Tag: writing fiction

Using My “Other Life” for Fictional Inspiration

dried carrots

This week in my other life:

Blimps racing decrepit planes to get to a family compound in Louisiana full of surly “relatives” of Philip’s.  Black cats everywhere and also Penny.  One especially angry “relative” continually questioning me about everything, completely hostile.  Nothing has changed for 5o years.  Hard to believe there’s good corn out there in the fields.

An apartment building stacked impossibly high with stairs leading right up into each other at moments.  Opened door to Max’s room only to find two young boys making out in their underwear, neither of whom were Max.  Was doing something on the tiny deck lying down, trying to grab something or fix something, just as I roll and scootch my way back inside the door comes apart and I realize it’s because the deck is now disconnected by about a foot from the building.  Not sure what’s holding it up.  I go to report this.  I end up on the street with Philip who is introducing me to his fundamentalist Christian bosses who also live in the building and he’s indicating to me that I should imply we’re also conservative and I realize that not a piece of my skin is showing aside from my face.  I realize that our building is full of different flavors of fundamentalists and don’t know how I didn’t notice before.  I continue the charade wondering just how long I can keep it up, being ME.  We enter a gym-like room at the base of the apartment building.

There’s something that happened before that is now connecting up.  There was work at the base of the building.  My scooter – an expert said it needed work and took it apart and I couldn’t leave.  Someone in the vast downstairs complex was flirting dreadfully with scooter fixing man.  So back to the gym – I was taking notes and maybe even gambling.  As I exited the gym to head back home (which I never did) I peeked into the apartment of the fundamentalist bosses and the woman has taken off her  habit-like head-gear and underneath her whole head is bandaged up like her head will fall apart if she doesn’t tape a bunch of padded  bandage around it.

There’s some other business I’m supposed to be dealing with from earlier in my dream.  Only now I’m not married and have no child.  I’m in my early twenties.  I have to go find someone and so I’m riding my bicycle and other cyclists whizz by me and finally I get to a big brick building and start climbing some stairs.  I’m all dressed up in heels and know that they (whoever they are) is not expecting me – and doesn’t know I don’t always looked scraggly.  A guy comes out the door at the top of the stairs and I start saying that I know they probably won’t use the stuff I dropped off and I’m here to pick it up and I’m apologizing but he cuts across it to tell me SHE has used my seeds and plants and I can check on them.  I know he’s looking at my shoes and suddenly I feel self conscious.

I don’t know the rest.  It all evaporated too quickly.

I want to start writing the details of my dreams down the minute I wake up.  If nothing else I feel the seeds of fiction in them.  What is terror or strange and memorable in them would make for good stories.  Never in entirety since dreams don’t work that way.  But I do often feel I’ve just lived a whole wild narration in my sleep.  I enjoy trying to get some of it down because sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s creepy but it’s nearly always something for me to chew on.  Images that are sharp and if I can get them in writing they don’t fade away – I don’t have to lose them.

I think that strange primordial soup that dreams are is where poetry comes from.  I want more of that in my fictional work.

I would like to write some fiction today.  I have had so little time and so little brain space for it as I’ve been struggling with many other things that need dealing with.  Today I don’t have much paid work to do as I opted to work a long day yesterday.  Chapter one of the second book of Cricket and Grey awaits.

One other fiction related thought I’ve had in my head that I’d love to hear other writers weigh in on: do you write organically, just seeing where the story takes you?  Or do you work with an outline and know exactly where the story is going and what each chapter is going to contain?  Or are you somewhere in between?  I want to know how others do it.

I’ve done it both ways.  I wrote Jane Doe organically and let it take me where it wanted to go which was into a ditch of impossibility and also, sadly, stupidity.  No, that’s being too harsh.  It tried to be two things that don’t mix.  Three or four years later and the core story still haunts me but I can’t figure out how to make it work.  Then I wrote Cricket and Grey using an outline and doing a character analysis for each character and wrote it from beginning to end with 4 major rewrites in two years.  Completed book.  So it seems that outlines and planning work best for me but I’m attracted to writing organically again.

If you have thoughts on this, please share!

The Importance of Picking Names: Phlebotomists in Love

danger in the vetch

I can’t stop thinking about my new book which is in its infancy.  While I don’t want to reveal too much about the actual story as it’s in a delicate stage of its creation, I am coming up with names for my characters and brought this up on Facebook asking for some input.

Tess and Flynn.  Most people were not crazy for the name Flynn.  Everyone who commented liked Tess.  So I set about to consider some other options for Flynn that were suggested and that I could come up with.   It has to be a name that is suitable for a lanky skinny nerdy phlebotomist.

Kelly, Matthew, Clive, Trent, Silas, Nathan.

I have to like a name enough to write it over and over again and it has to suit the character OR it has to not suit them so much that it actually plays a part in their story.  Then there’s the question of reality.  How much would you be able to believe in a story where every character had a really unusual name?  You have to think about this in the creation of a world.  If it’s science fiction you have more leeway but if it’s regular fiction you have to think about the impact of every character being named things like Olivia, Connor, Madison, Apple, Miley, and Brooklyn.

I made one naming mistake in Cricket and Grey – using the name Sariah for the Mormon child bride.  I did research to find a distinctly Mormon name for her and I succeeded.  It’s an unattractive name – reminding everyone of “psoriasis”.  I chose it because when I first started writing her character I didn’t like her and she was going to be a minor character and not a recurring one.  However, as I wrote her I started to really like her friendship with Cricket.  I started to simply like her and I plan to bring her back.  So now I’m stuck with her unpleasant name.  I think I’m going to have to have the other characters give her a nick-name.

Here are the names used in Cricket and Grey: Cricket, Grey, Peter, Mairead, Julie, Tommy, James, Mary, Malakai, Jack, Natalie, Shockey, “Butterfly”, Mitch, John, Matthew, and Jeb.

Here are the names used in Jane Doe: Jane, Isaac, Galina, Tim, Luca, Carl, Pat, and Letta.

As a side note, looking over the manuscript for Jane Doe (my very first novel, still unfinished) is SO BAD and yet has such potential.  The good bits are really strong and powerful and the rest of it is embarrassingly shitty.

While I am planning to start writing the second Cricket and Grey book soon I can’t help but work on notes for this new novel while the ideas and inspiration are coming.  I think I’m going to need to spend some time with phlebotomists and interview a bunch of them – it’s not going to be easy to work up the nerve to do it.

Here’s just a little bit about my two main characters so far:

Tess is a junk-food junkie of medium build, grown-up goth style, habit of dying her hair, and all she ever wanted to be was a phlebotomist.

Flynn is scarecrow thin, wears glasses, always has dark circles around his eyes, writes math-based poetry, and “fell into” his work as a phlebotomist.

If you write fiction – please share how you pick names or what kinds of things you think about when considering names for characters.  If you don’t write but you love reading fiction – do you ever notice the names of characters in particular?  How important do you think names are in fiction?

