Turns out that my neighbors are dizzingly honest. Today I drove my silver Jaguar along the golf course where I live, parked at the cute corner market, left the sun-roof open, took my beautiful canine companion for a walk around the lake, and came back to find my purse undisturbed in the front passenger seat where I had left it. Aren’t my neighbors honest? Doesn’t my life sound idyllic?
It’s all so easy with a turn of a phrase.
Here’s the rewrite: My neighbors are still dizzingly honest. The silver Jag is my little sister’s car that I kept after she killed herself. It’s ten years old, dented in odd places, gets crappy gas mileage, and tends to require costly parts every three months. We call it the ghetto Jag and I will drive it till it drops, or I can no longer afford to fix it. As to why my sis, who for most of her life drove around in cute little Volkswagens, up and bought this huge car, I really can’t say, but somehow it suits that it was the one she went out on. There’s traces of bubblegum, hers, stuck to the steering wheel.
A while back I fixed the worst of the dents and replaced the side mirror that was duct-taped on.
As for the canine companion herself, she’s about twelve and wants to sniff more than walk, so that walk around the lake was really a walk up and down the same little strip, with me standing there holding the leash slapping mosquitoes while princess sniffed the same bush she just sniffed.
I suck at golf. Who can afford to play when I have to budget for fuel pumps and A/C clutches? I only live within walking distance of whatever number hole because my ex thought it was cool before we split. Frankly, I view it as land my dog could be sauntering across except those cranky guys in plaid get upset by that.
The lake is nice to walk around if your dog would go that far. See those big lakeside houses at the far end of the pic? None of them is mine. Once my ex and I took a canoe out in the middle of the lake. I think I knew that day we were over (over a brunette) and yes, the thought did occur to me to let him swim back.
My sis used to say that her life looked great on paper. I never fully understood what she meant until she literally demonstrated. I’m reminded of the John Singer character in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Like Singer, but not for the same reasons, my sis could never talk about what troubled her the most.
This post is meant to be about two things. One, I keep thinking about those characters you can write who, with a slight turn of phrase, have a life that sounds perfect or perfectly horrible. Don’t our very perspectives on our own lives vary from day to day or minute to minute? On a bright blue morning with the day ahead of me, I tend to be in a great mood. By evening I can feel overwhelmed with work and defeated by my errors, pass and current.
And also about cars. The ghetto Jag has a deep history. One day my friend André called me up to say he thought I should write a story from the point of view of the Jag. It’s a great idea and I may do it.
I used to drive an old Jeep. People in 4X4s would honk and wave at me in that “ooh, you got mud on your tires, too, bet you want off-road, how cool is that?” sort of way. Now they honk at me in that “move your big-ass gas-guzzling car out of the way” sort of way. Which is even funnier, because I’ve learned it’s kind of hard to move a big car quickly. Once the thing gets going it’s like 10 to 70 in no time, but it takes me forever to back out of my driveway.
Okay, three things. About my sis, too. I’m working on a memoir that prominently includes her, so she’s more on my mind than usual. For those of you who write memoir much of the time, you may be more familiar with the feeling. I had put it down for a few years and have just picked it up again. Whew! My brain has been more exhausted than usual after writing time.
I’m also working on a piece of fiction, and I did very easily flip the character from being well-meaning and sad to self-serving and ruthless. He’s so much more fun when he’s not nice! Actually, the best result is when he, like most people, is capable of both good and bad and in his case maybe a little more bad.
I’m wondering if anyone else is working around that fine line between the good side and bad side of characters or scenarios. It’s a very interesting place to write, and of course leaves open lots of options for moving the character from one side to the other.
After all, sometimes it’s okay to just be the cheery middle-aged gal driving around in a Jag with a dog in the backseat blasting Train loud enough to piss of golfers.
XO Laurel Leigh