Showing posts with label From The Lips Of.... Show all posts
Showing posts with label From The Lips Of.... Show all posts

Friday, January 22, 2010

From The Lips Of...Ray Manners

Ray Manners is writing today. He's a fictional character and the antagonist in "Overcome," my novel-in-progress. Ray is a thirty-four year old telemarketer struggling to keep his life orderly and organized. It isn't easy, considering the open wounds from an abusive childhood that refuse to scab and heal. No matter how tight his grip on the day-to-day, everything in his perception is linked to that old pain. The following is a moment from his life. [Note: This is NOT an excerpt from the novel. It is a writing exercise in which I practice capturing the voice of my character.]

It was eleven a.m., but that's lunchtime for me. Not because I'm hungry, I don't start missing food until mid-afternoon. I just can't take the noon hour swarms of people in the delis and restaurants. Hell, you can't even find a place to park at that time of day, and the chance of someone not paying attention and dinging your car quadruples. No thanks. Besides, by the time I finish my meal each day, the office is emptied out and quiet, just the way I like it.

I was in the mood for a sub, but I bypassed the sandwich shop close to work. The fat chick in there took meat off the customer in front of me's sandwich one day, when he changed his mind at the last minute and opted for roast beef instead of ham. Then she tried to put that roast beef on my bread. She looked at me like I was crazy when I complained. I don't want food that touched someone else's food, what was crazy about that?

I had my pick of spots in the grocery store lot. As soon as I walked in, a greeter in a goofy green smock said hello to me. Here's a concept I can't explain. Why do they station someone inside the doors? Are they that worried the shopping experience they have to offer won't beat the competition's unless they gush with enthusiasm at my arrival? Two more people in smocks shouted hello from their scattered positions before going back to their tasks of restocking shelves or sweeping the floors. I didn't even look at 'em, just kept my head down and headed for the deli.

The place was spotless, I'll give 'em that. Of course, the rush of people needing a quart of milk or something for supper was still to arrive once the five o'clock whistles sounded. They'll come bustling in, scuffing the floors and leaving unnoticed scraps of trash in their wakes. Ever go to a store around ten at night? The place is trashed. People are unbelievable.

There was no one waiting when I got to the deli. A dry old woman with a hairnet greeted me. I watched her struggle to pull the latex gloves over her liver spotted hands, but I looked away before she glanced up apologetically. Finally, she constructed my roast beef sub to order, and I was glad to note the cleanliness of the sandwich board and the fresh appearance of the condiments. A clock on the wall reminded me this area wouldn't look as neat and clean in another forty-nine minutes. I took the wrapped sandwich from the woman and thanked her.

I headed straight for the express lane to pay. A woman was paying at the register, and behind her was the only other customer in line, a big bellied man with a ten gallon cowboy hat on his head. The hat distracted me from noticing what was in his cart, but a moment later I looked down. Tex began transferring his items to the belt, and I counted along in my head. One, two, three...eight... I looked up at the express sign that read, "10 items or less"...eleven, twelve... I set my jaw. Sixteen items covered the conveyor belt when he was finished. The cashier greeted him with a smile, and ol' Tex spoke right up. He apologized for having so many items.

"Oh that's alright, sugar," said the cashier.

I felt my eyes narrow and heat rise up under my collar. I didn't think it was all right at all. I'd passed two other registers that allowed an unrestricted number of items, but Tex here must have wanted to get in and out without waiting. Must be his schedule was more important than mine. He didn't turn and look at me. Didn't offer an apology or anything. I guess I was shit in his eyes.

I clutched my bag and stormed out the store, ignoring the cheerful good-bye tossed out by the greeter. I wanted her to know my shopping experience wasn't that great. I drove to the stop sign you have to pass before turning down the short lane to the road, and whose truck arrived at the stop from the opposite side but Tex and his ridiculous hat. He pulled right out and made his turn first, even though I had the right-of-way. I slammed my hand so hard on the horn that I think the emblem in the center of the steering wheel embedded in my palm.

