Over at Twitter, Kim Priestap wrote:
The bad news: my 4 year old daughter has a stomach bug – again. The good news: I’m at 3600 words in NaNoWriMo.
To which I replied, with great compassion:
sorry about your daughter. what is nanowrimore?
Ah…this sounds like fun, but not for me.
I have written three or four complete novels in my life, and trashed all but one of them. Totally trashed, as in not one word still exists.
I have one book still in a desk drawer; I wrote it so long ago, that it really doesn’t work anymore; no one is still interested in Irish Republicans, and technology has completely outpaced my story, anyway. I am not a good novelist. I can come up with a story, but I get hung up on scenarios and dialogues, and the book just gets huge and unfocused, and then, sometimes, I just decide; nah, I don’t like that plotline, let’s make another. I am too capricious to write fiction. Occasionally I can manage one tight chapter, but it will be followed by five loosey-goosey meanderings.
But when I saw the Nanowrimo site, it reminded me of this blurb from my book, which takes place on All Souls Day. And, since it’s All Soul’s Day, I’ll show it to you and you can see why I am not a novelist.
It was her isolated sadness that had driven Keira to seek out Father Will Dunlap. On a cold November morning, as the wind howled, and rain speared down sharply, Keira sought a Mass for All Soul’s Day, a day of especial remembrance of the dead. Knowing the small congregation in town would be emotionally charged with grieving locals, Keira had driven to Dundalk, hoping to catch the early Mass, hoping it would be Will’s Mass, too. She thought she might talk to him afterward…maybe. If he would see her.
It was Will’s Mass, and Keira was struck by the change in him. Since Brennan’s funeral he had clearly lost weight, and grief at the loss of his friend had brought fine lines around his eyes, a look of mature sadness. He prayed the Mass slowly, with great reverence, but his homily was heavy. The church does not mourn, and death is looked upon as a change, not an end. The masses for this Holy Day were all about hopeful promise, but for Will Dunlap, on this day, it was a hard lesson to preach. His own sense of hope felt weighted, like a balloon tied down to an anvil, unable to soar.
Keira sat in the last pew, inconspicuous in a kerchief, and she had cried silently through the whole Mass, her tears washing one after another down her cheeks, falling into her open missal as she prayed for her dead. Brennan Thomas McMurphy. Aidan O’ Connor. Martin Hanshawe. She prayed too for Robert O’ Keefe, and even Myles McMurphy, for if God was merciful, didn’t those two driven, unknowable men require nothing but mercy, endless mercy? Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them, may their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God…the mercy of God…the mercy of God…
She had lingered for a few minutes, after Mass, gathering her courage before ringing the rectory bell and asking after Will. When he appeared, Keira felt her knees nearly give way and the priest was forced to drag her into the parlor, whether she was welcome or not. “I’m sorry,” Keira said, as she felt herself guided into a seat, “I guess I’m a little tired.”
“Sit, please, I’ll get you some water,” Will replied, peering suspiciously from the corner of his eyes as he left the room.
It was a chance to collect himself. Keira’s surprise visit had the effect of bringing his own taut and vulnerable feelings right up to the surface of his awareness, and Will was dizzy with an urge to run away. Good, God, Keira had come!
Offered only cursory condolences by a laity unwilling to permit common human grief to their clergy, priests are often forced to find their own way through layers of loss, loneliness and doubt; Will had been tending quietly to his sorrows. He had become comfortable in his brooding isolation, the long bouts of prayer and solitary walks. He had spent a great deal of time sorting out all of the separate stories concerning Brennan, Myles and all the rest. He read the papers and listened to the news, and Will developed a philosophy about the events of July that was one part “God’s will” and one part “shit happens”. It wasn’t, he knew, the soundest theology, but – like a protective wrapper – it delivered him through most days in one piece. Will was not looking for any human consolation that could bring new, human, complications. He sought no new answers; he didn’t want to rehash old questions. It was enough to do his job, say his prayers and tip the bottle with a restraint that owed more to apathy than willpower. It was simpler, that way, and safer. Oh, much, much safer.
But now, Keira had come.
As my Li’l Bro Thom as said, “it’s prose that makes you want to take a bullet to the brain, and not just because it’s trying to!”
I’m safer, clearly, keeping it to 700 words, or so.
But hey, try your hand; have fun!.
“It was a dark and stormy night…”