Thursday, June 23, 2011

Charlotte's Nexus

It's been quiet, I know. So what am I working on, you ask? I'll tell you. (she lays her cards out on the table in a perfect fan shape...look, a full house)

Let's go back in time. It's the late summer of 2007. I'm waiting for the now apparently defunct So New to publish my book, which will eventually become American Soma. It is a long wait, and the book's publication is still two years away, although I don't know this yet. But, darling, that's another story.

Picture me holding a plastic shopping bag, kneeling in a large patch of Blue Lake Bush Beans. I'm picking pods to preserve while Michael replaces pads on my truck in a garage several meters away. That year, we can 75 Ball Jars of Blue Lake Beans, an amazing amount. Picking beans is a Zen activity, requiring little mental effort because the plants are yellow and the beans are thick and green, easy to spot. In this bean patch, I get an idea, which grows from an idea I carried with me on a disc from idea that eventually grows into this.

This new idea hits me in that bean patch so hard it makes me cry. I wonder, for a few moments, about my sanity.

By then, I have started teaching, and during my long drives down Route 7 to Wheeling, I put together the images that comprise the following six flash works, some of which I read at the 5:10 Reading Series in Baltimore a year later:
"Charlotte, Ionized"
"Charlotte, the Apparition"
"Charlotte's Nexus"
"Arrival at the Camp"
"The Doctor Dreams"
"Fugitive Doctor"

After American Soma is finally released (and I beat my head against the wall with the publisher for months afterwards), I stop working on Charlotte's story. Other things eclipse her. I fail to hear her whispering in my ear for a long while.

Charlotte is back. And this time, I will finish her story.

"He himself was smooth-shaven, close-pored, every nail crescent scrubbed white. He brought the smell of clean laundry with him, too. And there was music, beautiful trills and noise her mind tried to record so she could hear it later, at night, when the lights over the wooden bunks were out. She would catch a remembered resonance and hang on to it. Where could it take her? Back into the office, back over the bones and teeth that scattered over the man’s desk? Back to the wash line where her mother stood pinning clothes and dish rags to the white cord that ran between houses? To the man at the dinner table, an uncle, who speared meat with a three-pronged fork and winked at her as he did it?

Did he, this doctor, look very much like my father? She couldn’t remember. She just couldn’t remember. No image came, only a swelling in her throat."

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