The hundred day project is running way long at this point, but I am making regular progress still, nearly 7500 words. It’s kind of a small dent in the overall project, but so much further than I’ve ever gotten writing before. The good news is that I feel like it’s starting to come easier. I didn’t get nearly as much of anything done as I’d hoped during the month of july, but I did finish up some smaller projects and I have a big pdf download nearly ready for you all on Monday. I’m really excited to share it with you.
Today’s Good stewards writing is a conversation between Sam and Andrew, followed by more of Andrew and Ava’s fairytale, which is starting to sort of run parallel to the main storyline.
“The other night after Ava’s birthday party I sat down at the kitchen table and started writing a story about the turtle she found.” When Andrew had moved back to Michigan the year before, he’d begun walking up and down the dirt road to his mom’s house every night. He’d listen to the birds and the bugs. The evening had smelled like wild flowers, and weeds and hay. When he’d moved to town, Sam joined him most evenings. He smiled, realizing how much their walks felt like coming home from the bus stop. They were kind of slow and chatty, and on top of that he’d probably always think about these walks whenever he smelled cigarettes or dryer sheets. The smells of a neighborhood at night. “I haven’t really felt like writing anything creatively in a long time, but I was thinking about that turtle, and about the stories that I loved when I was Ava’s age. I kind of really want more stories like that out in the world.”
“You just kind of want more stories like that in the world?” Sam emphasized the words, and pushed him towards a bush near the entrance to the school playground they were walking towards. She’d known him longer than pretty much anyone. They’d been best friends since college. They’d been there through each other’s marriages. They’d been the first one’s to know about each other’s kids. Witnessed the other one try things and succeed…or fail. Been there with hugs and support when it was time to dust off and try again.
“Mmmhmm…?” he nearly laughed as she called him out. They both knew better.
“Why don’t you ever finish anything that you write?” She glanced over at him as she walked across the gravel to the swings. He took the chain of the swing next to her and swung in to the seat, kicking back and lifting his feet off the ground, feeling his weight pull him forward and up. They creaked back and forth in companionable silence for a minute, the sound of the chains pulling on the frame of the swing-set, filling the yard of the elementary school.
“I love how the swings sound. Remember how often we seemed to end up here when we were in college? We were so earnest back then.”
“You’re pretty earnest now, you goof. Don’t change the subject, It’s something you say you love.”
“I just never felt like I was good enough, I guess…”
“I’ve always loved your word’s. Ava’s mom did too. She used to tell me about the things you sent her when you were dating. And I know that kid loves your stories.” She let her swing slow down, finally planting her feet on the ground, stopping and looked over at him seriously. “She wanted you to write.”
“She…she did? Really? I always felt like she thought I was wasting my time.”
“Well, that too.”
“Heh. I guess so, yeah. It’s a lot easier to start something than it is to finish it, I guess.” By this time they were both stopped, shuffling their feet in the strip of dirt that seems to be the same under every swing everywhere. “It’s like there’s three narratives in my head. There’s one that tells me about everything I’ve done, and how it wasn’t good enough. There’s one that sees nothing but potential in everything I might do, that gets excited about all the details of what could be.” Andrew sighed as he tried to put together what the third voice sounded like. After a couple of false starts and a lot of running his fingers over the links of chain between his fingers he pushed back hard swing back and up as he said, “I guess the third voice is just me, telling myself how hard it is and that I still have a lot of time to mess it all up before I’m done.”
Then all in a rush “Ava came down while I was writing and asked if we were dating.”
“It’s cute when girls and boys are kids and friends.” Sam laughed. “People practically encourage it. It’s always bothered me how they’ll joke about those friends growing up and getting married someday. Like the only reason they could be friends is so that they can get married and have kids. I’m glad you’re my best friend, Andrew…Even though we’re not little kids.”
“It was weird hearing that her friends and her talk about me. I don’t remember ever talking about my parents when I was her age, other than to complain about not being allowed to watch My So Called Life or something.”
“You know the three fates of Greek mythology?” It sounded like she was changing the subject on him now, but he couldn’t see why or where it was going.
“Yeah. Why do you ask?”
“Maybe the ghost’s from Scrooged make more sense.”
“You mean A Christmas Carol?”