In Which I Break Promises

I’ve made you promises I can’t keep.  I’ve been working at plot development and character analysis and even made my first attempt at the first chapter of Baby Girl Six.  I was so excited by the idea of publishing a monthly chapter.  I thought it would shake me up a little and force me to – I don’t know – learn to writer better fast perhaps?  Here’s the thing (this is where I give you an untidy bunch of roses even though sunflowers are your favorite) I am not a good enough writer to slap a chapter down and publish it without regret.  Remember that time we were up at three in the morning and I was drunk off my ass but you were just sober enough to remember everything I said?  It’s like that.  Once I show you a chapter I won’t be able to scrape it out of your head to make it better.  You will always remember the horrible first draft quality like you remember my most unguarded and ugly confessions made unintentionally under the influence.

What I learned from writing both The Winter Room and Cricket and Grey is that apparently I don’t write great first chapters because in both cases the first chapter was the most rewritten one of all and it was worth the rewrites.  If I was Charles Dickens I might be able to do a serialized book keeping to deadlines and writing chapters that read like 7th drafts… but in spite of some insistent chin hairs attempting to masculate me, I do not have Charles Dickens’ chops.

I was going to try out this serialized book idea using Baby Girl Six because of all the story pitches I came up with that one seemed the most ridiculous and I wasn’t very attached to it.  The more I worked on Six’s character analysis and the more I worked on designing the story and the other characters the more attached I grew.  I sat down this morning to furiously tap out the first damn chapter and post it no matter what.  But I kept thinking about Six and how much I needed time to develop her more and how it will probably take 10 tries at the first chapter to set the mood of the whole book right.  First drafts are crappy affairs.  I don’t want to publish any first drafts.  So I’ve decided I’m not going to.

I know I made promises and when I made them I really meant to keep them.  I understand if you need to rethink our relationship now.  It’s not that I don’t love you – in fact it’s because I love you too much that I need to protect you from my first drafts.

Look, if you can foot the bill I’ll happily go to therapy with you.

Update:  So I tell Philip how I’ve decided that you deserve only the best and how I’m totally chickening out on putting out there something that might be pretty rough and he, naturally, thinks I should do it anyway.  He says that writing chapters and throwing them up on the blog even though they’re only first or second drafts is like throwing them on a big ugly clipboard and I can go back and replace the originals with better versions later like a living morphing story – like a book being written in real time for my readers to see evolving… I hate it when he does that.  He says this will probably make me a better writer faster and is a good exercise.  Which is what I originally thought and was the reason I was going to do it.  Damn him.  I always knew he was trouble!

Cricket and Grey: inspecting writing style

As I was looking for bits of Cricket and Grey to illustrate and take a closer look at my writing style I was surprised to discover that it flows more easily than I thought between the light and dark – it’s more consistent than I realized.  There is a lot more harsh contrast in Jane Doe, which is, admittedly, a much darker story in the first place.  Still, there’s the alternating POV which is apparently typical of me.

It is useful to look at smaller bits next to each other.  If anyone reads these bits I’d like to know if you think the tone is fairly consistent or if you feel there’s a contrast, and if there’s a contrast – would you prefer it was smoother?  Do you wish it was only from one point of  view?

Please excuse the formatting, it doesn’t translate perfectly from Word documents pasted into WordPress.

From Chapter Four:

(ignore the awkwardness of the first sentence which flows naturally from the previous one I haven’t included for brevity’s sake)

Or it would have been if it weren’t for the sight of Peter’s daughter completely covered in dirt, standing like a soldier at the mouth of the hole her father’s body lay in, intentionally not looking at the Federal officer who was saying something to her that Grey couldn’t hear but which he could see made her stiffen like a fox listening to a forest of noise for the one mouse who moves soundlessly beneath the carpet of damp rusted leaves coming closer and closer to the predator’s teeth.  When she threw the punch she wasn’t a youth anymore; the wee daughter of an old accomplice and dear friend; she grew in stature all at once so that what had seemed the body of a youth became a charged vessel of movement; not encumbered with a large bosom her body was still a grown woman’s with fleet curves and arms a powerful arrow thrown straight and sharp and true.  The daughter had her father’s artful violence.

It wasn’t straightforward after that.  Grey’s motivations became a tangle of virtues and vices.  When Cricket was driven down the hill into town and locked up for assaulting a federal officer he stayed and helped the old man bury their mutual friend under Hesse’s emotionless watch, and if he was a gambling man, Grey would have bet Hesse was disappointed not to have had occasion to shoot someone that morning.  They spoke little and worked hard.  Vultures communed silently up near the tips of the pines and tall maples surrounding the clearing where the men worked their shovels; birds of hunger hoping for something, a scrap of flesh and bone, or maybe even just bone, a sliver of marrow for mother bird; even while the scent of the body faded under the weight of soil they circled in miserable hope.

When the grave was filled and their friend done at last, whether to rest or no was no longer their concern.  The old man was agitated, puzzling his grimy fingers over the many folds and dirty edges of his mangled baseball cap of which he had several, identical to the one he worried with his hands on there in the clearing.  Grey was fond of the old man and let him chew a long speech out until he’d exhausted his ability to make no sense and at last came to the point.  He couldn’t let the girl go to prison.  Lord knew she never had no lid for that temper of hers and if he weren’t so worried about what now, for crissakes, he’d almost have to admire her balls.  Still, there aint no doubt she’d be laid out in prison and he had to think on some scheme to help her.  But here, Shockey exhausted his words and still had no solution.

As nonchalantly as possible Grey promised the old man that he wouldn’t let Cricket go to prison.  He knew what to do but when Shockey asked him what he planned he was less than clear, hoping to stave curiosity off with a vague assurance that he had something Smith might want more than Cricket.  He was as good as his word.  He was no fool and knew that it was a temporary fix at best, but buying time and dropped charges weren’t bad for a start.

Excerpt from Chapter Five:

Every morning for a week after the wake I woke to complete and utter silence, something I was used to even when my parents were alive, but it was different that week.  Something I couldn’t see had come loose in my life, something dark and territorial.  I slept with my M&P next to me, waking at every deviation in the air current, every displaced noise, every change of light.  No one visited, not for a stitch or a salve.  Death is like a magic repellant; no one knows how to talk to you after you’ve buried someone; no one knows how to look at you once the liquor is drained and the music stops.  I worked in the uneasy quiet, preparing for the influenza that would hit the county like a hammer soon enough.  I also took stock so that I’d be prepared when the tax bills came.  I inventoried everything I had, everything I owned; carefully sorting so that I could sell anything worth selling if I had to.  I had an idea where I might be able to get decent prices for my herbal medicines in bulk but until I got the bill I had no idea what I was dealing with.  I filed all the paperwork from the burial and cleaned out the rest of my father’s files while I was at it.

