Our bunko group usually dons costumes for our October game. Last year, instead of a traditional costume, I wore my t-shirt that says, “Careful or you’ll end up in my novel.” This prompted some of my friends to request that I write a scene for the novel with them in it. They gave me details they wanted included and I dutifully wrote them down on my scoresheet. I wrote the scene, too. Unfortunately, I was trying out this writing program called Write or Die that had just come out for the iPad and it had a glitch: it ate the scene.
That was last November. I kept thinking I would recreate the scene, even kept the scoresheet on the bulletin board by my desk, but just never did it. Until today.
So here it is, girls. Please keep in mind that these characters are not you guys, they just have your first names and the attributes you requested. Well, most of the attributes – I kind of lost the scoresheet along the way, so they’re the attributes I could remember. Anyway, they say nothing at all about what I think of you. Also, this is a very rough draft. The idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is to write faster than your inner editor can read, so she doesn’t get a chance to shut you down before you can get it on the page. It’s supposed to be crap because it’s about quantity, not quality.
Just for reference, this scene takes place almost 20 years before the book starts. Samantha is the heroine of the book and her best friend, Kaylee, will have her own book later. So…here’s what came out of my head today:
Sam walked out of her room to find Kaylee lying on the floor in front of the stair railing, peering through the slits into the dining room below. They had done this all the time as kids; spying on her mother’s bunko group to hear the latest gossip tossed about by the grownups. At thirteen, though, Sam felt they really should be beyond this sort of thing. They had their own gossiping to do. In fact, their parents should be devising ways to spy on them, not the other way around.
She kicked Kaylee’s foot to get her attention. Kaylee didn’t move, so Sam kicked her again. Kaylee responded by kicking Sam in the shin. Sam moved forward and kicked further up on Kaylee’s leg, causing her to stretch her arm behind her back and waive it wildly at Sam. She sighed and knelt next to her friend, who grabbed her arm and pulled her down out of the line of sight of the living room below.
“Kaylee…” Sam said.
“Shhhhh,” Kaylee said, her face contorted with irritation. Sam started to laugh, but stopped short when she realized Kaylee’s mother’s voice was among those drifting up from downstairs. Which was weird because she wasn’t supposed to return from Central America for another two months.
“Did she change her…”
“I don’t know.” Kaylee said, her eyes fixed on the room below.
“But when did she…”
“I don’t know,” Kaylee finally turned to look at Sam. “I didn’t even know she was home.”
“Okay.” Both girls turned back to the scene downstairs. There were four women at the table, drinking wine and rolling dice, talking and making marks on their score cards. One of them, Michelle (Anton’s wife) Pyzik, was fidgeting with her necklace, rubbing it forcefully between her fingers. Sam knew she was always frustrated with her mom’s insistence on no smoking in the house. Ms. Pyzik, the mayor’s wife, was a chain smoker and often took extended smoke breaks with the woman sitting across from her now, her best friend, Ms.Vicki Frank. Ms. Frank was a science teacher at the high school who was bold enough to be openly gay without concern over losing her job. Sam and Kaylee couldn’t wait to take her class when they got to high school. If she lasted that long, that is. On Ms. Frank’s right was Julie Castille. Thin, red-haired, and pretty with big boobs and an attitude that projected you were a peasant in her kingdom.
And next to Ms. Castille sat Kaylee’s mother, Katherine Finch. Dr. Finch was a professor of Anthropology at Freiburg University. She spent most of her time on Sabbatical in other countries, most recently Ecuador. Kaylee’s father was gone a lot, too, so Kaylee spent most of her time either at Pyzik’s Coffee Shop or with Sam’s family. Dr. Finch wasn’t due to return for another two months, so her presence tonight couldn’t be a good thing. And the fact that she hadn’t bothered to let her daughter know she was back…well, that wasn’t good either, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary either. Sometimes it seemed to Sam that Dr. Finch had forgotten she had a daughter at all.
A bell in the kitchen rang, which must have been the signal that they were done because Julie Castille stood up and stretched her arms over her head, exposing her midriff…and the stud in her bellybutton. Kaylee and Sam looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Sam suppressed a giggle. More women began to drift in from other rooms. Sam could see Sister Mary Eunice, formerly Shawn Loveland, sorting through half sheets of paper while tapping away on a calculator. Tallying scores, she guessed. Kaylee nudged Sam’s shoulder and nodded toward the nun. “When did she come back from the convent?”
Sam shrugged, “I didn’t know they were allowed to come back.” Her mother had grown up with Shawn, even made her godmother to Sam’s brother, but communication between them had stopped since she took orders a few years before. At least Sam thought it had, but maybe she was wrong because that was certainly her mother she saw serving pineapple upside down cake to Sister Mary Eunice.
After a few moments, the nun stood up and cleared her throat. At least Sam thought she saw her clear her throat. She couldn’t actually hear anything because the din from various conversations didn’t waver at all. The sister’s brow furrowed and she said something that looked like “Excuse me.” If anything, the noise got louder when Michelle Pyzik let out a guffaw and slapped Ms. Frank’s back. Some of the red wine that spewed out of her mouth landed on Sam’s mother’s best linen table cloth. Ha! Sam thought, happy that she wouldn’t have to take the blame for that one, as Julie Castille had seen it, too. Although, at that moment, Ms. Castille seemed more concerned with the wine that had landed on her white blouse. Sam didn’t know what she was so upset about; the blouse was obviously tailored to be just tight enough to accentuate the enormous new breasts her husband had bought for her and the arrow shape the wine stain made pointed right to them, seeming, to Sam anyway, only to enhance the effect. Nevertheless, Sam’s mom scurried off for some towels and club soda while Julie Frank apologized profusely and Michelle Pyzik daubed at Julie Castille’s breast with a napkin.
After things had settled down a bit, Sister Mary Eunice resumed her efforts to get everyone’s attention. The look on her face reminded Sam of when Shawn would babysit her years ago and Sam would mess around too much in an effort to postpone going to bed. Shawn would put up with it good naturedly for a while, but when she got that particular look Sam always knew the stalling had come to an end. Just then Sister Mary Eunice half shouted, “So do you guys want prizes or what?”
Sam would have been cowering under a table, but the women just laughed and gathered around her, some settling on the couch and some in chairs that had been brought into the room. Julie Castille had changed into one of Sam’s mother’s shirts. It was too big for her thin frame, but the beautiful royal blue made such a dramatic contrast with her crimson hair that Sam caught her breath. She was even more striking this way than in her own clothes, which seemed to suggest she was trying to hard. She looked more relaxed, too. But, then, who could really relax in clothes as tight as the ones she usually wore? She was relaxed enough now to sit near Vicki Frank and Michelle Pyzik anyway. Or maybe she just didn’t mind if Sam’s mother’s shirt got stained. It looked as if Vicki Frank had switched to water anyway. Or vodka, which might explain why she was sitting so close to Michelle Pyzik and giggling. Ms. Pyzik reached behind her and patted her back, much more gently now, and Ms. Frank smiled up at her. Then they both turned toward the sister to receive their prizes.
Through all of this, Kaylee’s mother sat back and seemed to observe the room. Sam guessed that was some sort of occupational hazard; the woman was a world-renowned anthropologist. Studying people, making observations about their interactions, was what she did for a living. She observed people. Tribal people and city dwellers. Friends getting together; husbands and wives; fathers and sons; mothers and daughters. Mothers and daughters. All kinds of people in all kind of places, near and far. People everywhere. Except the person directly above her at that moment. The one observing her.