Stormy Weather

CVS texted me on Saturday to let me know that I had a prescription refill to pick up. I wasn’t able to go out for it then, Sunday was Easter and I doubted they were open, so this morning I contacted my team at work, told I would be out for half an hour, and ventured to Red Lion.

If I didn’t have to go for a prescription, this was not a day to go out. There were gale force winds and heavy rains. If it weren’t for those two things, it would have been an unexpectedly warm spring day. But I lucked into the right time to go as there was a lull in the storm. After I got home, the skies opened up once more.

I took a t-shirt, folded it in half lengthwise, folded it in half again, and wrapped it around my face as a face mask, fastening it behind my head by joining the ends and wrapping them in a doubled over hair band. It wasn’t the best mask, and it rode up on my eyes a little and made seeing more difficult than it already is, but it sufficed. It covered my nose and mouth, and that’s what I needed.

I felt strange walking into CVS masked like this. Yes, the governor has requested people wear masks. Yes, someone who walked into CVS in front of me was not wearing any sort of facial covering. Yet, I know it wouldn’t be safe to others to not wear something, of some kind.

I waited patiently at the pharmacy counter, behind the taped line on the floor, and one of the techs, an older woman I had been hostile with before Christmas — not for any fault of hers; CVS was being a pain — came to help me.

“Name?” she said, standing about eight feet away behind a plastic shield, wearing a mask of her own.

“Gibson.” Then I spelled it.

“G. R. E,” she repeated back to me.

“No, Gibson. G. I. B.”

“G. R. E.”

“No. G. I. B.” I started drawing the letters in the air.

Another pharmacy tech came over and tried to decipher for the first.

Eventually, though it took longer than I think either of us would have liked, she got my name into the system, she retrieved my prescription (a three month supply of lobelatol for my blood pressure), and I wish I could say I went on my merry way, but we went through another pained conversation where she simply could not understand what I was saying through my makeshift mask.

Next time, I’m going to take a portable whiteboard with me.

I didn’t write anything here last week. There was nothing in my work-from-home diaries to write about. That doesn’t mean that nothing interesting happened.

On my website, I wrote about Rob Manfred’s plan for a hermetically sealed baseball season to be played in Arizona and Florida on Friday, and on Saturday I wrote about locating my great-great-grandparents’ house in Georgetown in an 1890 photograph. I can’t say for certain that I found it, but I know I’m in the right area.

I wrote a short story over the weekend.

When I started working from home I found buried on my desk the outline for a story that I’d written at Shore Leave last year during the Meet the Pros Party on Friday night. I reread the outline, thought it was good and solid, and I let it turn itself over in my head for the last couple of weeks. Where do I start the story? Where does the worldbuilding exposition go? I wasn’t writing anything. I was thinking about writing but not actually putting words on the page — or bytes in a file.

A week ago, I figured out I wanted to start in media res. That was the right place to start. Let the reader discover the story with the narrator, who already knows the worldbuilding, forcing the reader to play catch-up.

Thursday I wrote five hundred words. They were a difficult five hundred words. Start in media res, character known the narrator introduces the narrator to a stranger. A problem is introduced. At work, I can write five hundred words in ten to fifteen minutes when I buckle down. This five hundred words took about an hour and a half.

I saved the file and went on to other things.

Saturday evening, I picked it up again.

I worked until past ten — I hadn’t realized it was so late — but I finished the story. My guess was pretty close to the mark; the first draft weighed in just under 3,300 words. Satisfied with my work for the day, I shut off my computer, sat down with an ebook of one of August Derleth’s Solar Pons collections, read a story, and went to bed.

Then I remembered some dialogue I had intended to write but didn’t, so I left myself a note on Twitter to revisit it the morning.

And Sunday morning, that’s what I did. I wrote the dialogue I’d forgotten to write, wrote another bit of dialogue I realized I needed, and brought the story up another 400 words. Then I began an editing pass, and brought it down to 3,300. I used both “yards” and “meters,” so I had to fix that, and there was a factual mismatch in two places I had to repair (and repairing it actually planted a seed of foreshadowing), and late bit of dialogue needed to be reworked because it was too brief. Final word count: 3,500 words, plus/minus 10, depending on how Word feels that day.

With the caveat that I’m biased because I wrote it, it’s a solid story. It’s an unexpected genre mash-up with a staggering twist that is only possible in prose. It’s not groundbreaking, it won’t win any awards, but I’m pleased with it. I wrote it for the challenge and for the fun, and I think it succeeds in what I set out to do.

I submitted the story to an anthology, and I should get a response in six to eight weeks.

With the heavy winds the sky cleared off, and about five o’clock it was gorgeous outside.


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