Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Seven from my Desk Drawer: The Flute Case

This is a YA Chapter Book. Set in the 1970s, about a pitiful yet resilient sixteen-year-old girl who is a late bloomer, body and mindset of a 13 year-old, but that's only because she's stuck with parents who don't care and she's on her own searching for food and rest. Her worst fear is - gym class. Gym is where everyone sad gets beat up. She avoids that by becoming invisible.  Living near the projects, the school is a scary place, and gym is where the mean reign. One afternoon, she's presented with a modern-day miracle: a note that reads she can attend band instead of gym. She thinks this will solve all her troubles, but life still remains complicated.

An excerpt:


     Band is on the second floor. The stairs hint an old scary breeze to not enter, but remarkably fearless kids ascend carrying funky suitcases. The bell rings and everyone is gone except for a few old people. I get to go to band! That is what this note actually reads. I touch the door, there is an allusion of music behind it. When I crack it open, the sound is loud.
     I can't go in there. I delicately close the crack. But, I certainly can't go back to gym. This hallway is a marvelous oneness. Maybe, I could just stay here?
      I crack the door again and peek in to see a room full of kids with shiny spectacular instruments. Those instruments are much too beautiful. I close the door and my eyes from their loveliness, and sit down.
     Sitting, I crack open the door ever so gently to see that the clarinet girls all look alike, four with long black hair, dark eyes and pale skin. They must be sisters? I like it. I also like the looks of that xylophone guy; he keeps the beat using his forehead. If I played a xylophone, I'd play it just like that. The trumpeter, oh my, is he cute! The two trumpeters sound great together. Imagine standing next to those two. I 'd be the talk of the school, "Aren't you that ugly girl who gets to stand next to those two handsome guys, man, are you lucky!"
     I unfold the note and reread it for the hundredth time. It really says that I come here to this heaven instead of the depths of chlorine persecution.
     But, oh no, no, no. No, I can't breathe. I shut the door and prop my back against it. I can't go in there. Those kids have talent. They know how to play those instruments, they know notes, they read music, when I don't know . . . anything. This dose of reality spoils everything that was ever happy in the universe. And who am I kidding, even if I could play an instrument, we can't afford it. My dad's famous words, "What do you think we're made of money?"
     Breathe, breathe. I lean my head to my knees. No we are not made of money.
     But, there is no harm in looking. I crack the door open again and peek at what could be mine. A bitter squeal comes from the trumpeter. He slams his trumpet on his leg and yells, "Crap, I sound like a darn Whookie!"
     The music literally screeches to a halt, everyone looks down at the trembling floor as if they've lost their lunch money. The teacher, a bony old woman holding a stick, points to the errant trumpeter. Oh, no, I can't watch the cute one get yelled at, so I close the door. I sit there holding my knees, sad for him, and wondering, what the heck is a whookie? Maybe it's an instrument. Ah, he probably said rookie.
     When I'm certain the yelling is over, I creek open the door again to hear, "What is she doing?"
     Trombone kid is smiling at the doorknob. Then, I realize something, the doorknob is right above where I'm peeking in. The skinny witch waves for me to enter. But, surely, I cannot do that.
     The beauty of their instruments glisten from the light shinning through the large window straight down to the polished floors. And what do I see outside on the ledge of the magnificent window is a stone gargoyle statue like the ones in England. He's the most magnificent thing I've ever seen, but I should have been looking inside the room, because my foot catches on some junk on the floor and I trip center circle. Trombone boy snickers but nobody else thinks I'm funny. Everyone else continues to sit straight, holding their instruments listening for the next barking orders.
     "Go there," she points to a lone chair that is presently holding a pile of someones junk. Oh no, not next to that snotty girl in her fuzzy sweater. Please no. Honestly, pink?
     "Marie, assist her, please."
     "I sure hope Marie's a clarinetist. They could use a little variety," I snort. Nobody is getting my sense of humor. Ah well, tough crowd. In fact, there is no sound in the room except for gargoyle out there. I wave a thank you accomplishment gesture toward him.
     "What is she doing?" asks the saxophonist. Well, what is he doing? I ask myself. The rest stare down at their nervous stands waiting for the clock to tick down one more second to freedom. Obviously they have never experienced gym or they would know that is where the entire time-continuum stops in a suffocating vortex.
     "That's a cool thingy there," I say trying to be friendly as the teacher certainly has a throat-clearing problem.

