Another time Amelia had noticed something outside, a bird, a butterfly, a dream – who knew? Whatever it was, it lured her outside, down the drive, and up the road. That was fine, nothing wrong with that, except that it was a hot summer day, and the further she went, the hotter she got, and the hotter she got, the more clothes she took off. Since she didn’t wear underclothes, she was soon down to nothing. Old August Miller had gone out for his mail and saw her, wandering around dazed and wearing nothing, but a pair of tennis shoes. He walked up to her and said, “You better go back home Missus before you get sunburned.” He had the foresight to point her towards the house. She fled home to her sanctuary, leaving behind her clothes for Wendell and Anna to pick up on their way home that night. Just another story to spread around the town.
Amelia died at the mental hospital; they held the funeral there and buried her there. That may well have been the best day of Anna’s life, all fourteen years of it. She insisted on looking at Amelia in the coffin and touched her face with one finger. She wanted to be absolutely sure that Amelia was dead. Wendell had given her the oddest look. Thinking back, she supposed she believed things would be different once Amelia was dead, but nothing changed. Perhaps she had thought they would change into a real father and daughter, just as once she had dreamed that Amelia would become sane, and become a mother, but nothing happened. They fell back into their old routine. The days came and went, the seasons rolled around.
Driving in the dark, the cold dark of December was bad enough, but driving to a funeral in the dark was worse, unless the worst thing was feeling nothing, or feeling empty, and then complete relief.
Wendell was dead. Amelia was dead. They were both dead now, and there was no grief. Anna didn’t feel the great surge of joy at Wendell’s death that she had felt at Amelia’s death. No, she just felt nothing.
Ten years ago, Amelia had died. Anna had tried hard not to let Wendell know how glad she was that Amelia was dead. He had looked so dazed and lost, but she was glad, and she couldn’t deny that she was glad because she was safe. He obviously was grief stricken and cried at the funeral. She did not. There were no tears for Amelia, but she would always remember Wendell crying. Anna had never seen him cry before.
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Notes from Alexis: Doors are opening, dreams are coming, and stories are filling up her life quicker than she can keep up with.
Now we have ourselves a puzzle. How did you know I planned to syndicate a column? I didn’t write you and I didn’t tell you did I? So how did you know?
The thing is I have had an ulterior motive right from the very first with this column. I always planned to form some kind of business arrangement with you to do a self-promoted syndication. There are untold numbers of small papers out there who can only afford $5.00 for a column, and need them badly to stop all that white space. Don’t overlook big papers either.
I can see a partnership like we had at the gallery. Split the money 50/50 and each of us pay our own expenses. It seemed to me a great way to optimize our talents. I was going to approach you first and see if you thought you would be interested in peddling the column, and here you write me and tell me you had the same idea.
On the walk to the P.O. I had a thought, “I am a magnet. I have to sit and wait for everything. I can’t run after it.” And here comes your letter. Think about it, and if you feel it is right then let me know. By then I should have heard from the lawyers and know how to proceed.
Yes, the column will be in all three papers here in town and I now have 16 rough drafts ready, you know me, a dedicated over achiever.
You will also be pleased about something else I came up with last night, I suddenly knew what to do about “Webs.” First, I have to change the name, I hate that name. I am working on “Five for the Money” until further notice, and second, I had the motive for the book clear in my mind for the first time. All my books have a motive as opposed to a moral. I can’t just meander around the landscape without a clear cut motive.
Low and behold the motive came this morning and I was pitched headlong into Phase II, maybe all the way over into Phase III in the writing. Not only did this make me fall in love with the book, but it explained something to me about my own life and opened another door. I love those doors. Remember those dreams I used to have where I would open a door onto something absolutely wonderful? This was one of them.
Dad read “Circumstance of Birth” and was so thrilled I couldn’t believe it. He kept telling me how much he liked it. After I wrote it, I had to laugh because I think it is one of those stories that wouldn’t qualify for fiction – not enough reality to it, not believable enough. Dare I say stranger than fiction?
Isn’t it curious that I suddenly turned into a writing machine?
