2005.11.05 NaNoWriMo:

Not even going to attempt to explain the long hiatus. Needless to say, time is a precious commodity, and one must prioritize one's life.

Now however, i have thrown priority, precaution, and most things of a precious nature to the wind and decided to attempt participation in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. Thus far, four days into it, i have a grand total of 82 words written.
**Update: 968 words as of 11/7 — 1 week in, just under 1/50th of the way there.**
**Update 2: 1359 words as of 11/8 — I'll post the prologue soon.**
**Update 3: 1840 words as of 11/8 — prologue posted**

I tried to do some leg-work prior to the start of this thing, and the result is a potentially unfortunate predictor of the remainder of the month. I did some work on a character sketch (yes, "A", meaning singular), but didn't quite get it finished. It did help me to think through and flesh out some of the backstory for this character, as well as some of his supporting cast, but the actual fiction portion remains incomplete.

Nevertheless, i thought i might post it to solicit feedback, and to wade on into the water by telling the world at large (i.e. those three obsessed readers who still persist in checking bipolar on a weekly basis) what i'm up to. Perhaps if i wade straight in rather than continuing to dangle my toes, it'll help pressure me into making some real progress.

Anyway, without further ado, here's the unfinished character sketch:


Old John Hoffstead was a fat little man with a generally pleasant disposition. Right now, however, Old John's brow was creased, and his outstretched arm was waggling a finger in the air.

"Young lady, you get down from there before you hurt yourself!"

A petite blonde with an almost comically round belly glared down at him from the top step of a 4-foot step ladder.

"John, seriously. I'm not a baby, and I'm not an invalid. I'm here to work, and I'm going to work, and you're going to just have to get used to that."

John lowered his finger, and his hand rested on his waist.

"I know that Mel, I just wish you'd be a little more careful, is all. It's not good for a woman in your condition to be exerting herself too much, or putting herself in danger. Why, my June, when she was carrying our 2nd, climbed up on a step-stool at home and nearly broke her damn neck. Damn near lost the baby too."

"But, she didn't do either. We women and these little parasites are a little more resilient than you apparently give us credit for."

Mel handed down the item she'd grabbed off the top shelf, and carefully made her way down the ladder, taking the hand John offered.

"Oh, I grant that you ladies can be pretty tough, but little babies are still pretty fragile… unless that really is just a big rubber ball you've got under there like some of the cashiers have been saying." He winked at her.

Old John had known Melanie since she was a toddler. The daughter of his best friend and former Squad Leader, he'd first met Mel when they returned from the Gulf and took leave together. She had been barely a year old, already tottering around and yammering nonsense just to entertain herself. After Scooter's accident, John had taken her under his wing, and became more of a stand-in father to her than a stand-in uncle. His family of four became a family of five, and Mel was his first and last. She, of course, had continued to live with her mother, but the two families lived a few doors from each other, and Janie withdrew into her work, leaving Mel to spend most of her time with the Hoffstead family.

"Ha! Man, those girls drive me crazy."

Charleen, head cashier, popped into view as she walked by the head of the aisle. Charleen glared at Mel, but kept walking without saying a word.

"Hi Charleen." Mel exaggerated the vowels with a lilt in her voice, but Charleen was already out of view.

Old John rolled his eyes at her, and picked up the ladder she'd been using.

"I'll put this away for ya, sweetie."

"Thanks. I'm gonna head back to the counter. I'll see ya around."

"Sure thing. If you need me for anything, just page."

Mel headed off to her Customer Service counter, and Old John continued on his rounds up and down the aisles of his department, absent-mindedly picking up the odd out-of-place item, straightening a shelf, or facing a product that was hidden behind slow sellers. This was actually one of his favorite parts of the job, during the slow-times this gave him a little peace & quiet and let him just kind of work at his own pace. If he were crafty enough, he could avoid most of the customers, but he only bothered to do that when he was in a particularly solitary mood.

Often, he'd wander around the store, thinking about the past, or thinking about his boys James and Sam, one newly married and embarking on a promising career, the other half-way through college and already planning out his future in infuriating detail. Or, he'd think about his girls–about Debra, just starting college, fresh, excited, with the whole world in her eyes; about Mel, not really his, but might as well be. How he worried about her, 26 with a stalled career and a baby on the way, a husband who was always away on business, but who nevertheless didn't make enough money to support his developing family.

He'd think about June, about the fun they used to have–before the kids, after the kids, while making the kids. It had been long enough since she'd passed for him to entertain these memories and enjoy them, instead of being tortured by them, but it was still recent enough that he did still miss her terribly. He still crawled carefully into bed each night, as if to avoid waking her, and he always laughed sadly to himself when he realized he was doing it, and that she wasn't there to wake up.

Lately though, it seemed he was always thinking about himself–how it seemed at times like he'd lived every one of his 53 years twice in a row. He certainly wasn't a feeble old man, and he'd make sure you knew it if you were to offer to help him with something he was "perfectly capable of!" Even his nickname had been granted him as a young man, when he'd enlisted at 23 and gone to basic with a bunch of recruits barely out of high school, and he mostly only thought of himself as "Old John" when reminiscing about his time in the service. No, he was capable of quite a bit–certainly more than most of the people he worked with could have been aware–and it was to that that his thoughts kept returning. Here he was, a decorated soldier, an experienced leader, a combat hardened veteran, and he was straightening shelves at a grocery store. It wasn't an indignity, of course. It was just a fact of life to which he had never, in all these years, been able to acclimate himself.

It was in the midst of these thoughts that he first noticed the sound–low, steady, and unstructured–so his first thought was of a battalion of tanks rolling up into the parking lot outside. It was only a moment before his memory receded and he grasped the peculiar pervasiveness of the sound, as he also noticed that it wasn't just sound he was experiencing. There was a vibration that made the back of his throat feel funny, and the bottles of hot sauce he'd just straightened were now dancing on the shelf and joining the low rumble with their high-pitched tinkling.

Just as quickly as it had come, the sound moved off. Like an airliner flying in for a landing overhead, its passing was palpable. Old John immediately headed out toward the head of the aisle, and looked up and down the floor to make sure there were no injuries or customers on the verge of freaking out. His quick glance confirmed everyone's relative safety and sanity, so he continued on straight to the customer service counter.

- 12:12 am :: permalink :: 2 comments
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2 Responses to “NaNoWriMo:”

bipolar – cute little quip pinged:

went to paris again, this time brought back a fiancé 11/03/2004 :: the american public once again proved their stupidity 07/06/2005 :: sara and I got married, starting our new life together 11/05/2005 ::whereafter, i proceeded to drop off the face of the earth, or at least bipolar 04/17/2006 :: bipolar gets an organ transplant, and a facelift a few things I didn't mention, or barely mentioned were the births of my goddaughter—sara's niece emma—and my first nephew, reuben. of course, now I have four

# April 9, 2007,

Javan said:

congratulations! a start. we never get anywhere if we don't start (and sometimes we don't get anywhere even when we do start!)

that's a healthy dose of pessimism to ponder.

haha, really good luck with this and i hope to see you soon.


# November 8, 2005,

m@ said:

Well, i'm rolling now–like an extremely large, heavy stone down a very shallow slope.

But what i'm calling a prologue is finished–enough.

How 'bout you, how's your attempt going?

# November 9, 2005,