I am reporting from the NaNoWriMo field, twelve days into my experiment with literary masochism. So far so good (23,000 words in). I have to say that I thought attempting to write a novel would kill all my desire to write anything else. Happily, writing this much has given me the drive to write even more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m running on adrenaline right now and I fully expect to crash and burn come December. But for now, working on one project has helped me to write others. I can’t remember a time before when I woke up and the first thing I thought was, “I’m going to write today.” That’s an incredible feeling.
But work has to be done to sustain this momentum. On Friday last week, I attended a women’s writing group. Made up of various ages and genres, the writers came together to discuss what we were working on and try our hands at writing prompts (thanks to the awesome “Storymatic”). For the first prompt, we were given two characters “a miner” who “would do anything to succeed” and a “spouse who doesn’t understand.” Then we had to include a “box of postcards” as an object in the story.
For your reading pleasure, here is my piece from Friday’s workshop. Please bear with me–I wrote this in about fifteen minutes.
Postcards from Montana
The box of postcards waited on the dining room table. Louise waited beside it, crossing and uncrossing her legs, staring at the clock on the stove. Troy had stayed late at the mine. He was part of a community now, didn’t she know, and he had to work long hours in order to build this life for them, this life she wanted. If he didn’t then what was the point of coming to Montana?
“I’m home,” he shouted through the front door, swinging it shut with a thump. Troy was always too hard on things, furniture especially. He didn’t walk, he lumbered. She had loved this when they first met in California—when he was a baseball star at their high school and she worked nights at the In & Out. She had loved the hulk of his body on top of her in the backseat of his Camaro.
He felt heavier lately, or maybe she was growing smaller, losing weight she hadn’t meant to. She was shrinking and he was expanding. He stood in the doorway that connected the kitchen and dining room, taking up space with his expansive shoulders.
“Hey babe,” he said, then a peck on her forehead, then a rummaging through the kitchen for dinner. “Did you make the meatloaf tonight?” He called from the other side of the refrigerator door. His head was buried deep into it as he searched for a cold Rolling Rock.
“Hi Troy. Yes, I made the meatloaf. It’s in the oven. I also bought the groceries and paid the bills and put the kids to bed.” The twins—five now, she still couldn’t believe they were already that old—were sleeping in their room upstairs.
“That’s why you’re the best,” he said and dropped the pan on the table. He didn’t bother with a plate, just dug into the leftovers. They had been married six years now. Plates were just formalities, like saying “you look beautiful tonight.”
“How was work today?” She asked and reached for his beer.
He eyed her as she sipped. “Same old same old. Tommy and Jack ‘bout killed each other fighting over some bullshit with who should take lead next week.”
“Did any canaries die?” She asked this every night, like a ritual, like a prayer. When Troy had first told her his uncle got him a job up in the coal mines, something much better than his part-time work at the Jiffy Lube, that was the first thing she had asked, “Will you use canaries to check for carbon monoxide?” She had seen it a movie once, the little bird chirping, and then nothing. She hated knowing this archaic practice still existed.
“Not today. You can rest easy tonight, Louise. No canaries were harmed. You know, someday, one of my men could die in there. Do you realize that? Or do you just think about the birds?”
She avoided confrontation. “Look at these. I bought them at the market today. They’re postcards of Montana landscapes. There’s Helena and Butte, all the cities, plus these here with shots of Yellowstone. I thought we could send this one of the buffalo to your dad. He’d probably get a kick out of this one.”
“What are you doing buying these? We’re not on vacation. I’m not on vacation.”
“I know, but we’ve only been here for five months now. I thought it would be nice to send them to everyone back home. It was just one of those silly thoughts I had at the market. Sometimes I get bored picking between whole and half milk, you know?”
He grunted a response, scraped the pan, and dropped it in the sink.
That night, as Troy slept in front of the television, Louise filled out postcards to her mother and sisters, even a few to her old friends from school. She found one of a Western Meadowlark, the state bird of Montana, the back of the postcard told her. It wasn’t a canary, but she liked it enough. She stuck it on the refrigerator with a magnet the shape of Montana and went upstairs to bed.