I have been dreaming words at night and finally I told the dream guys; “Hey, listen, the words I got, the pictures I don’t get. You provide the pictures and I’ll provide the words.” Now I am back to the pictures again and all is right with the world.
The oar for Dad’s boat is a lovely thought. He will be so thrilled. I’ll be so glad when he can work on the boat again. He faunches around here and drives me crazy, and then tries to make me feel guilty that I didn’t help him get the other side finished. No luck however. I’m a ‘no gotta, no guilt’ kind of girl.
Well, this is just a quick note so you can mull over the syndication thoughts and let me know.
P.S. Merry Xmas, and take pictures if you are in your new house. If not, kiss the cats for me.
Notes from Alexis: Worried about the “thinking brain cells” drying up, and writing like a crazy woman.
I was so glad to get your letter, and also glad to hear the house is progressing so well. You won’t know what to do with yourself when all you have to worry about is the daily routine.
J. and P. went back to her folks in Utah for a week, and I kept their dog, Lady. She is a sweetheart but she never took her eyes off me the whole week. It finally got so funny we just laughed. Mercy what do you suppose dogs see when they look at me? Then she was so bored – no cats, no kid, no TV and nobody doing nothing. The last day before they came back she just gave up and sort of despaired of them ever coming home, and it was pitiful. I have never seen a happier dog in my life than Lady when I took her home.
Well, sign language is progressing like mad and I can now do humpty-dumpty. You aren’t impressed? I have such a hard time impressing anyone. This class has turned out to be a weird one. I am the only one who has been to every class, and I’m the only one who works at it, and therefore I’m the only one who has learned.
It always amazes me that grown up people are surprised that they have to work to learn. Everyone wants the easy out, and they complain and they moan. I saw it with my students and you with yours. How in the world teachers teach anyone anything against such a log jam of resistance is beyond me. I am a learn-aholic as we both know, so it is outside my ken, but one does ponder.
Well, I’ve started another book. I haven’t stopped Webs, I am working on both at the same time. One of the real advantages of not being published (and I’m sincere) is that I am free to write whatever I want. No one is saying, write this or don’t write that, or that it isn’t sale-able, etc.
I can see now that I write strangely. Well what would you expect from someone as strange as I?
Here is my newest thing, the “Book Report.” I get a chance to write witty, creative things about other peoples’ books. I have three or four other books in mind to review, but they may all be old, or horrendous, or something, and all out of print. I chortled when I got the idea of reviewing, and have been snickering to myself ever since.
Here is my first “Book Report.” I found a dear little book called “Courts and Criminals” written in 1912 and suddenly there was my new book to review.
I have read so many dear and peculiar, weird and wonderful books, so I decided to write book reports about them, not so much with an eye to having them read as much as to hang a story on, don’t you know?
“Phase I” of writing is still just so much damn hard work: wedge, wedge, wedge. I like it, but it tires me out, and there is nothing creative about it at all. I am kept towing the line by the pictures hanging there before me (in my mind) and my great desire to get it all down.
I have been living in Benton, Texas for the last month (again in my mind) and I can see everything, every bush, every grain of sand, and every building, so I am haunted, anxious to get it all down. But it tires me and I need something creative to keep me from running amok. You don’t want a little old lady in tennis shoes running naked down the street (as in me), not a pretty sight.
Dad, of course, is non-plussed. The idea of three books on the shelf and two in the hopper, boggles his mind. Once again my modus operandi overwhelms him. It seems a pathetic output for 51 years to me, and I’m not impressed with the fact that it all has come together since April. (It’s the 51 years that stick in my craw).
I have a terrible feeling of urgency: a certain knowledge that I have to get all the mind parts down now, while I am still functioning. Later, after all the thinking cells have dried up I can sit around and needlepoint, I suppose. I think that is why I am not uptight about Frameworks (the needlepoint project). Time enough for that later.
You may have to insulate your pottery studio with my unpublished manuscripts. I cannot explain why I haven’t any urgency to publish, and God knows if I don’t, then who? It will probably all work out some way, somewhere, but I can’t divide my mind at this point and worry about it.