      It's fun back here. Xylophone boy has a bunch of gadgets, some triangle thing on a metal pole, wooden sticks with fuzzy stuff glued to the end, and as I'm studying all of this, the Wicked Witch of the Midwest points to that chair which is not technically empty. She hasn't actually spoken, so I can pretend that she's not pointing to me.
     "As I've said, know your scales, Know Your Scales. So. let's move on to . . . . "
     "Like snakes," I snort elbowing Trombone boy. "Elbow. Scales. ha ha. These are the jokes, people." He isn't laughing. He's too tense for humor. The teacher bangs her stand, points to the chair and the class begins again,
      Each one of the clarinets plays different notes and at wrong times. Well, I could play wrong in that mess and nobody would ever know. T-bone nudges me and points to the chair. What is every one's fetish about that chair? He nervously brings his instrument to the ready. This is going to be loud, so I put my fingers in my ears. The teacher crosses her stick by her throat like an assassin with a knife and all comes to a murderous halt.
     "Lisa, did you bring your instrument?" she says.
     The only thing avoiding complete blankness in my brain is another dad's famous sayings, "it's nice but what good is it." But, the teacher seems to be looking at me, so she might be talking to me, but no one should speak my dad's words, and what did she ask?
     "Lisa, did I pronounce your name right? Or is it Liza?"
      "It doesn't matter," I choke.
      "She doesn't even know her own name," miss lovely Marie says.
     "Sit by Marie, the flautist, PLEASE! Watch what she does because that's what you'll be doing."
    "She doesn't even know what a flautist is?" Marie mutterers.
     If it wasn't for this bright flush of sweat and color rising to my brain, I just might show her that a flautist is a woman holding a metal stick to hit her with. Marie grunts and begrudgingly removes her beloved paraphernalia from the lone chair. She could leave that bag. I smell Bologna. But she snatches that up first. Everyone else seems relieved to be staring at us. Class comic relief was not my intention when we started this day. So, I stand there forced against my will to wait or the lovely Marie to remove the rest of her items. I'm certain this girl tortured me in a former life, but how does one go about finding the proof?
     The band begins again. Everyone sits up straight and each plays a different sound. I slump in to my new destiny, a tight squeeze. Her flute is nearly touching my nose, but she's probably doing that on purpose. There is no other recourse of action but to fog and polish the shiny silver with breath. She sneers and ha ha, the teacher points to Marie, because she's missed her cue. Miss Perfect might just have a 99 percentile. The two trumpeters start in, rookie-whookie like. The clarinets come in all wrong.
     "Very good," she taps three times on the stand, collects her papers and notebook.
     "Good day, Miss Seviere," they say, the only thing so far they've done in unison.
    "Miss Severe," I snort and elbow Marie, trying to make amends. Marie leans away from my touch. T-bone shushes me.
     "Leeza," Miss Severe says. Which isn't my name either, but I'm starting to get the hang that she means me.
     "Get these signed by your parents." she shoves some wrinkled documents at me.
    "You must sign Z-Papers!" I smirk in my best German accent.
     "What?" she stares at my forehead.
    "Just a little joke," I say.
    "Music is a joke to you?"
     "French horns are kinda twisted," I snort.
      Miss Severe slaps the stick on the papers and screams, "Get those signed or don't come back."
      She clomps across the wooden floor and slams the door to her office. Wow, she's got an office? None of the other teachers have an office.
     "So much for conversation," I giggle as the whirl of kids pack up there stuff and keep it all close to their bodies. I pick the papers from the floor and read that it's going to cost money to rent a flute. Well, now, how can I tell my parents they must pay for something that I don't even want?
     I must knock on Miss Severe's door to explain this awful misunderstanding but my knuckles betray me and they refuse to knock.
     I'm transfixed and in a fix. I don't want to sit next to Marie. I don't want to play the flute. But, I really can't go back to gym. As ugly as Marie is she won't smash my face in with projectiles. Plus, I could sit across from that cute boy and fulfill my destiny. And, that magnificent gargoyle out there is needing a name.
     I walk to the window and press my face to the glass to get a closer look. He's got a cheetah face with a gold spot on the back of his head, strong legs, and small wings to fly out of here. I raise my hand to the cool glass. I would love you as my friend.
    The bell startles me into reality.
     Okay, if I simply explain my problems to Miss S, she'll understand.
    Be brave. I'll knock. So, why won't my hand do it? That's when I hear weeping.  Miss S is in there, behind this shut door, crying? I never knew adults did that. It's not like they have the problems we do. Don't you have all that sorted out by the time you get old, for Heaven's sake. She's weeping. I can't interrupt weeping. Plus, I'm late for Math, again. There will be more yelling and taking points off papers, and how do you explain that you're late because you want to adopt a gargoyle, think the trumpeter is cute, hate everything about the flutist, flautist, whatever, the hideous girl is called, and of course, my parents will never sign Z-Papers for any instrument, let alone one I don't eve want, and the music teacher is having a nervous breakdown?

