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, mostly, 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 only a little more than 24 hours left, it’s unlikely that I’ll even get to 25,000 words before the deadline, but I have the whole story, all the way to the end, bubbling in my head, so why quit now?
Need to get caught up? Here are the previous entries:
Katharine’s grandparents, her father’s parents, are Farmers. They raise chickens and sheep and goats. They live outside the town walls, an hour’s train ride away, on the flat lands to the east, where the air smells of shit and decay.
Being there makes Katharine uncomfortable in ways she is still too young to understand.
So it upsets her, though she cannot express it adequately, when her father announces that evening, as he’s tucking her into bed, that she’s going on a trip to the country for a few days to spend some time on the farm.
Though she is only seven, Katharine knows this trip is punishment for her morning behavior.
“No!” she protests. “I’m sorry about the umbrella! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” she wails, getting more and more agitated with every syllable. “Please don’t make me go there. Please!” She weeps.
Her father is unaffected.
“KitKat,” he says, in a soothing voice as he draws her close to him. “Don’t be mad. It’s just a few days, and you haven’t seen them in ages. Just a few days, while your mother’s away. I promise.”
She turns away from him and curls into her blanket. “Go away,” she whimpers. He puts a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. “Go away,” she says again, this time with conviction.
“I know it’s not what –”
“GO AWAY GO AWAY GO AWAY!!!” she shrieks.
And he leaves her alone.
It is still raining the next morning when she wakes. She packs a small bag for herself: warm pants and a sweater, a fleece nightgown, thick socks, her toothbrush, her yellow blanket, and her schoolbook, so she won’t miss a lesson while she’s away. She takes the soft stuffed cat from bed, places it in the top of the bag, then changes her mind and puts it back on her pillow.
Her father has made boiled eggs and toast for breakfast, and there is an extra egg for her to take on the journey, in case she gets hungry. This is a peace offering, she knows. Boiled eggs are her favorite breakfast.
“KatKat going on a trip!” her sister says, clapping her egg-smeared hands. Katharine ignores her. This is the second time she has been banished from her home because of Elizabeth.
This morning there is no argument about hats, coats, or umbrellas. They dress, walk the few blocks to the house where Elizabeth will spend the day, and then she and her father walk together to the train station in silence, sloshing in puddles as they go.
As they wait on the platform, he tries a last time to soothe her. “Try to be cheerful, will you? Think of it as an adventure,” he says, crouching down, “like a trip into the woods, only with a house, and a bed, and people who’ll take good care of you.”
“I’m scared,” she whispers. “I don’t want to go there again.”
“Sweet, sweet Katharine,” he says, wrapping her in a hug. “Nothing can hurt you there. No one loves you more, except for your mother and me. No one.”
They hear the train pulling into the stop, and he sits back on his heels, a hand on each of her shoulders. “You are brave and strong and curious,” he says, “and you are going on a great adventure. And in a few days, you’ll be right back here.”
There is nothing to do now but board the train.
“They’ll be there waiting when you arrive,” her father says, as he walks her to her compartment. He pulls a sack from his pocket and hands it to her. “A few things I know you like to eat,” he says. “But don’t open until you’re on your way, OK? I want it to be a surprise.”
The whistle sounds, and he says, “Gotta go now, KitKat.” He plants a damp kiss on her forehead. “Try to have some fun.”
“Bye,” is all she can muster. She waves, and he leaves. She can see him standing on the platform as the train pulls away, and a small part of her wishes she had been nicer to him.
The train picks up speed, and soon the view from her window offers more trees and grass than houses and buildings. There are farms and fences and windmills, bright white against the gray sky and yellow fields.
The conductor knocks and comes in to check on her, as her father has asked him to. She pulls the blanket from her bag, leans her head on the seat cushion and closes her eyes.
She naps just long enough to dream about the last time she visited her grandparents, when her sister was still a baby and she five.
The parts of her memory that form the dream are these: Tiny kittens mewing in a hole by the cellar door; a pillowcase filled with stones; her grandmother carefully tying the cloth closed with twine and lowering it into the creek behind their house; the case – wet, still, and silent – when her grandmother lifted it from the moving water.
The dream is true, and it frightens her, still.
But the other part of the dream is also true: One kitten, away from where the others had been, was under the house when they returned, and Katharine took the tiny kitten into her room, the room her father had slept in when he was growing up. And her grandmother helped her nurse the kitten with a baby bottle and warm milk, until the kitten grew stronger and could hunt on its own.
After that trip, her father started calling her KitKat.
Total word count as of 11:19 p.m. on 11/29/21: 19,351/50,000 (Hey, yes, I know I’m not going to make the deadline. I accept that truth and am still writing anyway.)