I go again tonight to the doctor seminars, and if I tell you they are beginning to pall, will you be surprised? I have enjoyed them and I’ve learned a lot, so how come I’m not thrilled? There is something there that worries at the back of my mind.
The funny part is that I met H. J. who is putting them on, and now for some reason I feel committed, as if I would be letting down the team if I didn’t go. How I ever get myself into these mind sets is a puzzler. Nobody gives a damn, and it is all in my own mind, but what else is there?
This last week I have eaten so much junk food and haven’t walked, plus went to town three times, and I feel like a true sinner – like a drunk who has fallen off the wagon, and it isn’t wonderful. I don’t like it at all! The straight and narrow, food-wise, suits me better.
The cacti are feeling sexy and are all a-bloom. I haven’t figured out their timetable or cycle or whatever, but I enjoy them when they are amorous.
Well a bit of soap opera. M. across street finally told R.(her son) that his girlfriend wasn’t allowed over there, so now he hangs at her house all day, which seems only fair. L, M’s father, has split with his wife of less than a year, and is now in his trailer tootling around the country. It would take more time and energy and interest than I have to write all the gory details, but will fill you in if you are interested when you come down.
I will try to locate the controls that switch off ‘writing’ and turn on ‘cooking’. Oh, I can see you snort, but when I get deep within a book I need a map to get out. I’ve always needed a ‘keeper’ of my life anyway, and when I’m writing it’s even worse.
It’s been weather, weather, weather, until I am wearied with it all. Hope you laughed. Private jokes are such fun.
My washing machine call-eth me, so better quit and get some work done around here. Weekends are enforced leisure time, and they are killing me. I’m just too hyper for Dad and he pouts if I don’t do normal things like, talk and visit and watch TV. I am beginning to see why people go places on weekends. It is just too difficult to reverse the gears and stop working all at once.
Well write when you have time and energy, and will see you Turkey Day.
Notes from Alexis: She is enjoying ‘signing’ class, and feeling the ‘grind’ of ‘Phase I’ of writing a book.
So glad to hear you are coming down. I intend to talk your ears off and send you home so exhausted that work will be a relief.
This is the day after the second ‘signing’ class and I feel like my brain has fused – been blasted into a molten mass. I tell you we move fast and it is so much fun and so exciting. I practice like mad in front of the mirror but everyone else said they didn’t practice, and I thought they were actually better. B. has hands so big that he is easy to read, but he is so serious. T. brought his braille book and sat quietly through the class (nothing like last time). R. didn’t show but M. came wearing tight, tight pants (Ah to be young!). A new lady, Mi. came, she was sick last week, she is probably older than me. She doesn’t look it but her hands give her away.
Everybody got a kick out of me taking the class because I got a book at half price and couldn’t pass up a bargain.
It is fun to watch Little J. I sign to him and his little fingers move, too. Signing must be a very old, very deep way of communicating. I suppose all the hand motions ‘talking with my hands’ that I have always done, was from this deep well. My hands have always known things I don’t know, and now maybe they will get a chance to talk too.
Weather has been lovely. The first day of October the trees started turning and the wild plum at the bottom of the place is beautiful.
I have come to the conclusion that the part I like least is ‘Phase I’ of writing. Say for a novel; I have to invent everything, be all knowing, all wise about all the facets of the book and it is just grind, grind, grind. Hardly anything creative. Like wedging clay for a potter, I suppose. Necessary, of course, even vital, but hard work and not creative.
I changed the male hero in Webs, or rather he changed himself, so I had to go back and ‘Phase I’ a lot of changes about him. I am trying to eliminate so many of the same plot devices so EAB and Webs are not alike. I have done it pretty well and it is coming around to being an exciting story I think, but talk about wedging, I mean we are talking tons of clay here.
I have become dissatisfied with the name Webs and am casting about for another name. My high production time of 80,000 words in two months is over, sadly enough. I may never reach such heights again. What a trip!
Well, I meant it when I said I was brain—fused. I can’t think of anything much. I may just sit around in a stupor until you come down.