It's a long and hungry road before she triumphs, but she will. And Yes, I know, I need an editor to help tweak it, an art director to produce a dramatic cover, and of course a publisher who believes. But, if that never happens, it's all right here in the drawer, and now I have an altered-art painted cover too.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Is this about a Bicycle?" - Flann O'Brien

The Third Policeman

by Flann O'Brien

A Book that will Mess with Your Mind.

"He came over ponderously to the inside of the counter and I advanced meekly from the door until we were face to face. Is it about a bicycle? he asked."

"No, I answered, stretching forth my hand to lean with it against the counter. The Sergeant looked at me incredulously. Are yous sure? he asked."

"Not about a motor-cycle?
One with overhead valves and a dynamo for light? Or with racing handle-bars?"

"Tell me, he continued. would it be true that you are an itinerant dentist and that you came on a tricycle?
It would not, I replied.
On a patent tandem?

"Not withstanding the sturdy cross-bar it seemed ineffably femal and fasticious, posing there like a mannequin rather than leaning idly like a loafer against the wall and resting on its prim flawless tyres with irreproachable precision, two tiny points of clean contact with the level floor."

"I left the bicycle and went back up the drive with the stone swinging ponderously in my right hand."

"Will you follow after me till I have a conversation with you privately," he said, "if it was nothing else you have to no light on your bicycle and I could take your name and address for the half of that."

 "How can I convey the perfection of my comfort on the bicycle, the completeness of my union with her, the sweet responses she gave me at every particle of her frame?"

"I felt that I had known her for many years and that she had known me and that we understood each other utterly."

 "She moved beneath me with agile sympathy in a swift, airy stride, finding smooth ways among the stony tracks, swaying and bending skilfully to match my changing attitudes, even accommodating her left pedal patiently to the awkward working of my wood leg."

""I sighed and settled forward on her handlebars, on the dark roadside, each telling me that I was further and further from the Seargent."

"How desirable her seat was, how charming the invitation of her slim encircling handle-arms, how unaccountably competent and reassuring her pump resting warmly against her rear thigh!"

"In the next moment I was fumbling for the barrack latch with the Seargent's whiling bicycle in my care."
"The bicycle itself seemed to have some peculiar quality of shape or personality which gave it distinction and importance far beyond that usually possessed by such machines."

"Resting before me like a tame domestic pony, it seemed unduly small and low in relation to the Sergeant yet when I measured its height against myself I found it was bigger than any other bicycle that I knew."

"It was a gentle saddle yet calm and courageous, unembittered by its confinement and bearing no mark upon it save that of honourable suffering and honest duty."

"If I had given (or had been able to give unrestricted rein to either fear or reason I should have turned my back forever on this evil house and rode away there and then upon the bicycle to the friendly home with was waiting for me beyond four bends of the passing road."

"Come curiosity (or perhaps it was the sense of safety which comes to a man on his own hillside) made me stop pedalling and pull gently at the queenly brake."

"I had intended only to look back at the big house but by accident I had slowed the bicycle so much that she shuddered beneath me awkwardly making a gallant effort to remain in motion."

"Leaning half-way across the lintel was the Sergeant's bicycle."

"On the other hand I could not help recalling what the Sergeant had told me about his fears for his bicycle and his decision to keep it in solitary confinement."

"You may have come on no bicycle, he said, but that does not say that you know everything."

"Thus motion is also an illusion. He mentions that almost any photograph is conclusive proof of his teachings."

"Is this about a bicycle?" he asked.