Bamboozled

I have the first draft of a 5000-word story finished. It’s the one I wrote about in my previous entry, the one I got up in the middle of the night to write notes about. It ended up being pretty much like I envisioned it during the wee small hours, although I added a new character and expanded some parts slightly. I dictated it into the computer on the weekend and have made a couple of passes to touch up the transcription errors. Now comes the hard work: whipping it into shape. I read a quote that said the first draft is where you tell yourself the story, and I find that increasingly to be true. I was figuring it out as I went along. Now I have to take what I discovered and turn it into the best possible representation of that found object.

I found a nice review of Halloween Carnival Volume 4 the other day. In discussing my contribution, “The Halloween Tree,” the review concluded, “Vincent weaves a beautiful yet terrifying tale from the eyes of children that finds it true power after the final word. This is a very well written story that has a strong literary feel that I enjoyed. While it was more a coming of age story than a simple horror tale, it is still a four-star addition to the collection. ” I’ll take that.

File this under: we’ll never really know for sure. On Sunday afternoon, my wife and I were sitting in the driveway sipping wine, as we do when the weather is fair and the mosquitoes scarce, when I saw a woman coming down the cul-de-sac across from us. She was carrying bamboo stalks. She was about five feet tall; the bamboo fronds were about six feet long, and she was clutching them in her hand like she meant to joust with them. When she reached our street, I noticed a man a ways behind her. Her partner, I assumed. He trailed along, but at a guarded distance. Like he thought something was going to happen, something he was helpless to stop but needed to witness.

The woman strode to the front door of the house diagonally across from us. We’ve often noted the fact that this neighbor has some healthy and hearty bamboo behind their house, tall enough that we can see it over their six foot fence. I thought I could see where this was going. She knocked or rang the bell—they were far enough away we couldn’t tell, nor could we hear the words that were spoken once the door opened. Certain kinds of bamboo have a tendency to spread like wildfire, so I figured this woman—whose back yard, we assumed, butted up against our neighbor’s—was complaining that the bamboo had spread into her yard, and she was none to pleased about it. Meanwhile, the trailing guy stayed at the intersection, a good hundred feet away from the action. I suppose he would have leaped into the fray if things had gone badly, but he definitely did not look like he wanted to get involved.

A few minutes later, the woman left, bamboo stalks still clenched firmly in her hand. She strode past our house and never gave us so much as a wave or a smile. The man beat a hasty retreat ahead of her. Last seen walking toward her house. I don’t know what she planned to do with the bamboo. A little domestic drama on a Sunday afternoon. It takes little to entertain us.

I watched a three-part British serial called Trauma over the weekend. It starred one of my favorite actors, John Simm (The Master from Doctor Who, also from Life on Mars) as a working class guy who’s had a very bad day already, when he finds out his teenage son has been stabbed and sent to the emergency ward. The surgeon handling the case assures him that everything’s fine, the boy’s stable—and then he isn’t. In a flash, the situation goes south. The doctor, tall, fit, dignified, is an affront to the father, who believes the doctor is lying to him, based on some behavioral tics. He thinks the doctor made a mistake, and he makes it his mission in life to get to the truth. He has little interest in blaming the miscreant who stabbed his son—it’s the doctor and his conspicuous wealth and standing that offends him. It’s difficult to watch at times. Some brutal confrontations, and Simm’s character goes full out wacky stalker. I’m not sure I was completely happy with the way it was wrapped up. There seemed to be a slant in favor of the middle class versus the wealthy class. The truth does all come out in the end, and a lot of damage is done in the process, but (despite a terrific performance by Simm), I thought the father got off lightly for what he did. Worth seeking out, though.

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