Still no pictures...

Published by pam on Tue, 04/24/2012 - 6:53pm

Believe it or not, I am still waiting for Marc to get photos together.  I haven't forgotten.  And I haven't written much because I have been enjoying the fact that I feel good and the weather has been incredible.  Who wants to sit in front of a computer and write?  Not when another round of chemo is coming up so soon.  Tomorrow.  Round two of the AC treatment is tomorrow.  That is the second of four, which is half way.  The second phase of chemo (Taxol and Herceptin) is supposed to be a lot easier to take.  Tomorrow I will be half way through the hard part.  That is what I tell myself.
So, there will be pictures coming, but until then, I thought I'd do something completely self serving.  You see, I have this book... 
If you are Marc/Ryann/Miller reading this you are groaning loudly.  I can almost hear you from here.  Stop groaning, I have a point.
And I wouldn't dare post more than a few pages. 
But here's why I think posting a few pages is relevent.  This book is middle grade fiction and it tells the story of a boy who faces down Death to win back his life.  When I was writing, oh so many drafts ago, i wondered if somehow I was processing my own death.  Then my mother got sick and i wondered if I was processing hers.  The story is middle grade fiction and deals with the subject in an adventure-story sort of way, but still, Death is a major character in the story, and I spent a lot of time crafting him.  It all seems just a little creepy now, given how things are working out.  Almost like I was tempting fate.  But since I haven't blogged much lately, I thought this might be a worthy substitute.  Don't groan.  I get enough of that at home.
Cold Feet
Chapter One
      In the night, in the dark, Death checks his list.  Tommy Taylor’s name is third from the bottom, written in red.
      Red.  A special case.
      He makes a note and waits.  Death doesn’t rush things.  There’s no point.  In the end, he always gets what he wants.
      It’s almost midnight when Tommy slips outside, easing the back door shut carefully, quietly.  The last thing he wants is to wake his mother.  There are some things he doesn’t want to explain.  Like why he digs holes on his birthday.  In a cape.  With a letter to a dead man folded up in his black plastic Bat Belt.
      He’s a little old for a Bat Belt. 
      He’s a little old for a cape.
      But a promise is a promise.
     Tommy counts eleven steps to the shed, takes down a shovel, and counts thirteen more steps to the fence.  He has the details all worked out:  dig down two feet, bury what needs to be buried, say what needs to be said, and get back inside before anyone sees him. That’s the plan. 
     But Death has a plan of his own.
     It’s simple, really.  And quick.  He knows the living can’t stand the feel of him, especially the cold of his breath against their warm, pink skin.  It makes them easy to move, like pawns.  A few words of encouragement and they find themselves face to face with their worst nightmare – the barrel of a gun, an old abandoned house, an out-of control elephant.
     “Don’t be afraid,” Death whispers.
     The boy shivers and steps away.
     “You won’t feel a thing.”
     He steps again.  And again.  And then, he stops.
     “That’s right.”  Death guides the shovel.  “Dig right here.”
    Gently, he pushes Tommy’s shovel into the dirt.  The boy tries to pull away.  But he hits something. Something too good to resist.  Something wood, like a treasure chest or the door to a secret world.  He ignores the chill slithering up his spine, and with all his strength, he jams his shovel into the rotting boards once, twice, three times.
     And his world slips away.  He falls further than he ever thought possible.  Limbs twist and snap like twigs.  His body hits the ground with a dull thud – limp, like ninety-seven pounds of uncooked meat.
     And there is blood.  Lots of blood. 
     But, surprisingly, Tommy doesn’t scream. 
     Suspended in the nothingness that separates this world from the next, Tommy sees himself as he has never seen himself before – from a distance and up close all at once. And in that moment, Death doesn’t seem so bad.  He seems like someone you can trust.  For once, Tommy is not afraid.  Not of life or death or lunch ladies or spontaneous combustion or hairless dogs or Spam, or anything.  He is free.
     But the moment is short.
     “You must be tired,” Death says.
     “I am,” he says.  “More tired than I’ve ever been before.”