“Hah! Yeah, you know what I mean. Anyway, maybe the voices in your head about your writing are like the ghosts of Past, Present, and Future. Like…maybe you just have to be a steward of those feelings and do the work. Maybe you can just trust that there are people that have your back and do it.” Timing her kick off she swung forward at the same time he did. “Hey look!” she laughed. “We’re married!”
She didn’t know how any sort of real map could have possibly been on their new turtles back, much less a magical one. All Maris wanted in the morning was to chalk it up to a crazy dream, and go back to her books and looking for crayfish and salamanders in the creek. Alex waking up Christmas morning early, demanding that she pack them a sack lunch, combined with the photo of the glowing map on their bedroom ceiling, made it pretty clear that she’d be doing no such thing today.
“Let’s follow the map today!” She squealed “It can be an adventure! You’ll be Red-Handed Molly, wondering scholar and sorceress. I can be Gunchiss, the warrior who died a thousand deaths!” Alex stood on her bed, arm thrust out like she was stabbing monsters with a sword.
“Fiiiiine, I’ll go see what Granny has to pack for a lunch.” Much as she wanted to curl up and read, Maris couldn’t help but smile at her sister, and truth be told, she was looking forward to seeing what this crazy map was all about. Alex’s games were sometimes too much, because she demanded that they be taken seriously. It was a beautiful morning though, her sister had given her a character that allowed her to do the things she really wanted to do anyway, and maybe shed get a chance to draw some new critters in her sketch journal or at least take some pictures. All in all it was starting to feel like the sort of day she wished she’d planned.
The girls follow the map down the creek and through the woods, across the rail road tracks on the edge of town and past a barking dog chained in its back yard. There was a twisted cypress tree a shallow pond filled with cat tails, lily pads, mosquitoes, and frogs. Finally, after lying in a field of tall grass and flowers, looking up at the clouds and eating their lunches, they arrived at a little house on the side of a hill.
“Do you think witches live here?” Alex chirped excitedly “I bet you witches live here, I’m gonna find out!” She called over her shoulder as she charged forward.
“Hey, wait!” Maris yelled, dashing after her “You can’t just go knocking on stranger’s doors for no reason!”
“Okay, fine.” Her sister said, turning and pouting. “You do it then.”
“Wha..? Me?” Maris tried to protest then sighed, rolling her eyes. She knew arguing wouldn’t get her anywhere so she stalked up to the door and knocked rapidly. “See…” she started to say, but no sooner had she stepped back from knocking on the little door than it jerked open just wide enough to allow the head of a little old woman to peer sharply out at them. “Eh? Who are you then?” She asked in a creaky, yet commanding voice.
“See!?” Alex crowed from off the edge of the porch. “A witch Does live here!”
Mortified, and caught off guard by the suddenness of it all, Maris blurted out, “I’m sorry for my sister, maam.” Then, not knowing what else to say she began to stammer “My name’s M-m-“ a sharp jab to the ribs from Alex reminded her about her promise to take the game seriously, she sighed, “I’m Molly. Red Handed Molly, and we’re kind of lost.” She said, feeling more than a little foolish.
“Guarding your true name then? That’s smart, there’s power in names. Most aren’t so smart when we first meet them.” The woman said as she opened the door wider, revealing a cozy sitting room with a small table laid for tea and a kettle boiling on the stove in the corner. “Do come in, dear. We’ll get some tea in you and have you all sorted out before you know it.”
Stepping tentatively across the threshold, Maris noticed with a start that the old woman wasn’t alone in the little house. A young lady sat by the fire, tuning a stringed instrument. A third woman, maybe the mother of the young lady, or the daughter of the old woman was adding two cups and saucers to the place settings at the table.
“And who’s your pet?” the old woman asked as Alex tramped through the door behind them both.
“I’m no pet!” Alex cried indignantly, back straightening and cheeks flushing. “I’m Gunchiss! The…”
“The warrior who’s died a thousand deaths?” The young lady cut Alex off in a musical voice that sounded like both question and statement all at once. “I thought he’d finished with this world an age ago?”
Suddenly, her sister’s game didn’t seem so silly. How could these women possibly know the story of Gunchiss? Alex had made him up when she was like, six…! Maris, feeling light headed, grabbed the back of one of the chairs for support. “Who? Who are you?” She asked, looking up and really seeing the three witches for the first time.
I hope you all are well, taking care of yourselves and pursuing your own creative projects. Until next time, take care and be good.