I started posting excerpts of Stars Fall Out when I was halfway through the draft. As a result, I haven’t posted excerpts of a lot of the early action that defines the book, including the main character’s use of a magic vial that allows travel from one place to another via a natural body of water.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that knowing better isn’t the same as doing better. I like stories with intelligent characters, but I also like characters who fuck everything up and get in their own way.
I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive.
This post is the third excerpt in a sequence that I’ve posted over the last two weeks. Here’s the first and second, which involve stealing the vial and discovering that it’s damn uncomfortable to use.
You’d think I would be smarter this time. That I would bind up a change of clothes so they wouldn’t get wet. That I would pack money and bread. That I would bring a map or compass.
Instead, I was less smart. I packed none of those things, and I barely even concealed myself. “I’ll take it from here,” I had told Tirsan when we came in sight of my home. “You’re tired.”
Then I had waited half-behind a tree, and watched as Tirsan walked away, the limp still present in his step after all these months.
I ran almost to the bridge, then slowed to a stroll so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself. But when I made it to the water, when I filled the vial and chugged it down, I practically dove in.
Water swept me down and crushed me, squeezed my rib cage, until I washed up elsewhere, free of the city, free of all of it.
Infinity, was what I thought when I looked at the beach.
I’m on one of the final climactic scenes of Stars Fall Out, and have ended up in a situation where my female main character is, in a not at all tongue-in-cheek fashion, trying to break a glass ceiling.
I reused a file folder that had previously been labeled “Bitter Machines Flash Fiction.” Since the new label didn’t entirely cover the old one, it now says “Health Insurance Flash Fiction,” which is the worst, most boring, and also most soul-chilling and existentially dreadful type of flash fiction there is.
In these days of coronavirus isolation, I already miss my Thursday morning writing routine.
I stop at the Dunkin Donuts closest to work, and every week it’s the same order: large iced cold brew, three creams, less ice, and a power breakfast sandwich with added bacon. I’m not much for routines in general, but I’ve grown superstitious about this one: I haven’t changed my order in over a year, and I even have specific sections of my drive where I’m allowed to listen to writing podcasts, and others that are book mix CD only.
It’s the same table every week, and if those public works guys with the truck are there, it’s the adjacent table, and I give them the sidelong shifty-eye until they leave, and I swoop over in three trips with my computer and my numerous index cards.
I say “hi” to the some people and eavesdrop on others, and they’re the same people every week. I watch the same young cashier flirt with the same old women and thank them for running on Dunkin.
And then I stop noticing the other people so much as I finish my sandwich and get into a good flow. I always aim to finish a scene, and succeed often enough. On the way to work, I play “Outsiders” by Franz Ferdinand. It wasn’t on purpose, at first, but it comes after the most repeated song on the book mix, and it turned into a victory lap, if driving in a Corolla through four lighted intersections and then backing into a parking spot counts as a victory lap.
It meant more last year than it does now. With the kind of work schedules my partner had, some weeks it was my only time to work on Stars Fall Out. Still, it was one of my favorite parts of my week, and it felt like the bastion of my writing discipline.
These days, we all have things we’re going to miss or already miss. This is one of mine. A little, mundane piece of my week that I miss a great deal.