You never really know a person until you’ve gone through their personal effects when they’re dead.  I never went through my mother’s things.  I don’t know if father did either.  I lived most of my life between the cottage and the cabin and never knew the back corner of my parents’ closet.  I guess I’d spent so much time with my father outdoors and studying at school that I never had the time or the curiosity to rummage through their secret drawers and boxes stowed in the backs of dusty shelves where fusty stacks of necrotic photographs of people I’d never met practically crumbled in my hands.

I opened boxes full of strange treasures that had no intrinsic value but seemed precious merely for the careful keeping of them; ribbons stained beyond pleasure or use, small pieces of slate – the kind a child picks up at the shore, beads long separated from their original settings, abused bits of frequently folded and unfolded paper notes – a few of them obviously sent through our own pigeon post (who knows how long ago?), a tiny ivory carved crucifix that felt like real tusk, a curious broken piece of china with the most exquisite deep pink rose painted on it.  Such were the remnants unearthed.  No narrative to tell me their meaning, to divine their place in my mother and father’s lives, or mine.  This wasn’t my life.  I felt disconnected again, as though my parents had lived their lives in harmony and unison together while I just tagged along, separate, alone.  It was irrational.  I had always felt loved.  I had always felt enclosed between them.  Why should their deaths untether me so that I floated like a stranger through this familiar landscape like a temporary guest?

When a small stack of photographs drifted like ghosts from the shelf above me where I sat examining the sum of my parent’s lives, I tried catching them in my hands but they landed instead, like angels of deliverance, all around me.  I’d never met evil in my own house before.  I’d never really met evil at all, just bad men and women too selfish to bother with their consciences, but I’d never met a force completely without one.  I picked up the photograph closest to my hand.  It felt dirty before I even made out what I was looking at, the quality of the photograph was clinical the way hardcore pornography is; emotionless skin, graphic, detailed shots of flesh so aggressively sexual they become inhuman, nothing more than objects in space.  It was a woman’s torso.  Dark bruising mottled it but the bruising was made ridiculous, almost childish compared to the deep burns scrawled across the lower abdomen in angry letters that spelled out the word “gift”.

Excerpt from Chapter 7:

There is nothing my temper loves better than company.  I pushed out of my chair too, we shouted at each other across the table accusations ridiculous, unproductive, and painful.  After a stupid amount of yelling passed across the old thick wood dinner table my father made with his own hands Julie stood up and with a surprising amount of authority shut us both up.  This is why I love her.  She is everything soft, warm, feminine.  You can balance a tankard on her breasts and her soft light brown curls are so sensual they catch men in the tangled up-swept twists she contrives from twigs and pencils.  She is pliant with the ones she loves until they piss her off.  Tom and I have the gift of knowing how to reach the limits of Julie’s generously forgiving nature so that she rises up like a harmless sweet kitten that suddenly grows into a tiger; she managed to shove us both back into our seats smoking with temper but slave to her authority.

“You’re both giving me a headache!  Shut up!  Have some more wine.  You’re both wound so tightly it makes me wonder if you’re getting enough sex in your lives.  No, don’t answer; you’ll only lie to me.”  She took a couple of sips of wine before continuing.  “There is clearly much to be discussed between you and me, Kit.  But you, Tom, you have no authority here.  You just want to wrap all women up in your cotton gauze and prevent them from being who they need to be.  I miss the old mischievous brother who liked a woman with her own mind and a sense of adventure.  How long has it been since you’ve rejoiced in a bit of trouble?  How long since you’ve seen the humor in the ridiculous?  Pffft!”  Tom had opened his mouth to speak but closed it again.  “I know.  You’ve become a man with responsibilities but Kit isn’t yours to protect.  So back off!”  This had the effect of a slap across Tom’s face

He tightened his mouth and sat back in a tense posture of pretend relaxation.

All three of us sat in silence, listening to the crackling and the falling of logs in the woodstove.  It wasn’t late but it was dark as coal outside.  Tom got up to feed the fire just as the kitchen French doors flew open and Grey burst through them with the wrath of at least three God’s riding on his shoulders, and while they appeared capable of bearing much weight, I thought it was a bit much to come swirling himself and his uncalled for wrath uninvited through my kitchen.

Julie and I stood up with surprise as he rushed towards me and practically yelled at me “Are you actually trying to get yourself killed?!”  I asked him what the hell he was talking about and he, towering himself over me in the most menacing manner he could (which was pretty impressive, actually), said that I must have a death wish if I was so willing to throw myself away working as an armed guard for Malakai.  At this both Julie and Tommy surged forward with urgent questions and though it may have been the light of the lamps, I could have sworn they both went bone pale.

“Is it true?!” Tommy demanded.

I’d already forgotten I’d given Grey as a reference to Malakai.  The truth is I didn’t think Malakai would actually check up on my reference.  Do crime bosses usually do that?  I guess they did.  I pretended to be very calm about it all even though my heart was beating a little fast.

“Yes, it’s true.”  All three of them were bearing down on me with shock, incredulity, and anger.  It’s queer to have almost everyone you know mad at you.  They were all speaking at once and I was trying to figure out how to bolt like a cornered fox but there was no hole to disappear into.  Grey’s voice and his anger were the loudest.

“This is madness Cricket!  You can’t do this!”  He said, grabbing my wrist in a hard grip pulling me towards the garden doors.

“Let go of me.” I said with a low growl.  “Have you no words left?”

“I do and you’ll hear them right now, outside!”  He was still near shouting and at last Tommy was spurred into action and stepping forward demanded that Grey let go of me.  Here was a piece of irony not lost on me: the only time Tommy is inspired into an act of chivalry on my behalf is over a man who’s been more chivalrous to me in a few weeks than Tom has been to me my whole life.  Grey was still pulling me towards the door and I tried again to pull my wrist out of his grip, without success.  Under different circumstances I would have had no trouble twisting myself out of his grasp, a surprise left hook would have done the trick but for some reason I’ll never understand I didn’t.

“You can say whatever you need to right here.” I said challengingly.

“Let go of her Bonneville!” Tommy was squaring his shoulders up for emphasis.  “You have no right to tell Cricket what she can and can’t do.”  Julie objected to this accusing Tom of doing the same thing not five minutes earlier and told him to shut up.

Grey didn’t answer to Tommy; instead he was boring into me with his furious glare and said “You gave me as your goddamn reference.  What the hell are you about?”

“I need the job.” I said, evenly returning his stare.

“Don’t you value yourself at all?” he said a little more quietly.  “What would your father think?” it was the home question.  It was like receiving a knock in the chest.  I wanted to tell them all to shut up, to get out.  How dare anyone ask me what my father would think?  Underneath the flare of anger was pain, just a terrible pulling pain because I no longer knew what my father would have thought.  I no longer knew my father at all.  How was I supposed to let go of grief if I didn’t even know who I was grieving for?  If I could just pay off my debt I could move on, I would have the leisure to ask myself what my father would have thought.  I’d be able to grieve in my own home.  If I let any of these people help pay the bill there would be a stain on my conscience, a part of my life I’d never own.  I could feel my eyes water.  Grey missed nothing, of that I was sure.  I didn’t allow it to pool over, I didn’t allow myself to cry, but I was glad not to be facing anyone but Grey at that moment of weakness.