     Death tucks Tommy in to a giant, four-poster bed with a comforter so thick, his shape is almost impossible to detect underneath it.  He waits for Tommy to drift off then finishes the job, drawing out the last bit of the boy’s life, catching it in his fist like a firefly or a rare breed of moth. 
      “Sleep well.” Death touches a long bony finger to Tommy’s forehead and the boy’s mind goes blank.  He doesn’t remember a thing.  Not the accident or the blood or the twisted limbs or the sound of Death’s calm voice asking questions, so many questions.  He buries the details so Tommy can rest.
     In the night, in the dark, when the dust dies down and the cold sets in, there is only one thing Tommy Taylor knows for sure.
     He is not alone.
Chapter Two
      Something is breathing. Inches above his face, something is out there, waiting for Tommy to open his eyes. Cold bursts of breath freeze the hairs inside his nose.  They tickle, but he doesn’t twitch. Twitching would give him away.  Better if whatever is out there thinks he’s asleep. 
      “Boo!” a girl voice shouts.  It takes every bit of willpower he has, but Tommy stays perfectly still.  “Come on,” she says.  “I know you’re in there.”  She thumps his forehead with two ice-cold fingers.  “Let’s try it again.  I say ‘Boo’ and you say ‘Boo Who?’  Ready?  BOO!” 
      The frosty blast stings his cheeks.  Tommy doesn’t know how long he can keep this up.  The last thing he wants to do is open his eyes.  But whatever is out there isn’t going anywhere and this game of chicken has already gone on longer than Tommy can safely hold his breath.   Willpower only goes so far; eventually a body needs air.  Slowly, cautiously, Tommy squints open one eye, and then the other.
      A girl hovers above him.  She is transparent at first and blurry.  But, in a heartbeat, she resolves herself into something solid.   “Well,” she says through a curtain of blonde hair.  “It’s about time.”
      It’s a dream.  It has to be.  Girls do not float, for one thing.  Not even pale, skinny, blonde girls.  And the giant bed with gargoyles carved into the posts?  Well, that’s just about the last place he’d ever fall asleep. The lizardy statues watch and slurp and drool.  Threads of green slime stretch to impossible lengths before they snap, falling onto his pillow like drops of green rain.  It’s a dream.  No doubt about it.
      The beasts wiggle and stretch, prying themselves loose from their perches, slinking down the posts, splattering Tommy’s cheek, his chin, his lips with bits of green spittle.   Enough is enough.  Spit, real or imagined, crosses the line.
      Thirteen rapid-fire blinks – one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten-eleven-twelve-thirteen – and Tommy is sure, when his vision clears, he’ll find himself at home, in his own bed, in a gargoyle-free room, with the smell of Sunday bacon drifting up from the kitchen. But, it doesn’t work.  Even after thirteen mind-clearing blinks, the girl, the bed, and the gargoyles are still there.  So is the bone-biting cold.  Even under the heavy velvet blanket, Tommy can’t get warm.
     “I’ll give you one more chance,” the girl says.  “Ready?  BOO!”
     “Boo who?” Tommy plays along. 
     She drifts down, settling into the chair beside him.  “Yup, you’re dead.  But you don’t have to cry about it.”  The girl waits for Tommy to laugh, but he doesn’t. 
      “It’s OK,” she sighs.  “No one else around here thinks I’m funny, either.  The dead don’t have a sense of humor.  You get used to it.”
      Did she say dead?
      Tommy pulls the blanket up to his nose. “Who – who – who are you?” he stutters through the covers.
      “My name’s Mercy,” she extends her small, blue-grey hand and waits for him to shake it.  She must be nuts.  Does she really think he’d touch her? She’s dead.  She’s a girl.  And Tommy’s not sure which is worse.  He tightens his grip on the comforter, inching it up until it bumps against his lower lashes. 
     “Death sent me,” she says.  “He thought we could be friends.  He said you didn’t have many of those where you came from.  He said your friends were mostly plastic and people you made up in your head.  He said you died digging a hole in your back yard. A hole?  Really? That’s a new one.”  Mercy scoots her chair right to the edge of Tommy’s bed. Every hair on Tommy’s body stands at attention.