People really are unbelievable.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

From The Lips Of...Amanda Watson

Today's guest blogger is a main character in the work-in-progress novel entitled "Overcome." Amanda Watson is the best friend and sidekick of the protagonist, Julie Knotts. She and Julie met when Julie's family moved next door when the girls were ten years old. At the time, Julie's family was reeling from the sudden death of Julie's younger sister, the victim of an accidental drowning. Amanda knows better than anyone the burdens her friend has struggled with ever since, but right now her energies are focused elsewhere. [Note: The following is NOT an excerpt from the novel. Rather, it is a creative writing exercise to help me capture her voice.] Yesterday (Friday), I "took" Julie to the mall. Here were her impressions:

There's something about the mall that lifts my spirits. The air itself is charged with an electricity that hums through me, and I'm not be the only one. I couldn't believe all the smiling faces! People walked with purpose and a skip in their strides, especially those with brightly colored plastic bags dangling from their arms and bouncing against their legs with each step. Maybe it's the scent of new clothes that intoxinates the masses, subconsciously calling upon childhood excitement reminiscent of the first day of a new school year. Or maybe my perception was just plain distorted. Being so crazy in love will do that to you.

I caught my reflection in Ann Taylor Loft's plate glass window as I approached the mall's main entrance. I swear I saw the diamond sparkle on my hand as I passed by. How is it possible that even its monochromatic reflection is gorgeous?

I entered the mall at the food court, a massive atrium with potted trees whose top branches reach the second level. Over the din of the crowded area I heard the birds that fly freely in the canopy twitter and chirp to each other.

I needed to visit the restroom first thing, so I headed in that direction. Walking toward me was the most beautiful little girl I've ever laid eyes on. She was tiny, perhaps three years old, though I'm a terrible judge of children's ages. She was dressed in a brown jumper with cream-colored tights and a matching turtleneck underneath. Her thin legs appeared more narrow by the chunky, camel-colored, Uggs-style boots on her feet. Her hair was the same light brunette as mine, and her mother (I presume) had gathered up the top-most section in an elastic and finished the hairstyle off with a large red bow. I couldn't take my eyes off her as she trotted along a few paces in front of her mother. I wondered what my and Paul's children will look like? An electric tingle shot through me following that thought. I realized how widely I was smiling.

I left the restrooms a few minutes later and headed toward Nordstrom's. I hoped there'd be reasonably priced dresses on the after-Christmas sales racks. It's funny; I've never been one to look at price tags when I need something new, never counted pennies before. But now that I have the wedding to plan, and a life ahead of me that promises a new home, children to raise, and college funds to plan for, I've noticed a shift in my priorities. For example, I don't want to spend a lot of money on a fancy dress for the benefit I have to attend next weekend. I rarely dress up to that extent; it's not like I attend a gala every other week. I'd rather put my money toward the important things in life, like my future.

I was enjoying these musings and thinking about Paul when the first kiosk worker stepped in my path. I almost stumbled into him. I politely declined the offer to test the sea salt exfoliater he tried pumping into my hand, but he wasn't easily dissuaded. The mall shouldn't allow those people to pester shoppers. There ought to be a square on the floor, a perimeter they can't cross, so that I'm not obligated to actually sidestep their persons.

It happened three times between the food court and Nordstrom's, the anchor store on the far end of the mall. I may have lost my mojo mood completely had it not been for the sight of all the little children playing in Simon Kidgits Klubhouse. An open-air romper room of sorts, it occupies a stretch in the middle of the mall corridor that has been sectioned off, fortified by benches on all four sides. Within the low wall of benches, colorful carpeting runs underneath climbing toys in the shapes of cars and dinosaurs. In the center is a clubhouse with gadgets and gears mounted on the walls, stimulating children's hand-eye coordination. Mothers chatted with one another, a vigilant eye always on their little tikes, and snapped pictures of the children's antics. My smile was back. I glanced down at the diamond shimmering on my finger, and daydreams of good times to come again flooded my mind.

I attracted the attention of a sales associate the moment I crossed the threshhold at Nordstrom's. When she asked me what I was shopping for, I surprised myself. Instead of inquiring about a sale on dresses, I asked on which floor I'd find children's clothes.

Friday, January 8, 2010

From The Lips Of...Julie Knotts

Julie Knotts is writing today. She is a fictional character central to "Overcome," a novel-in-progress I'm working on. Julie is a talented twenty-four year old painter and sketcher who has chosen a career in nursing over one as an artist. This decision, and many others she makes every day, stems from unresolved issues carried over into her adult life from a traumatic childhood. She is writing today unaware of events to come (in later chapters), events that will either force her to evolve in her perceptions, or crush her spirit completely. [Note: This is NOT an excerpt from the novel. It is a writing exercise in which I practice capturing the voice of my character.]