At last I answered with a very steady voice “Maybe he would be proud to have his daughter follow in his footsteps.”  His grip on my wrist slackened but he didn’t let go.  I don’t know how long we stood there.  It felt as though I’d shot an arrow in the dark and hit something I couldn’t see, couldn’t recognize, and it was bleeding into the dark, maybe getting contaminated while we stood there challenging each other, trying to let go of the anger, of the whatever crazy shit kept wedging itself into the air around us.  It revolved around my father.  Everything seemed to revolve around Peter Winters, as I suppose it always had.

“I told you I had an offer to make them.”  It was a lame way to break the silence.

“It never occurred to me you’d offer to run guard.”  It wasn’t over yet and the quiet was kind of oppressive.

“From what Malakai says, he could use better guards.  He says he loses one guard on average for every ambush on the road.  I’m a better soldier than that.  Jesus, I thought he hired tough thugs.”  The look Grey gave me now was curious, a strange opening of his expression as though I’d cracked a coconut and spilled the milk on his shoe and asked him to lick it up.  I could feel Julie and Tom shifting behind me.  I could feel words trying to be spoken, thoughts trying to be articulated.  “Maybe you should teach me the ropes.  This is what you do.  This is your life, Bonneville.”

“Grey.” It was a reflexive correction he shot off without thinking.  “Alright.”  He said.  Tom shot forward again and this time pushed himself between me and Grey, shoving us apart, breaking Grey’s hold on my wrist which made me feel suddenly as though I was emptied out and cold.

“You’re as mad as she is!” he accused uselessly.  “I thought you weren’t going to let her do this?”  Somehow Tom looked like a belligerent boy next to Grey, there was something so milky about him in spite of his height that I’d not noticed until that moment as I watched them closely.

“You were right, Martin, I had no right to tell her what she can and can’t do.”  It was a simple admission of defeat.  He was stepping down, but cleverly, leaving Tom suspicious and floundering.  I wanted to tell Tom to just pick a position and stick with it.  His motivations were as plain as day.  He felt he had a right to tell me what I should do but didn’t think anyone else shared that right now that my father was dead.  I felt a wisp of my old affection for him kicking at my gut, where it hurt.  He cared, that was all.  I think Tom wanted a fight, something to diffuse his own confused feelings.  I kind of wanted a fight myself and it didn’t really matter who with, just a good old punching brawl to let the electricity drain from my tense muscles.

Excerpt from Chapter 16:

There was no room in the bed for a rope.  Between the bleak spread of photographs curling up at the edges soiled from too many hands, the Remington 22 still smoking across the damp pillow, the shrouding unrolling off the edge to the floor where it spread like rippling sunlit water, and the bodies.  All the bodies.  Kit took the edge of the shrouding and picked at the threads with her pale shaking fingers until she’d pulled it enough to start the tear with her teeth.  This is what you do when you have no scissors and no rope.  Once she’d wound the selvedge edge around her fingers a couple times she tore at it more frantically, faster, because there was no rope for this.  No rope.  Of all the things in the world missing from this night it had to be rope.  Even a single antique shoe, the kind she’d seen in the museum, had found it’s way onto the floor like a lost kitten, sweet and small buttons for the tiniest feet, cracked black leather crying out for polish, anything, but no rope.  The length of selvedge grew and as it grew she began to see more clearly.  This is the way it has to be she chanted under her breath.  This is right.  This is how it must be.  He’ll come looking for my neck and he’ll want to see it like this because it’s what he’ll expect in a world with rules and law and justice and light.  This is the way to bring light.  This is the way it has to be.

“We have come to watch.” Mairead said, gesturing graciously at the linen strip curling and pooling at Cricket’s feet, rolling off the edge of the bed, snaking into the shadows of the room.  “This is the way it has to be, as you say.  Please, don’t keep us all waiting, child.” So Cricket tore the strip from the shrouding and doubled it, tripled it, and tied it to the black iron hook fixed into the ceiling on her tip toes because she could barely reach it and they were all watching.  Peter approached and kindly, gently, helped his daughter tie a strong noose to the hook.  “You didn’t fit, Bairn, butI loved you in my way.”  He said backing off.  “I know, daddy.” She said as she fit her head through it and prepared herself.  Her face was flecked with beads of sweat and when everyone exhaled she shot them, one after another.  Again and again until the magazine was empty.  “You’ve got to stop killing me Kit.  You’ve got to move on now.  Why hasn’t anyone taken away her guns?” but it was all just bodies.  Kit removed the noose and fell to her knees on the bed.  On the photographs, the shrouding, and she said “I’m so sorry mama!  I only know how to kill you.”  and shot her mother again.

More from Chapter 16:

Jack, with his loose curls tied back, was busy in the kitchen getting ready to take care of the animals which required a hearty breakfast and was surprised to see his love drag herself into the kitchen so early.  She worked very hard on the days she worked and consequently indulged in some sleeping in on her days off.

“What are you doing up, Mouse?” he asked her affectionately crossing the floor to greet her with a brief affectionate kiss before pulling out a chair for her and busying himself filling a mug of tea.  “This is too early for you.”

“I couldn’t sleep anymore.” She said.

“Was it Homer who woke you?” he asked, pushing the mug of tea across the table to her.

“Good god, no!  I’m so used to his crowing I could sleep through him announcing the apocalypse I’m sure.  I think I’m just worried about Grey.” She said.

“Why?  Would you like some sugar, darling?” he asked.

“I always want some sugar, honey, but stop throwing me your little funnies.  I don’t know why.  I guess I’m just worried he doesn’t know what he’s getting into.” She said.

“And what’s that?  The dangerous line of work he’s in?  That the feds seem to be closing in?  Or that he’s fallen head over heels for Peter’s girl?” he asked.

“The last one.” She said wrapping graceful hands around her warm mug.

“Don’t you like her?” Jack asked, a little surprised.

“Yes.  I do.  It’s just that I’m afraid she’s a little unreachable.  I guess I’m afraid she’s going to hurt him. There’s a quality about her.  Like she’s going to evaporate, or like she wants to, I don’t know.  There’s just something disconnected about her and Grey has never been so… so.”  She trailed off, partly because she was rarely so talkative in the morning, let alone up, but also because she’d never tried to articulate what their friend and colleague was.  She liked Cricket but was uncomfortable with the way she was so quiet and had a kind of silky drift to her spirit.  Natalie wasn’t into poetics but when she tried to describe Cricket she found herself sounding almost gothic and it was stupid.  She would way rather not commit such stupidity to the air.  “You were right, in any case.  They’re besotted.”

“As I am with you, Mouse.” He said affectionately before setting a plate of breakfast before her.

“Are you serious?  Ugh.  I love you with all my heart, Stallone Pantone, but I cannot eat eggs before six in the morning.”

