Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The skate park

This morning I began to write, as opposed to planning and plotting and muttering to myself in print. I was afraid that the words would not come, that I would be held captive in the planning phase forever, like the old man with his travel brochures, looking at all the places he was going to go and still not realizing that the future was now the past, and he was just remembering what he'd never done, not dreaming about what he might someday do. I started by thinking that this would be a free-standing story, and maybe it will still pass that test -- as every chapter of a book ought to -- but now I see it as the beginning of the big story, where the table gets set. I need another first chapter for the second volume, which I may write simultaneously with the first. Here's what I've done so far: (501 words)

My first night in the garage I was awakened by a gravely whine of wheels on concrete, first a rumor, then a roar, as the skater flashed by in a jacket of her own light. Like a firefly, and then darkness and silence returned. When I was little, I might have taken it for a dream and gone back to sleep, but I had seen already too much of the real to misrecognize flesh and blood for what the mind makes. I opened the door of the old Škoda where I slept, my feet under the steering wheel and my head in the trunk, and tiptoed across the oil-stained ramp where the skater has passed. The sound of the wheels was gone, but now I could almost hear the sound of feet slapping the up-stairs. Should I go wait for her, see what kind of thing she was up close? I didn't even know how I knew it was a girl, the skater had gone by so quickly, just as I opened my eyes. It could have been anyone. But still I knew it was a girl, the way you know when you're getting sick and not just coughing dust. The door to the stairwell was maybe fifty feet down the ramp where I stood, rusted white shining against the gloom. The sound of her feet grew louder; she would be only one level down. The patter of her feet grew louder, and now I could hear her breathe, in and out, an even measuring of the stairs. I stared hard at that door and maybe her breath caught for an instant as she passed on the other side, feeling without feeling the force of my gaze. Then the sound of her began to diminish. Before they faded out of my hearing, I reached out to her with my mind, the way my ma had taught me before she went away, and made the girl stop short, mid-step, the sole of her foot an inch from the riser. She exhaled and inhaled but her feet, for two seconds, did not move. She felt like she must fall down, but then I let her go, and one foot followed the other as nature intended. That would be something for her to think about when she reached the top.

My ma called me Havel after someone who died in time out of memory. She had a painting of him she took from a museum when she was out scavenging that she made into a shutter for the little house with no windows where I was born. Or so she told me because I only remember the smell of that house, like something had half-died there but never finished the job. I'm the only Havel I know, and sometimes I imagine that I'm the only Havel there is, or was. Except for whoever it was that half-died in our house, I call him Havel too, in what passes for my memory.

Later I will write more, hoping to top 1000 words for this first day of real writing. But I almost must work on my snowflake.

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