I followed the woman with the fake tan out the gym doors, into a frigid wind gusting around the corner of the building. As if dancing synchronized to the same music, we pulled our hoodies tighter around us and bent our heads, leaning into the gale. I thought she looked mildly ridiculous with such unseasonably bronzed skin, but the second the thought flitted across my mind I scolded myself. It was only January 8th, and here I'd broken one of my New Year's resolutions, again. My mind must have been desperate to fixate on anything besides the freezing air that burned in my lungs as I rushed across the parking lot, because despite the self-reprimand for judging her, I couldn't stop thinking about that woman's skin. What sort of vanity drove women to subject themselves to harmful ultra-violet rays in tanning beds? Granted, the bulbs today are probably improved from back when I used to tan, before nursing school. I hoped that woman limited her indulgence to the bronzing bed where the UV-B rays are less dangerous. Although, considering the deep, rich color she'd achieved, I doubted it.

I reached my car and fumbled the key trying to unlock the door. I started the engine and let it idle a minute to warm up. I hated the idea of cold hand-sanitizer touching my skin, but I cringed more at the thought of how many germs I'd come in contact with handling the free weights. I pumped a generous dallop from the bottle wedged in the narrow pocket built into the driver's side door. As I slathered the product across my hands, I glanced at my pale reflection in the rearview mirror. It would be nice to have a tan.

I made one stop before heading home. With all the paperwork I needed to do, I didn't want to mess around with preparing food for lunch. I swung the car into the spot nearest to the grocery store doors in the Publix parking lot. A tingle of panic swept through me when I dug through my gym bag for my wallet. Suddenly, I wasn't thinking about lunch. What if I didn't have my licence and I had an accident, or was pulled over by the police? The burden of fear lifted as quickly as it'd gripped me when my hand closed on the rigid fabric of the wallet. I pulled it out and sprinted for the store.

The resolution I was managing to keep concerned my diet and exercise regime. I'm used to my friends rolling their eyes when I talk about the five pounds I put on over the Holidays. I'm naturally trim, but hey, when your jeans are snug you're just plain uncomfortable. It won't be hard to shed the extra pounds, most of which is water weight. As if my feet weren't paying a bit of attention to my head, they walked me right down the candy aisle. I slowed my pace and looked longingly at the malted milk balls in the bin candy section. Keep moving, I told myself sternly. My feet obeyed.

In the freezer section, I eyed the selection of Lean Cuisine meals. They all looked nasty to me, but I settled on an Asian-inspired meal, because it included edamame. Next, I walked down the aisle with dietary supplements, and chose a protein bar sweetened with sugar alcohols. At the register, I gathered up my purchases instead of wasting a plastic sack and headed back out into the cold.

I travelled a back road to get home, the sort with two lanes but no lines painted on its surface. Groves of tall evergreens lined one side, keeping the pavement in shadow. It was mid-morning, but the temperature was well below freezing and I could see patches of transparent ice. I felt a little better knowing I had my licence on me, but now I worried about the damage I could do to the car if I lost control and landed in a ditch. I maintained a speed under the limit.

My internal organizer spoke up, and I began mentally outlining the tasks to accomplish today. Most important on the list was completing the weekly report of my work with Mrs. Freeman, the patient with whom I spend most of my time. I'd need to call her, too, to schedule her appointments for next week. On the radio, my new favorite song began. I reached over and turned up the volume. The rapid beat drummed against my chest, and I smiled. I felt like dancing.

I must have pressed the accelerator without realizing it. The song raised my mood, and the car's speed followed suit. Before I realized what was happening, the back end fish-tailed, skidding sideways across a patch of black ice. I stomped the brake, the wrong strategy for righting the car but the one that came naturally to me. The car veered sharply to the left, then caught traction on a stretch of dry road. My eyes flicked to the rearview mirror and, thankfully, there were no other cars around. My heartbeat pounded in my ears, and I blew out through pursed lips a steady stream of air. I cut off the radio with a violent punch to the button, and silence filled the car. In control again, I continued, slower, toward home.