Jack shrugged and ate the eggs himself and when, at length, he was done in the kitchen he came round the table and gave his wife and affectionate kiss and a bit of a feel which she invited him to finish in the bedroom but he said, with regret that the horses and chickens wouldn’t wait for him to make love to his wife and she should, in future, make these invitations at an earlier hour.

Jane Doe: inspecting writing style

Jane Doe: inspecting writing style

I said I was going to show examples of what I meant by “mood whiplash” and multiple POVs in my fiction.  I’ve selected the opening piece of Jane Doe and then two whole chapters that, I think, illustrate the kind of difference of mood I’m talking about.  The first part (“His Dead Eyes”) is first person, it’s dark and stark.  It’s nightmarish.  The second part (“The All-Night Laundromat”) is told in third person and is lighter, a little irreverent, and then moves back to the dark.  The third part (“The Boyfriend Inquisition”) is a few chapters after the laundromat scene and is silly, light, and totally different in feel from the first two.

These are first draft chapters I’m sharing so they are still quite rough.  I am trusting you all to consider this before judging on detail.  What I’m really looking at, for my own sake and possibly for your interest, is writing style.  I want to know if my writing style (multiple points of view as well as mixing both light and dark moods in the same story) can really work or am I doomed?

I’m putting them here, side by side, to see how it feels moving from one piece to the next.

There’s a lot of text in this post.  It’s a lot to take in.  If you’re interested in actually reading it you may want to print it out.  I won’t be giving such large examples for the Cricket and Grey style post.

If any of you happen to read all of this, please feel free to tell me what your thoughts are.  Is it difficult to or jarring to read a story with such different moods and changing pov?  Do you wish there was less contrast in between the light and dark?  Do you wish I would commit to either a light or dark atmosphere, and if so which do you like better?  Do you wish I would commit to one POV, and if so which do you like better?

His Dead Eyes

His dead eyes, like mousetraps, snap the neck of my hope, snap the neck of my youth, and steal fluid from me until I am as dry and as brittle as an autumn leaf, the last one falling from the empty cold branches. There is no light in them, there is nothing at all in them. They suck and they suck up life, absorbing everything: babies, mothers, acid, Pall Malls by the carton, and me. There is no reflection in death. There is no reflection in evil. There is no reflection of me, anywhere.

Those eyes, never seeing, was better. Never seeing or turning or watching but to say “Pick up the shit, whatever the fuck your name is little nobody!” Never registering on that dull cornea, never appearing in his conscienceless consciousness, where empty river beds cramp with broken glass, where birds hang from trees like effigies of joy, bleeding feathers onto the hot cracked rocks of hell that is the furniture of his mind.

Never seeing was better. Never seeing was living still. Was not dying before hearing my own name said with love, not spat on the floor like chum, inviting the sharks in to feast. Thirteen years of trying to uncover what action, what flicker of haste, what ill timed motion set all to flames and caught the dead eyes, drawing them onto my skin, drawing them onto my body where they waited and sucked and sucked and sucked the life out of the air I breathed and I still cannot find it, this speck of time, this infinitesimal motion which brought me down like a nestless sparrow from the free blue to the waiting ice.

Every night those eyes find me where I hide. There is no sheltering cove, no den of fur and twigs in which to camouflage my broken limbs. Before I close my eyes, holding my splintered bones close to me, they are already looking, turning slowly from the dark where they wait to suck the light from my rooms. I feel them reaching for my skin and I am a thousand snakes coiled to strike but I have no power. I have nothing, because I am no one.

I am a Jane Doe in my own life.


Yet, like the tiniest grain of wheat, there is nourishment in hope, however spare it may be. Someday there will be an answer to the winter hush of my spirit and my bones will heal. I will untie the effigies from their strings and I will lay them tenderly to rest in the soil of my own choosing, where those dead eyes cannot follow to spoil this gorgeous rest.

Then I will know my own name.

I will remove the tag from my toe.

Walk out of the morgue, into the light.

The All-Night Laundromat

Some city nights vibrate with visceral tension, and if you’re paying attention, you can almost feel it like a damp fog, getting under every one’s skin. These are nights when it is best to batten down the hatches, rest your shotgun across your knee, and wait for Armageddon to pass. However, if you must go out into the streets on one of these nights when the natives are looking for an excuse to cut into your comfort like it was butter for their crack-toast, then there is one place you should avoid: Laundromats in questionable neighborhoods. Never do your laundry on one of these combustible evenings in a Laundromat in a bad neighborhood because it’s a magnet for bullets and knives, for sweat and stale doughnuts. This is the place stiffs are discovered in the cold sober light of dawn with the first flush of morning washers. This is the place where you will find notes to the damned and scrawled threats on the walls in garish dripping spray paint.

This is not the kind of place where the sap of young dreams rises to the surface of life to be drunk delicately and nurtured. This is the kind of place where old whores come to clean their pilled up g-strings and to cleanse the micro skirts they wear to showcase their ass cheeks on the corner just outside of where they do this ritual washing. Living, whoring, washing, all on the same block. Life can feel small sometimes when our dreams have shrunk to fit this miserable little Formica covered palace of pay-per-wash detergent boxes with giant (always broken and therefore useless) change machines. This is no place for the ill prepared, or the still milky youths who have moved from mama’s house to find themselves, and their starry dreams, right here on O’Farrell Street. There are no dreams here. Only fossilized broken condoms near the front door, and the gutted frame of what you thought life was going to be.

Into this bleak atmosphere of desperation, on just such a night as I have described, Jane Bauer walked boldly into exactly the Laundromat I told you never to venture into on a night when there is a thick taste of violence in the air. She is not a milky youth, though she is fairly young still, not having reached thirty years of age yet, but you would not guess from looking at her fair clear skin, her dark glossy shoulder length hair, or at her robust tall form that she is a broken person. A person with more contradictions of experience and beliefs you will not find. Everything about Jane is a contradiction. She is broken though you would be hard pressed to find another woman more fiercely independent. She is funny and light and joyful, yet at the same time she carries with her a thousand pounds of sorrow and fear that lap at her light, dimming it in power surges that last for days.

This tall bottle of contradictions with the keen green eyes of a person accustomed to watching came into the All-Night-No-Fuss-Laundromat on O’Farrell Street because she was out of clean underwear. Jane Bauer is not a girl willing to wear dirty underwear. She could feel the thick tension in the city air on this night and it made her alert, her skin alive with warning. Yet she must do her laundry. It is not agreeable to be caught waiting out Armageddon in filthy panties no matter how many shotguns you have to rest on your knees. Jane hates the word “panties”. She hears it a lot where she works, at the underwear factory. She is the shipping manager for the factory and all day long she packs up tiny panties, panties with no crotches sometimes, cheap flimsies, bras and teddies, filmy nothings favored particularly by women with breast “enhancements” and frosty hair. There is going to come a moment when the irony of Jane’s job is going to sock you in the teeth, but that moment isn’t now.

