I missed five days last week (feverthroatyawfulness), but here it is: the final 1500 words that will put me at exactly 50,000 words.
I did it!
It took two Novembers, and it’s completely unofficial because 1. I didn’t actually, formally sign up for NaNoWriMo this year and I won’t be sending in my current draft and 2. while I hit the 50k mark I’m still not done with my novel and 3. I’m making this monumental “achievement” post one day late…
BUT I did it! I’m proud of it, I’m elated; I set a goal and I met it. Barely — but the fact that I followed through and persisted, spending mornings, afternoons and evenings sorting through the past, dwelling on it, reliving it, writing about it and then driving to whatever area offered wifi to share it with you… has changed me. I’ve found an inner strength, inside of myself, that encourages and compels me to keep doing what I love.
The novel has a long way to go – much more material needs to be added and a lot of editing needs to be done – but I’ve decided to release some of the pressure I’ve put on myself. I’m going to cruise with it; I’ll have some free time once I’m through with my college speaking class (11 days and counting) and I’ll have a few days of quiet and solitude around Christmas time. I plan on doing a lot of writing during that time, and any time before or after then that happens to afford itself, but I will not be continuing with daily updates on the novel. Novel updates are at an end, but I will continue blogging… so if anything presently interesting or irritating or fabulous happens, you’ll know about it!
Thank you to everyone who honored me with their time, attention and support this past month. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
Keep an eye out for Ambivalent: A Memoir on Childhood and Saying Goodbye in 2013. I’m getting there, I promise. It’ll happen soon.
I had my eyes closed. Tight.
I felt a forward motion, then the sensation of a slight buzzing in my lower thighs as the car’s engine revved; I felt a cool wind blowing in on my face from where Bobby’s front window had been rolled down. The car turned left, then left again, and then it seemed to weave itself whimsically down the highway. Everything was moving quickly — and then it stopped: the vibrating, the wind, the loss of direction. I jiggled my knee while the car rested. “Come on come on COME ON!” I cried.
“Rose, calm down,” mom chided from the driver’s seat.
”Ohhh, she’s just excited, doll babe,” a voice offered in my defense. I smiled and opened my eyes. Grammy was sitting in the seat beside me, bright eyed as usual. We were still at the red light.
It was my theory that time (and our car) would move faster if I had my eyes closed. That grass and sand and gravel and concrete would just whirl together and pass away along with the time it took to get to where we were going. And where were we going? Good question.
“Honeymoon Island!” Grammy sang out, rolling her shoulders and waving her hands in the air as we arrived. Bobby cried “yeah!” from the front seat and mom smiled and shook her head as she put the car into park. I hollered something in celebration and toppled out of the car, wearing soft, cotton shorts and white t-shirt that displayed a picture of all of the Spice Girls cuddling together on a big, red couch.
Honeymoon Island is a long stretch of sandy beach along the western coast of Florida. I don’t know about nowadays, but back when we went, the sand was more yellow than pure white and it had perturbing little rocks all mixed in with it. Adults wore flip flops or sandals along the beach to avoid the rocks while most of the kids, whose parents didn’t intervene, continued walking around barefoot, completely mindless of the rocks and the small amount of danger they imposed.
The shore started off with clusters of palm trees forming a sort of barrier between beach and real world, but if you walked just a few yards forward into the sand, it became an all-ocean view. Concrete became sand; buildings turned the color blue; all of telephone poles became clouds. Mom and Gram brought fold-out chairs in the trunk of mom’s car and Bobby and I had towels to sit on if we decided we’d like to do so. Usually, if we did stop to sit down during our stay at the beach, it was to build a sand castle or something similar to it, so the towels were left useless until it was time for the car ride home and mom didn’t want sandy shorts and swimsuits making a mess of the seats.
Grammy walked away from the car toting a chair in one arm and holding a cooler in the other. Mom was walking beside her, wearing sunglasses, jeans and a t-shirt. She wasn’t a traditional kind of person; “beach clothes” seemed silly to her and I don’t think she would have been comfortable in them. I honestly don’t know if she had ever really worn beach clothes. She was carrying two plastic bags: one contained towels and sunscreen, and the other had food in it.
Bobby and I were a few feet ahead of them, looking back every few seconds as if we could hurry them by the sheer force of our eyeballs.
“You guys brought a picnic?” I asked pleasantly.
“Sure did!” Mom smiled with her teeth showing and lifted the bag slightly. “Grammy and I are going to have chips and sandwiches,” she continued brightly.
“Whatt kinddd of chips ARREE they, momm?” Bobby asked slowly.
“Lays potato chips!” Grammy answered for her. “Plus your mom brought french onion dip to go with them.” Grammy smiled and sort of shivered in anticipation. I laughed at her and called her goofy.
“Cooooool,” Bobby commented.
“But Bob and I don’t have to eat that, right?” I asked quickly. “We still get to go to the concession stand?” I continued confidently. It wasn’t exactly asking a question so much as requesting confirmation.
“Right,” mom nodded quickly, and she looked amused. “You guys can still buy lunch from that little concession stand; I’ll give you the money for it in just a minute.”
I was instantly relieved. Bobby said “cool” again.
As much as Bobby and I loved the beach itself – the sand, the water, the waves in the water and the floaties and tubes we could use to enjoy them – our absolute favorite part of going to the beach was walking over to the concession stand.
