Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The best can come out of the bits and pieces

I have always been a believer in the idea that there are things that are specifically made to fit a situation or need, but one can always come up with a bypass if that item is just not available. This is how I manage to deal with computers that don't want to work or when an overhead projector at school decides to go on the fritz. Being a teacher, I need to be ready for every contingency.  I remind my students of this outlook when one tells me the computer died just as she was about to type a homework assignment (pull out a pencil and write) or his printer broke (email it). (Computers crashing far outnumber dogs eating homework these days).  I think I learned this make-do style from my father.

My mom always did the cooking, but there were rare times when she was too sick and my father had to take over.  He never minded, she always did.  He would look in the refrigerator and start pulling things out.  A pot on the stove was the destination for everything he found.  In the end, the bubbling mass would look like a poor quality of concrete ready for pouring.  We would make burritos with it, adding cheddar cheese and taco sauce.  Though it looked disgusting, it was delicious.

When my mom was well enough to return to the kitchen, we would all make her "sick" with our rapturous descriptions of Dad's "Slab" recipe.

I look at writing this way, too.  Need a name for a character to be common but memorable:  I pick an average name, Fred for instance, and add/delete a letter.  Fned Carson is one of the characters in my short story tentatively titled "Scrapper."  He's an average guy whose life has been flowing downhill for awhile (something that happened to my father for a time, too). My main character Moekaff, an eight-year-old boy, is left at Carson's Rest, a transport rest stop and restaurant. There the two suffer separately as they try to deal with rough times.  I needed Fned to be both an addition to Moe's troubles but also a man with a right to be angry and depressed, ready to take out his frustrations on this kid who is himself in mourning.  They don't save each other, but they do share their misery and somehow walk away with possibilities.  But that is only a part of the journey Moekaff takes before he finds a place to call home again.  I am still finishing this story and hope to make it part of an anthology of science fiction stories I have written.  As soon as it's done, I'll finish my redraft on my second novel of my Students of Jumps series, No Time Like the Present.

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