Sometimes these charged nights when no one should be wandering the streets at all are the only nights on which lives that would normally never intersect may cross each other like a streak of stars, blinding, brief, and beautiful. This is one of those nights.

At the very moment that Jane is loading her dirty clothes into a giant washing machine and feeding it ten pounds of quarters, a very tall man in an especially well cut grey wool overcoat and a worker’s cap is walking up O’Farrell Street in the direction of the All-Night-No-Fuss Laundromat because he has just gotten off of work and is cooling the sweat from his day, which has already been full of flashing lights, blood, and the evidence that this is one of those days when it is best to stay home. Isaac is a paramedic, a very good man to have around in emergencies, hands built to receive the most desperate bodies. He is egregiously handsome. Women have been known to rip open their shirts for him in public. But he is not a man who enjoys such shameless displays of breastitude. Well, not overly much, anyway.

There are two more lives that will meet at this intersection of disparate paths in just a few minutes from right now. A pimp and his whore are busy counting her $20 bills earned from alley blow jobs and there is a question about the amount, a slight discrepancy of expectation as often blooms between pimps and their girls. The bricks are being laid for their Friday night as they raise their voices, pace up and down the corner; ugly words begin to flow like the ooze of old sores coming loose in the fray. Everything is fast tonight, in slow motion. Try to understand how slowly everything moves in reverse.

Jane is waiting, watching the street ramping up its thumping party vibe from inside the mausoleum quiet of the empty Laundromat. These are the kinds of moments when we tend to notice the burn marks in the old linoleum from dropped cigarettes- little orange melted craters in the floor, and the flickering florescent lights, casting a sickly green cast onto all the ancient dirty white folding tables and dented machines. Jane is simply waiting for her washing to be done.

The pimp and his whore have graduated from the little fight to the accumulating clouds of aggravation expected to explode regularly on a Friday night. They are enacting their drama publicly, with muscles snapping, jaws gnashing, and pushing has begun. They trip from the corner towards the All-Night-No-Fuss-Laundromat, the pimp getting ugly, letting the crack fueled rage loose on the whore’s stringy body, she is slightly running from him, yet still attempting to placate and absolve.

Isaac is passing Jones Street. He is beginning to feel the blood of the day loosen its grip from his mind. He is taking deep breaths of Friday night air, aware that it is fraught with fight. He is trying to think about mundane things like eating quietly with his Grandmother; heading home to the blessings of good books and long drinks of cold beer.

Jane is standing by the washer near the front door when their three bodies collide: the pimp and the woman crash through the door like an explosion of gasoline; Jane turns to the noise but it has already hit her before she can react to this writhing scratching pushing tangle of charged flesh, hurtling into her, knocking her backwards, the bodies keep moving, following her as she hits the wall; they hit it on top of her and she feels elbows smash painfully into her ribs and the smell is intense- sex and death and pollen- the wind is knocked out of her but she’s pinned to the wall by the weight of these bodies and then, just as suddenly as the bodies pinned her they rolled off in a fresh turn of fight on the wall not ten inches from where she’s left standing.  The pimp’s hard hands are clamped around the whore’s neck.

Jane and the woman are facing each other, Jane sees her eyes looking back at her rather than at him, and they implore, they wish and they seek but Jane can’t move, she can’t actually feel her body anymore. She can no longer tell what is real, what is imagined, if she’s awake or in her other life where it’s all stark grief and dust curls into open mouths. The woman’s skin is turning and the eyes are popping, the man- Jane cannot look at him, she cannot see him, cannot allow herself to see him because she has seen his fingers and already knows what’s in his eyes because she’s seen it in men before and the woman is going to die not ten inches from where Jane stands against the wall, not breathing.

When Isaac passes the picture window of the All-Night-No-Fuss Laundromat he sees a man killing a woman. Without thought, without noise, he has crossed the Laundromat and grabs the pimp by the collar, prying his tight fingers from the woman’s neck and shoving the pimp to the floor like a goddamn super hero who does this kind of thing all night long in capes and gauntlets. He is already phoning 911. The woman, now getting her color back is already leaning down to her man saying “I’m sorry baby, I’m so sorry baby” and no one will ever know whether she’s sorry he didn’t kill her or sorry he was thrown to the ground or sorry she didn’t give enough blow jobs today to score them a dime bag tonight. She sees Isaac’s phone out and tells him not to call the cops.

Jane is the accidental body that is finally falling, a long long way down from where she so recently stood, she is falling and it doesn’t matter to her that her head is catching on the corner of the folding table in front of her. Nothing really matters where she is now, because she is already gone. Isaac, who has been shaking his head at the two drug addicts who will kill each other on some other Friday night when the city fever is running high, has not turned around in time to see that Jane is going to fall, he has had no time to register this extra witness to the unfolding violence. He can do nothing, every super hero’s worst day, she is sprawled on the floor, face down, and her head is beginning to leak out onto the pocked floor, a very small pool of dark red, inching closer and closer to a hard grey lump of old gum near her face.

Isaac has already called the paramedics, he does what he can while he waits, a job he performs all day long, he gently checks for broken bones, checks for other wounds and checks her pulse, then he looks for something to staunch her bleeding. Never once moving the body. He removes his coat and lays it across her sprawled form to help with the shock, then he removes his shirt to fold up and hold against the open gash on Jane’s temple, which is beginning to bleed more steadily. There they sit for what feels like a hundred years of bleeding; Isaac is cold in his undershirt, but he doesn’t move because he would never leave a person to bleed to death. He doesn’t question. He has no thoughts right now. Checks pulse, scans the Laundromat, sees that they are completely alone, and off in the distance, cutting the city fugue into ribbons of light is the sound of approaching mercy.


There are voices to answer, lights rushing in and a thickening of pain. Hey, they say, can you hear me? Can you see me? Can you speak? And it is to her and yet not to her. She feels faces move in like shadows on a wall of blurred color. She has no mouth. Isaac, have you checked for identification? We have a Jane Doe, mid to late twenties, with a head wound, BP’s low, staunch it, staunch it!, how’d this happen? Hello? Can you hear me?

She would like them to stop talking, stop touching her ribs where there is an explosion of white light against the curtain of her head every time those fingers crush into her, and there is so little air she feels as though she might be happiest here in the watery underworld where girls like her go to die.

This is better than those eyes again. Better than all the rushing pictures, the out of focus memories, let them slide away down the muddy riverbanks and let there be no more of this pain. Vaguely feeling hands shift her weight, which is foreign to her, foreign to them. She has heard Jane Doe before, from this same watery place where voices are slow and miles up to the surface, she has been called Jane Doe before.

She hears: “I’m sorry.” She hears it close and it is quiet around the words like a lullaby just for her, a slow burning piano sonata just for her. “I’m sorry.” Close to her skin like a blanket. But whatever for? Who is sorry for what? It comes closer now but not because it comes closer to her but because she is rising like a corpse from the bottom of the lake up to where the faces hover and she emerges from the water but without sound. It seems she cannot work all at once. Nothing can work all at once. When her eyes focus on the faces looking down at her she can not hear them, not even muffled, there is only the most profound silence and she’s not scared because she knows this silence.

