floor, without breaking eye contact with her father.
“My ‘brella!” Elizabeth cries, as she descends on her prize.
Katharine lifts the collar of her coat and buttons it closed around her neck. She snugs the hat down tightly over her ears, presses the satchel with her left arm and heads, without umbrella, to the door.
Before he can stop her, she has opened the door and walked through, knowing he will have to contend with her sister. She hears him say, “Don’t be silly, KitKat; you need an umbrella.”
But she is already walking in the rain toward her school, leaving the two of them behind.
The man in the green hat calls himself Gideon, the name he took when he decided to start fresh.
Unlike Silas, Gideon has never lived anywhere other than on the water. He was born on the water. He cannot imagine life on land. But he understand the people who live there. He has watched them the way he learned to watch hawks and snakes and rats.
His father was a ferryman on the northernmost stretch of the long river, the part that leads, in summer months, to the open water of an infinite lake. Every day, all year long, they ferried people from the side of the river where the sun rose to the side where the sun rested. Rarely, but often enough, they ferried a few people in the opposite direction.
Most of the time, they had the return trip to themselves, and on those return trips, his father taught him to read patterns in the sky and the water, to watch birds and clouds for signs of weather. He told Gideon stories about the tides and the floods, about ice and dams, and bridges that once crossed overhead.
In warm months when the river was calm, his mother pulled him with her into the water, and there she taught him to swim and catch fish. In the winter months, when storms rocked them awake at night, she took him into the hold where she saved books that the passengers had to leave behind, and there she taught him to read and write. And in between reading and writing, she told him stories about faraway places and long ago times, things most people had chosen to forget.
When he was old enough to be steady carrying thing on the moving vessel, his father gave him the job of collecting belongings before people departed on the other side. His mother made a satchel with a long strap that wrapped around his small body. In the satchel he carried empty bags, and as they drew close to the far side of the river, he went around the boat, person by person, asking them to put their things in his bags. until they were all relieved of their burdens and ready for their new lives ahead.
It was then, he thinks, that his mother started calling him Charon, though maybe that was the name she had given him at birth. He remembers now only that he disliked the sound of that name, always, even before he learned its story.
As he wakes to the rainy morning, Gideon is thinking about his mother, and her stolen library, and the man who has taken such an interest in young Silas, the man who now calls himself Striker.
How the Treedwellers Taught their Children
By the time he was seven, Sharptooth’s baby had grown to be a strong boy. She called the boy Bobo. Bobo did not have to wash his face. He did not have to wear any clothes, because they had no clothes. He did not have to go to school, because they did not have schools. But Bobo learned a great many things. His mother was his first teacher. She taught him where to find the ripe berries. She taught him where to dig for roots. She taught him how to catch birds and squirrels. She taught him how to hide from wild animals and to be so still that he might be mistaken for a tree. Sharptooth taught him all that she knew, because the Treedwellers took care of themselves. One day, Bobo caught a pig without any help from his mother. The next day, she let him hunt all alone. She knew now that he could find his own food. After that day, Bobo always hunted alone. Sometimes he saw his mother, but she no longer found food for him. The Treedwellers did not think of taking care of children who could find food for themselves.
Total word count as of 11:15 p.m. on 11/28/21: 18,202/50,000 (Hey, yes, I know I’m not going to make the deadline. I accept that truth and am still writing anyway.)