      “Death’s great, isn’t he?”  Mercy says.  “He taught me how to do this.”  With both hands, she grabs her neck.  She pulls straight up, stretching her neck like a rubber band.  She pulls further and further until her head pops off.  Tommy can’t believe his eyes.  With one hand, she tosses it in the air like a basketball. Catching her chin on an index finger, she spins her disembodied head until her face disappears in a blur of pasty blue skin and wild hair.
      “Cool, huh?” she says.
      Tommy wants to tell the girl that what she is doing is not cool at all.  A head is not a toy.  It is an important part of a person’s body and should always be protected by a helmet, especially if it is going to be tossed around like a piece of sports equipment. Something terrible could happen.  Her head could drop to the floor.  It could be subject to the three-second rule.  It could crack open, spilling her brains out like soup.
      Mercy sets her head back on her neck and, with a dull sucking sound, it fuses into place. “Relax,” she says.  “It doesn’t hurt or anything.”
      “But, it could be – “
      “Dangerous?” she says, finishing his sentence.  “Maybe for the living, but not around here.  That’s the best part of being dead.  There’s not much to worry about.  I mean, think about it.  If you’re already dead, what else can go wrong?”  
Chapter Three
      The word hangs between them like a bad smell.
       As in gone but not forgotten. As in we sure will miss him.  As in, I’m sorry Mrs. Taylor, we did everything we could.
      One of the lizardy gargoyles – the one missing an eye – leaps from the post to the bed.   Tommy hadn’t noticed the empty socket at first, but now he can’t take his eyes off it.  Like a black hole, it sucks him in.
      The creature licks his lips, eyeing the boy’s exposed fleshy parts. It slinks up the bed, oozing a stream of green drool that most likely carries all kinds of diseases.  Gargoyle diseases.  The kind of diseases that make your skin all scaly and your eyes fall out.
      “Lester,” Mercy snaps.  “Don’t scare the new boy.”  She blocks his path with her foot.  
      The creature hisses, filling the air with a cloudy breath that smells so bad Tommy covers his nose and mouth with the blanket to protect himself from it.
      “Look at those gums,” he says, the words all muffled.  Tommy doesn’t mean to be rude, but oral hygiene is serious business and the creature’s blue-black gums and scummy teeth look like something out of a dentist’s nightmare. “Doesn’t he ever brush?” 
      Mercy gives the gargoyle a little shove with her toe.  “Lester, Tommy wants to know if you ever brush?” Squinting at her through his one working eye, the creature opens his mouth and picks between his teeth.  He digs in deep, twisting and prying until he retrieves a small bug.  Examining the tidbit – its tiny legs still moving – Lester sucks back a bit of drool and holds his finger out for Mercy’s inspection. 
      “Gross!”  She pushes the scaly gargoyle hand aside.  “Do that thing a favor and set him free.  And put your eye back in.  No one likes staring into that pit.”
      The gargoyle retrieves the missing eye from under his arm and gently wiggles it into place.
      “You shouldn’t scare him like that,” she says.  “He’s freshly dead.  You know how they can be.”
      “De – “ Tommy tries to say the word, but it won’t come out.  It tastes wrong.  Bitter, like something even an animal won’t touch. “I’m really de – “
      “Dead?” Mercy blurts out the dreaded word for him.  “I’m afraid so.  You bit the dust.  Kicked the bucket. Bought the farm.”
      “Dead,” Tommy says.  “But I never did anything dangerous.”
    “Ever, I know. You put safety first every day of your life.  Yet, here you are.  Just goes to show, it’s true what they say:  You can never be too careful.”
See, that wasn't too painful was it?  Groan worthy?  I hope not.


Hi Pam,
Great scarf and you look like you feel well! Yeah!!  I thought you were suppose to be dumped with heavy snow out there. Good to hear the weather folks were off. Hugs.

Pretty spooky, Pam, but I like it. Our society needs to be more open about death. Maybe then it wouldn't be so terrifying for most of us. Have you seen the Tom Hanks movie, Incredibly Loud and Unexpectedly Close (or something like that...)? The character your book reminds me a lot of the boy in the movie. Let me know if you've seen it. I think you would appreciate it.

But Marc did and he loved it.  I'll check it out next time I'm couch bound.  Hope all is well there.   It's warm from what I understand.  Must be nice.  We seem to wait SOOOOOO long for summer to arrive.

I hope you aren't couch bound for  a long time coming!