They are mouthing things she cannot hear and she watches them with the calm of a person who’s already said everything that will ever need to be said. The calm of the half-dead. Uniforms lean in and out and when they lean out she can see the ceiling moving above her. There is one face left for a moment which she evaluates calmly. Hazel eyes. Pale with dark hair like hers. Taller than people are supposed to be. He is watching her too and she thinks he sees her where she is, so far away from all of them. Impossible. She feels everything shift and shimmer and then the man’s face is looking at one of the uniforms and is mouthing something that looks loud and urgent but it doesn’t matter where she is. She is warm and she is tucking herself away now.

She says, “I am Jane Doe” and she is unconscious again.


It is deeper here. Like a memory within a memory.

Does anyone know who the victim is? Has anyone found identification? There must be something. Does she live here? Where is the smell of urine coming from? Oh. And the blood? Do we know if there is any other wound? Someone check with the neighbors. OK. Can’t see her features well under those contusions. Take pictures before we move her. Quickly. There are flashes and searches for identity. None is found.

We’ve got a Jane Doe in her early teens, unconscious, one eye swollen shut, a patch of hair missing from her scalp, bruising to her abdomen, a possible broken rib, raped, left lying unconscious on the floor. We’re taking her to Marin General. Someone find out who she belongs to.

I have been called Jane Doe before.

I’d like to follow the water.

I’d like to follow the water to the snow.

The Boyfriend Inquisition

While Isaac walked the couple of blocks to the Cafe des Croissants to meet a stranger named “Tim” who seemed to be Jane’s watchdog friend, he wondered why he had agreed to come. What shade of fool was he to agree to meet a person who required him to bring picture ID, proof of address, and his worker’s badge just to tell him if Jane had been run over by a Muni bus? All he wanted to know was if she hadn’t called because something dreadful had happened to her? This “Tim” character had suggested they meet up and if Isaac could prove that he was some kind of legitimate human being and not the next Ted Bundy (yes, these people seemed quite obsessed with serial killers, as though they were in constant danger from them) he would tell Isaac what he wanted to know. This was part madness, ridiculous paranoia, and also intriguing.

Isaac let his curiosity win. It was a gorgeous late spring morning and the cafe was close to his house. He was wearing his usual casual but stylish clothes, his hair was perhaps a little disheveled, and his old fashioned sneakers were a little bit frayed, but over all he was as handsome as always and when Tim saw him approaching he couldn’t help but dismiss him as the guy he was waiting for. Isaac was nothing like Poor George, Jane’s first real boyfriend. This guy just wasn’t the same make or class. Tim had an appreciative eye for lads and this one was pretty exquisite. Not Jane’s man, for sure. He would be looking for someone dumpier, possibly wall eyed, with a slightly sloped posture. This might sound unkind unless you were privileged enough to judge the slew of boyfriends Jane had tried to be enthusiastic about.

There was Charles The Blond who had platinum hair and wore out-dated glasses, the kind that serial killers wear, and he always had a saggy air about him. In spite of this general air of sagginess, he was surprisingly despotic in the expectations he had of his girlfriends. His idea was that girlfriends should always kiss a man when he picks her up at the muni stop where they are meeting and takes very unkindly to any application of lipstick which might render this slurpy greeting less agreeable. He declared that Jane should always want to hang out with him on Friday nights because that’s apparently an expected night for girlfriends and boyfriends to sit close to each other on sad patchy couches watching something meant to inspire a little make out session.

It was fortunate for everyone, especially Jane, that he wimped out on Jane’s issues before Tim or Luca was forced to kill the sucker because later on they found out the dude had gotten crabs from somewhere and the blaring question was undoubtedly “What woman out there with crabs was willing to sleep with Charles The Blond?” Both Tim and Luca had prayed that their own sweet Jane wasn’t serious about trying to see it through with him. Their relief at his departure was thick and joyous.

While Tim was lost in his thoughts about Jane’s past boyfriends Isaac had figured out that Tim must be the person he was looking for and broke into Tim’s reverie with a polite tap on his shoulder and introduced himself. They shook hands and Tim, trying hard not to drop his jaw, motioned to the seat across from him and invited Isaac to sit down. This was a promising turn of luck for his Jane, except that he was obviously suspicious about his degree of handsomeness and apparent ease, a known trait in some serial killers and other creeps. Isaac asked when Tim would like to satisfy himself with his “papers” and Tim said, quite seriously, that it would be best to have a look right away. Isaac couldn’t tell if Tim was being completely serious about this whole ID thing or not, part of him felt it was an elaborate joke in which Jane’s friend got to eye him head to toe, which was exactly what it was, but he admitted it was possible that Tim was a bit loose headed and didn’t know how inappropriate this was.

Either way, Isaac didn’t particularly care. He had the capacity to go with the flow, to see where things might lead, to unearth adventure in the quotidian. If he had been otherwise he would not have had such a wonderful evening with Jane, who was also apparently a little unhinged, but charming. Perhaps he had unearthed a small society of harmless eccentrics. His life outside of work was quiet enough that it could use a dose of the unusual, of the unexpected. It was in this spirit that he solemnly presented his driver’s license, his ambulance driver’s license, his station badge, and a letter that had been sent to him at his home address with his name on it. He laid them out carefully and waited to see what Tim would have to say.

Tim appreciated the sangfroid with which this stranger allowed him to peruse the details of his life that Tim had no right to ask for and it amused Tim that Isaac had completely followed his lead in going through this deadpan pantomime of ridiculous paranoia. Dude must lead a very dull life, Tim thought, to be game enough to go through an inquisition all for a girl he had met once. It piqued Tim’s curiosity, a curiosity completely shared by Isaac.

Tim pushed all the official identification back to Isaac across the table. “OK, he said.” and they looked at each other. “She’s not dead.” he assured Isaac, with a studied serious expression which made Isaac burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry!” he apologized trying to force his face into it’s previous serious mode.

“What you really want to know is why Jane hasn’t called you back.” Tim said, changing from his charade of boyfriend inquisitor to his casual easy going self. “Seriously? I can’t understand it myself now that I have met you and, uh, see that you are an upstanding gentleman with an excellent job who is obviously good in emergencies. Chick magnet I imagine!” and he winked at Isaac who didn’t know where to look or what to do because people under seventy just don’t wink at each other any more. Especially men to other men.

“Yes. That’s it completely.” He admitted and felt lame. Lame because he didn’t want to have to explain the things he was thinking or expose himself as an eager beau. No one wants to be thought overly eager in the pursuit of love because it doesn’t get less cool than that, unless you’re Poor George and you just don’t get it.

“You have to promise me you’re not going to tell Jane that I searched you for proper identification.” Tim said. “She’d kill me. In fact, if you could not tell her we met up, that would be even better.”

