My writing group – this wonderful collection of warm-hearted souls in this Steel City of mine – meets tonight. Among the works that they will be critiquing is a portion of my own novel in progress. It feels like the right time to let this story out a little bit more into the world. It is, I feel, a necessary step in the evolution of this story. I need to know if this has potential, what the early impressions are to someone brand new to this story, if there is interest enough for more.
Early feedback from two members of our group indicate that the answer is yes, and for that, I am grateful – more than you can possibly know. K. and C., I thank you for your kind words.
Because this story is so personal, I thought I’d be more nervous embarking upon tonight (and maybe my crazy dreams last night of basketball courts encircling houses, holding tight to The Husband, being late to writing group, and a cameo appearance by Hillary Clinton are a subconscious indication of such). Instead, I’m more eager and anticipatory to hear what the members of the group have to say, what nuances they’ve picked up on or not.
And because you, my blog readers, have been hearing about this novel for much longer than these new kindred writerly spirit friends of mine, here’s a taste for you, as well:
He took the box from me as I dropped my duffel bag to the floor, followed by my backpack. He bent down slightly for a hug, steadying himself by placing a hand on my shoulder. As he did, the nubby green afghan draped across his shoulders, despite the spring weather outside, fell to the tiled floor, revealing a thinner frame and more purple bruises on his inner forearm. I was grateful for the hug. It allowed me to avert my eyes. Still, I smiled, kissing him on his sandpaper-textured cheek.
“God, when was the last time you shaved?” I asked, following him from the foyer to the kitchen. The Formica countertop was cluttered with clean and dirty stoneware dishes, tomato sauce stained Tupperware containers, and utensils with caked food between the prongs. “Or ran the dishwasher, for that matter?”
“I’ve been busy,” he said. “You know, this dying business takes a lot out of a person.”
I rolled my eyes. He began laughing but caught his breath as a staccato series of gasping coughs replaced his sardonic humor. Gripping the counter with his right hand, he grabbed an overturned, opaque-spotted glass from the sink with his left, and used his knuckles to knock the faucet on. I reached out to thump his back, as one would a toddler, but quickly withdrew my hand as I felt the serrated ridges of his spine beneath his faded red Phillies t-shirt, feeling guilty and simultaneously grateful that he couldn’t see me flinch.
He gulped the tap water, still rushing from the faucet. I watched, tears threatening to overflow from the corners of my eyes.
This wasn’t some lingering cold he couldn’t shake.
“You OK?” I practically whispered.