Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jealous Doggerel

Too much of charity’s a sin!
If any kittens chance to roam
Up our front steps, they let ’em in.
You’d think we ran an orphan’s home.
That there’s our latest infant cat –
They mean to keep her till she’s fat.

A decent cat would play the game
And give us dogs a little fun.
Her lack of instinct is a shame –
She doesn’t know enough to run.
Just once, behind the garbage pail
I almost had her by the tail.

And listen, Bud! That kitten swing
A nasty wallop in her toes.
If I just look her way, she springs
And hands me one across the nose.
Too much attention turns her head,
So I ignore her now, instead.
                          - Burges Johnson

This is going to be hard to describe, but when I write a novel, it has a metaphorical (or do I mean metaphysical?) “shape.”  I start with a synopsis so I have an idea in my head how it’s going to go, and somewhere in the right side of my brain I see it as a shape.  Like it’s a tall, slender pole, or a curvy road, or a leafy tree – only not as concrete as that.  Still, somehow it’s got a shape.  As I get into it, the shape changes, and as I come near the end, sometimes it changes again.  So it is with Knit Your Own Murder.  I thought of it at the start as round and clever, but now it’s tall and kind of stately.  And it’s complicated, and not so amusing or clever as it seemed to be at the start. It’s not the story I thought I had hold of at the start.  Does this make any kind of sense to you?

When I was serving as an election judge a week ago, it was in the cafeteria of an elementary school.  We knew it was going to be slow, so I brought my laptop with me to work on the novel between voters.  It’s an old Dell and its battery doesn’t last very long.  I’d be going along and suddenly the screen would go black.  I would take it over against a blank wall, put it on the floor and plug it in.  In an hour or so, I’d bring it back and go to work again.  The second time I did this, I booted up and suddenly saw a multitude of very tiny ants crawling out from the edges of the keys and climbing up the screen.  I’m not afraid of bugs, but it was very startling to see them pouring out from my computer.  I’m afraid I gave a shout, and one of the other judges came to see what was the matter.  He couldn’t believe it, either.  When I lifted up my computer to try to shake them out, there were dozens underneath it on the table that hadn’t been there before.  I kept brushing them onto the floor and trying to stamp on them, with very little success.  Where were they coming from?  It finally occurred to me to go back to where I’d plugged it in, and sure enough there were a great many teeny ants on the floor under the plug attacking what looked like an old piece of doughnut.  We called the maintenance man, who put some crumbs of poison on the floor, which the ants pounced upon and carried away – “to their nest,” he explained, “where it will kill them all.”  I spent the next several hours brushing them off my laptop, fewer and fewer, until there were none.

Just another weird, weird day.


Linda O. Johnston said...

How fascinating that your story creation takes on shapes, Monica! And how yickie it was that your computer was invaded by ants.

Monica Ferris said...

I love that word "Yickie," like a cross between Yuck and Ickie. I may borrow it sometime. It's a "portmanteau" (a kind of suitcase) word, it takes several words and puts them together.

Anonymous said...

Yet another incident that should go into a future book! Maybe Godwin suffers THE ATTACK OF THE ANTS!

Christine Thresh said...

How interesting that your stories have distinct shapes.

Monica Ferris said...

I was kind of hoping some other writer would say, "Hey, my brain does that, too!" so I wouldn't feel so weird.

Ellen said...

I see my stories (such as they are) as landmarks in a vast prairie. The landmarks are the things that must happen; the prairie contains all sorts of interesting things that happen along the way. And the subplots happen in the vehicle we all travel in. Not quite the same -- geographic rather than geometric -- but it will do.

Monica Ferris said...

That's fascinating, Ellen. I love your description of it!