it’s dia de los muertos today, day of the dead. thought i’d give you a little excerpt from my novel, right when the hero dies, slumped against a tree after running through the swamp. the hero is joe, who lived as a slave on a sugar plantation in louisiana.
anyways, here i was sitting against that ol’ tree. big gum tree, man, and the stories he can tell (yup, a he tree, i know a thing or two about gum trees). i was just sitting there and i knew i had come to an end. i was surprised, mostly. not that i had come to an end, either there or at my age; no, i’d been ready for a long time. i’m telling you this, guys, because you don’t think that like here [note: he’s telling this story to a present-day audience; he died in 1830]. but back then, at the plantation, dying is always happening, you get used to it, and it sure isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. something to think about.
anyways, the reason i was surprised was the feeling of life seeping out of me. i mean, i had kind of seen it, seeing other people die, but feeling it, that was totally different. there was no fear. yeah, i was surprised at that, too, i’d thought that might be a scary feeling. but it was just interesting, you know. like all those little bacteria that the dutchman talked about, them all just quietly packing up and leaving, leaving town. that was another surprise, that there was a town left.
at the same time, i noticed, somewhere far away, mr james-patterson and elise standing over me, elise’s hands touching me somewhere, somewhere on my body, i couldn’t tell anymore where but i still recognized it was her (the PEOPLE, they were easy to recognize, maybe i’ll tell you why later, once i’m done with this here), and it was strange, this seeping away and the far-awayness of the world and at the same time, this strong, clear knowing.
and then it was over. they know what they’re talking about when they say it’s like the last grains of sand running out an hourglass. just like that.
but the “it” that was over was just one thing. because what happened next was that somehow i knew i had to make a decision. it’s like there were, all of a sudden, all kinds of ways before me but i HAD to choose one. why i had to, i don’t know. it was like a horse and four running, there’s no way to stop them, so you gotta turn them left or right.
“i” – that’s a whole different story. it’s a different “i” altogether – but never mind, that’s not what i’m talking about right now.
i coulda gone up to heaven. yessuh, i coulda done that. there was actually such a thing. and it looked like they woulda taken me. but that’s not what i chose.
also, there was a road, and it just disappeared, softly, into nowhere, or what looked like nowhere. that would have been the easiest one to go, for me at least, but i didn’t end up going there.
there were lots others. somehow i knew a bit about each one of them. but the one i chose, a little off to the left, it was, how can i describe it, at first glance it looked like a little cul-de-sac, right there, right off the road, right by that old tree.
i went in a little ways and i just sat there. well, as much sitting as i could do, let’s not forget i’m talking about something that’s hard to talk about, right? let’s not forget that.
that was probably the biggest surprise. that i went there, into that cul-de-sac. i mean, i hadn’t known there were so many places to go to, that there was any place to go to, and that there was that place there. and that i chose to go there. i had no idea how that choosing happened, i still don’t, but at the same time i know that i made that decision.
now what was there in that place?
… aaaand the other reason i’m presenting this today is because once again, i’m participacting in NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is short for national novel writing month. everyone who signs up pledges her or his hope (or iron-clad intention, as it may be) to write 50,000 words towards a novel in the month of november. that’s how i started with my novel last year. i’m a NaNoWriMo “rebel” because i choose to continue to work on an existing project (the official idea is to start with a brand new project although the 4-time NaNoWriMo writer i met at the kickoff party today declared that there was nothing wrong with continuing an existing project.)
what’s really, really exciting is that in our household of six, four are participating. can you believe it? my 11-year-old daughter (she participates in the young writers’ part), my husband and one of our roommates are writing, too! i’m so thrilled, atingle, elated, delighted, ecstatic, hopped up over this – as one of the characters in haroun and the sea of stories would say, by one of my favourite writers, salman rushdie. yes, yes, we writers love to read.
so. for the month of november, my task here on this blog is to relate every entry to NaNoWriMo (except for the wordless posts). there’ll probably be quite a few excerpts from the book, and all the other posts, well, maybe some of the connections i’ll make will be a bit hair-raising but then i think all of NaNoWriMo might turn out to be hair-raising!
image by buggs