I’ve been taking a break from not-writing my novel in order to not write my novel; it’s amazing how much time it takes to do the five thousand small chores I’ve been putting off for the better part of a year, now that my upcoming move has forced a deadline. This morning I went downtown to the county courthouse to take care of some car business, mailed a letter and a package, and bought the world’s second largest cat litter box. I almost bought the largest one (with actual built-in garbage bag and scooper slots), but it cost $44 at Petco and goodness knows my cat would somehow get urine in the handy organizer anyways. While my cat not only loves me to death but is currently the closest thing I have to a husband, I’ve also seen her pee on the wall while aiming for the back corner of her box. Thus the new litter box, which has three plastic walls that come up over her head and a fourth, shorter wall to act as an entrance. Chances are she’ll start aiming for that side of her new prison bathroom (and/or will kick litter out of the sides while straight-leaping the fence-line of Auschwitz), but I’m just hopeful enough to optimistically anticipate how my $20 purchase will play out.
In vaguely related news, I clearly don’t have a whole lot of anything to say. And yes, I’m just now remembering that I admitted that last week, but there’s nothing like confessing twice to really get more bang for your buck. Once I’ve moved and started my new schedule (but more on that later), I plan to begin working on updates that actually include stories for the story folder. In the meantime, here is the first page of a prologue to the darkest story idea I have cluttering my word document folder, because I’m seriously scraping the bottom of the barrel:
When Adam Zoloff was nine, he charged Charlie Wickes twenty-two dollars to talk to his dead grandfather.
It was a lot of money – more than Charlie had, at any rate – but Adam had chosen it because it worked out to two dollars per classmate. Even that had been a little outrageous, but Charlie’s grandfather hadn’t been dead long and Adam, even then, was canny enough to know that everybody liked a good show. They’d pay, if they wanted to watch.
They’d paid. And for twenty-two bucks he made it look good. No actual dead grandfather (he couldn’t have raised him if he’d wanted to – which he hadn’t, there were easier ways to fleece his classmates – as Mr. Wickes had had a Christian burial, his grave warded with water blessed by his pastor), but that hadn’t stopped Adam before and it didn’t now. The light show was enough to scare a bunch of fourth graders, who’d gone screaming back into Paradise, thrilled and frightened and CERTAIN that they’d seen a real ghost.
Adam made out much worse than twenty-two dollars. He’d been young enough that his cousin Byron still awed him, and in his excitement not only bragged to him about that money but the two additional dollars he’d earned fake-raising three canaries and one very dead cat earlier that week. When he went to school the next day, twenty-four dollars poorer, he discovered exactly how serious the charge of necromancy actually was.
“Do you have any idea what I can do to you?” the Sheriff demanded. He was a large man, especially to a nine-year-old that was decidedly small for his age, and he didn’t wait for an answer. “If you think I’d waste the resources keeping you locked up in jail for the rest of your life, think again. I can do much, much worse.”
When Adam still didn’t answer the Sheriff leaned in closer, the smell of pipe tobacco and the hamburger patties from Gould’s Diner heavy on his collar. It was an achingly good smell to Adam’s empty stomach, but the nine-year-old kept his eyes downwards, like he was bored.
The lawman grabbed his chin and jerked upwards. “Do you understand me?”
Adam did. He always did, but he looked past the Sheriff’s left ear and just kept on picking away at the scab on his knee like he couldn’t hear, let alone understand, because most days it was easier to pretend he was stupid.
The Sheriff sighed, releasing him. He’d wasted most of the morning trying to track down one of the family to come in and answer for their Zoloff leavings, but it was nearly lunch now and Adam was still sitting in the jail by himself (not in an actual cell, just in a chair next to the sheriff’s desk, but it was a terrifying lesson nonetheless), a sullen look on his face. There’d been an impromptu town council meeting about him, mostly because necromancy was a hanging offense.
Awhile ago I was trying to feel out how the protagonist fits into the fabric of this particular reality, and thus managed to not-write my other novel for an entire afternoon. This is only a piece of the ground rules I’ve laid for his overly dramatic character arc, but since it’s book number seven on my list of novels-I-am-eventually-going-to-get-around-to-writing, I figured you may as well enjoy it. Makes for a decent blog update anyways.