“Sure. So are you really close to her?” Isaac asked.

“We’ve been friends since third grade.  My parents unofficially adopted her when she was thirteen. So, yeah.” Tim reminded himself silently not to run off at the mouth just because this guy was so good looking he couldn’t stop thinking slightly dirty thoughts which distracted him from what he was actually saying. Luca wouldn’t feel betrayed, provided Tim gave no details. Still, this was potentially Jane’s man and he owed it to her not to give too much away. Isaac was taking this in and trying to decide how ethical it would be to ask for any details about Jane. It felt slightly stalkerish and improper to pump her close friend for any information. On the other hand, this red headed freckled freak of a man who obviously liked to play deep games might be able to give him an idea if he should just drop this or not.

While Isaac was busy debating stalking ethics, Tim was remembering another manly gem who had asked Jane out. Roger Kinkytail (not his real last name). In a stunning miscalculation of taste Jane agreed to date this very handsome, postureful male specimen who seemed practically normal, except for having the unfortunate name of Roger, which in some circles elicits visions of nekid activities of an explicit nature. Much like the name “Randy” evokes unfortunate visions of horny teens. That and Roger’s vision of unifying Jane, Tim, and Luca in a “cosmic” communion of flesh and fantasy in which the four of them would reach Nirvana through a rich romp in a busy bed. No amount of handsome could erase the horror from any of their minds and Jane was left wondering what signals she had put out to attract such a piece of work as Roger. Tim and Luca consoled her as best they could with offers to set her up with Luca’s heterosexual cousin Mack which generous offer Jane limply waved away, declaring that she was not ever going to date again and instead was going to become the best spinster she possibly could. Petticoats and all.

Tim knew that Isaac was dying for details. He could smell Isaac’s keenness like a fox on the scent of something spicy and personal. So he was trying to figure out what he could tell this tall fellow with the dark hair, pale skin, and dark brown eyes.
“Dude,” Tim began “It’s a little unethical for me to tell you anything about my best friend until I know if she’s even really interested in you and also until I find out if you have a crazy wife tucked away in an attic in Idaho or something.”

“Have you and Jane had a lot of experiences with people that store wives in attics?” he asked curiously.

Tim laughed quietly. “No.” and he appeared to have something else to say yet the hesitation hung out there between them while Tim tried to figure out what the hell he was doing. Perhaps it was Toothsome Barry who had filled Tim with genuine despair for Jane’s future in loving and which made him now so reckless. Reckless with her heart, a place he had no right to meddle. He had no right to encourage this gorgeous tall dark eyed eager (yes, Tim sees through Isaac’s veneer of coolness) man who seems solid and free of sagginess, extra wives, and tricky lusts.

Toothsome Barry left Tim with a foul feeling in his chest just from having to look at Barry’s capacious mouth. It seemed like terrible proof that Jane was going through the motions only to reassure the people who loved her that she really cared about dating; proof that she didn’t have her eyes open. Of all things, to have agreed to date a man with as many long teeth as Barry had was uncharacteristic of Jane who had a fastidiousness concerning mouths that didn’t allow for horsey, dirty, dark brown, creaky, or mossy teeth. Tim had to admit that he had never witnessed Jane kissing this paragon of mouth hygiene gone wrong and it’s also true that she often closed her eyes while looking in his direction, which, honestly, wasn’t much anyway.

Here Tim was looking at a deliciousness who seemed already a little uncomfortably hot under the collar for his own sweet Jane and he couldn’t bear to think of Jane deciding not to see him just because she had only gone out with losers before and figured this one would turn out to be the same. He was grappling with a feeling about this one, feeling a new hope, and unabashedly, for the first time in his life he felt the bow of cupid thrust in his hand and it was irresistible, it was a temptation too great. It was Jane’s damnable lack of self confidence which had landed her so many limp duds. Tim didn’t think her previous forced forays into love were proof of anything. She had always been his magnificent savior, his champion, and the greatest platonic love he had ever had. She was his treasure and these slithery toothsome people she kept dragging home to prove that she was normal irritated Tim beyond belief because not a single one of them deserved her.

Here was a promising specimen with good posture, an estimable job, and obviously a sense of humor (and some curiosity) or he would never have agreed to Tim’s suggestion to come bringing all manner of identification. Jane would certainly kill him if she could see him right now. He shivered a little at the thought because she had a preternatural sight. He could walk away right now, say nothing, give no hoped for encouragement of courtship to this amazon of a man, which (let’s be honest) would be insane, or he could throw a crumb or two in the path of love; be the bow that hits the bulls eye. If he didn’t take a hand, the chances were pretty great that Jane would let him slip away.

“The thing about Jane,” he began carefully “is that she doesn’t have a lot of trust in people.” and at Isaac’s curious look he stopped.

“I’m thinking she’s not the only one!” Isaac said, grinning.

“Yes, well, I have to be careful. She’s my oldest friend. She’s like a sister. Some dude calls me up to ask questions about her- I have to be sure he’s not-”

“The next Ted Bundy. I know. I just think it’s funny you saying she isn’t trustful. And what is it with you two being obsessed with Ted Bundy? There are a lot of other serial killers out there too.”

“Yes, but he’s the only one famous for luring his victims with his handsomeness. Anyway, my guess is that Jane is too timid to call you back. I think she probably wants to but can’t get herself to pick up the phone.” he explained reasonably.

“What should I do? I suppose it isn’t appropriate for me to ask you that.” he said, shrugging his shoulders a little and taking a sip of his forgotten coffee.

“I think you should drop by her work and see her in person. I can’t give you her home address, that would be highly inappropriate, but she works with a lot of very alert muscled men who will not hesitate to beat the shit out of you if you do anything threatening, so I feel comfortable giving her work address to you. I think if you talk to her in person she’ll have a hard time saying no to whatever you propose to her. I mean, provided it isn’t creepy or anything.”

“Won’t she be suspicious that I found out where she works?” he asked.

“Definitely. But you can just say there’s a mole in her life. She’ll be so distracted by you standing right there in front of her she won’t really pay close attention. I mean, if you do it right.” he said impishly. “Once she really thinks about it she’ll know it was me but by then it won’t matter.”

“You’re a strange man, you know?” he said.

Tim wrote down an address on one of the cafe napkins and slid it across the table to Isaac who took it, folded it up neatly and put it into one of his pants pockets.

“Why are you doing this for me?” he asked Tim. “Why not just tell me to shove it on the phone?”

“Toothsome Barry is why.” he said getting up. They shook hands and Tim strolled back towards his apartment with a huge smile on his face and a sudden acute desire to grapple a little with his own dark haired man. Life just might be about to get a whole lot better for us all, he thought to himself. If he knew how to whistle he would have whistled a jaunty tune all the way home.

Isaac watched this stocky fiery man walking away down the street with an air of someone who has a pot of gold stashed in their underwear drawer

He had definitely uncovered a den of eccentrics.