Bobby was a picky eater. After his chemotherapy treatments had ended just two years before, our family quickly discovered that his tastebuds had changed drastically. He was, unfortunately, attracted to what seemed like the worst foods and drinks on the planet: in place of a healthy, balanced diet including apples, oranges, breads, beans and juice, Bobby ate rolos, fruit roll-ups, french fries, pizza and Dr. Pepper. His diet was ruined. Nutrition was nonexistent. He was a junk food fiend. Mom tried to brag him to eat healthfully; she’d strike deals sometimes where he’d agree to eat a raw, sliced apple if mom would take him to the gas station for a 32 ounce Dr. Pepper afterwards. The conditions of her deals usually worked against her, so any good that he ate was immediately negated. I liked junk food too but mom was a little stricter with me; I didn’t throw up if she made me eat something healthy, I just complained about it. Bobby’s stomach, and definitely his mind, simply wouldn’t allow it.
The concession stand was a simple little shack that looked like it had been pieced together from antique pieces of driftwood. There was an extension that came out from the roof and it offered shade to the customers who were first in line to order. It was a nice relief from the heat.
Bobby and I walked our way over to it; he was a slow walker, so I tried to adjust my pace accordingly.
“Well it’s you two again!” A voice bellowed from behind the register once we arrived. Bobby giggled and I crossed my leg in front of me and smiled, looking down at the floor and rocking my bare foot across it.
“What are you guys doing today? Swimming? Tanning? Going to go play some volleyball with those teenager hoodlums over there?” I looked over to where he had gestured. A group of older kids were playing a game of volleyball; the girls were wearing two pieces and only one of the guys had his shirt on. I could make out a few bottles lying half-buried in the sand. A cooler. Some towels. Two figures huddled close together on a towel. It looked like a guy and girl. It looked like they were…
I looked down at my own goofy one piece. It was pink, and mom made me wear soft cotton shorts over it. “No, we aren’t playing volleyball with those guys,” I sighed, making a face. “We’re just going to swim today probably.”
He nodded like he was agreeing, like swimming was a good idea and volleyball was a dumb one. “Well,” he continued, looking over at Bobby suddenly and setting a fresh stack of white, cellophane cups onto the counter beside him, “what can I get you today, Bobby?”
Bobby. Everyone always knew his name. This guy was probably clueless as to who I was; I know I had told him before, but he didn’t remember. Few people did. Who knows, maybe I looked like a Sabrina or a Jessica or an Emily to him. But wherever we went, people asked Bobby what his name was, and if we ever went back, they remembered it, too. Bobby was special. People were drawn to him. I think he was drawn to people, too.
“Uhhhhhh,” Bobby began, pointing his finger towards the menu on the wall and looking confused, “I wanntt natchhhos toodayy.”
“Nachoes it is!” The guy smiled and disappeared into the back.
I waited for him to come back and he set the nachoes onto the counter carefully. “Okay,” he looked up, “now how about you, missy?”
“I want this big pickle,” I answered, pointing. There was a big Vlasik jar sitting on the counter and I was squinting and pointing at the exact, particular pickle that I wanted to buy. He looked down at me with his eyebrows raised and sighed, murmering something about how I had definitely chosen the “most difficult” pickle to reach.
He produced a pair of tongs and I helped guide him as he set about trying to capture the correct pickle. After a few misshaps he located it and pulled it out, setting it into a little cardboard saucer and handing it over with a genuine smile. He handed Bobby the nachoes he had ordered and asked us if we wanted drinks. I handed him the five dollar bill mom had given me and asked him if it would be enough for what we had gotten and drinks.
“For them,” he leaned into the counter and pointed over to the group of volleyball players, “no, it wouldn’t be… but for you two,” and he looked first at me and then at Bobby, “it’s JUST enough.”
Bobby thanked him for the Dr. Pepper and I smiled and thanked him for the Sprite.
We made our way back over to where mom and Gram had set camp and plopped down onto the sand next to them, eating our snacks.
“Good nachoes, Bubba?” Grammy smiled over at Bob from her chair.
“Yessss, reaaaalllyyyyy goooodd,” Bobby nodded enthusiastically.
“What about you, Rosebud?” Grammy asked pleasantly. “How’s that pickle?”
“Awesome!” I replied, squinting my eyes and contorting my face because of the vinegar.
Mom and Gram were passing items back and forth between themselves; a loaf of bread, a butterknife, a jar of mayonnaise and some kind of packaged veggie meat. They took turns rattling the big bag of Lays chips over their plates and plopping creamy, white dollops of french onion dip onto them.
Eventually, they begun eating while Bobby and I were finishing munching on our snacks. We all sat there together, gazing on the ocean, the bright sun high above the water and the pretty blue bridging the two. Other families came to the beach to swim, bask in the sun and take pictures. We more or less came for a meal with a view.
Afterwards, we’d swim and build in the sand since we were there, and then our little clan would collect its things and return to the car. Grammy would compliment mom from the backseat during the drive home, saying how the sun gave her face a good color, and Bobby would haggle with mom in the front seat, begging to be able to stay over at Grammy’s house for just one more night.
“Bobby,” Mom began in an explaining voice, “You’ve been at Grammy’s house for three days now! Grammy has to have a little break, sweetie.” Grammy made a coughing noise from the back.
“Not a break exactly,” mom continuied quickly, “but Grammy needs some time to rest. She has to take care of grand dad, you know? It’s hard work… and Rosie, dad and I want to have time with you at home!”
Bobby would scream and cry and punch the glovebox while mom sat quietly in her seat, fuming and eager to get back to Grammy’s house, drop off her and Bob, and take me and her home for a quiet night in with dad and the dogs.
“You have school tomorrow,” mom explained quietly as we were pulling away from Grammy’s house. Bobby waved happily from the driveway and disappeared into the house with Grammy leading him by the hand. I had turned my head around to watch from the back window. It didn’t seem fair.