A Whole New Year


Your little men have moved. Did you even take a break since I left?

Saturday, 31 January 2016. After writing on and off, here and there, on my script for over a month, the good fairies with their evil laughs came and sprinkled magic dust all over me with two words: what if, and my mind exploded. Two days non-stop clacking away at my computer. Not seeing. Not hearing. In the groove, monomaniacal – crazed, even.

My calendar tells me it’s 2017. I was so burnt out last night I headed to bed before the big event. Even as I lay there, my sleep masque pulled down over my eyes to block the flash from the fireworks war going on, my mind mulled over possibilities. I drifted between wakefulness and forgetfulness. The crackle from the spitting fire displays outside seeped through the thin single pane glass of my window and reverb’d around my room, reminding me of a hard summer’s rain on a thin roof. Booms turned to thunderclaps, and before I wandered off to dreamland I found myself for an eerie moment standing under a long forgotten tin shack roof in Canada as a torrential rain unleashed itself on the thirsty earth below. I grinned before I slipped into full sleep, grinned at the memory; not a half-dried memory consisting only of a picture and few sounds, but a total immersion memory with all my senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel. It was a perfect pearl of yesterday’s flavor.

Yesterday is what I’m trying to capture.

I’ve re-written the entire script. Had to. At first, I dismissed the visions the fairies’ what if brought me. Totally out of character, I harrumphed. Impossible, I scoffed. But those fairies! They kept at me. Must have been hammering on my brain as I slept. The next morning I woke up knowing it wasn’t impossible, it was hilarious, and I had to start again from scratch.

Words flew from my fingers like blood from an open wound, and poured over the page. One thousand, three thousand, five thousand – in the blink of an eye. Jokes wrote themselves, surprising me into laughter. Running gags presented themselves. Somehow I made the characters both more and less true to my real life memories. My father’s obsession with engine oil and checking it in every car I ever drove is there now. But my sister has flipped to her physical polar opposite: in the new version, it’s she who’s slim, beautiful, and working to be an actress. My eldest brother’s sexual attraction to me is included, too – but his wife’s become a fast talking barrel of laughs, rattling off insane statements that his real life wife would have never dared to utter. Even my first trip to the Netherlands is included. The youngest son expresses his wish to visit Amsterdam, the family takes a few clumsy fisted swings at Dutch culture that I hope go down with a lot of laughs, and the son takes the usual sort of dismissive abuse I was subjected to – not unlike Saffy in AbFab. But unlike AbFab, that presents us with an over the top narcissistic mother with an acerbic, very British sense of humor, the humor in my script comes from the gentle ignorance of the typical American family. The false impressions, the misinformation; if I could write a bit about getting pregnant from a toilet seat, I would. It’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. These people aren’t mean, not in any sense of the word. Hung up on themselves? Yes. Poor communicators? Absolutely. But mean just to be mean, as Jennifer Saunders so often is in her writing? No. [Caveat: I’m a fan of AbFab and don’t mean to diss it or Saunders in any manner, but it’s obvious to me her humor comes from a tight-lipped anger and mine from a half-smiling understanding.]

To make my life (and the re-write) easier, I set up a small diorama of the stage and used six tiny plastic soldiers to represent my characters. I have to say, I find it amusing to watch my characters in their frozen stances, holding guns and various weaponry on each other. It adds a visual reminder for me that the slurs and zingers uttered are done so out of defense, not offense, and makes it easier for me to stay on track with my story. These, then, are the little men my brother referred to. They sit still, until I write a stage direction. Then they move as they’re told. Stand up, walk there, do this, come back, sit down. Little soldiers, all of them, squeaking out how high? when I say jump.

The fog that brought the fairies in still sits low over the city, pondering the New Year and all its smoke-related festivities. It’s as if a curtain is drawn down, shutting out that life. Write, write, I hear them whisper. It’s hard not to.

Have you eaten? asks my brother. Huh? I mutter.

Hey! I need you to pay attention now. For real.

It’s a telling sign that my brother’s learned to wait until I stop, put my computer to sleep, and turn to face him before trying to really ask me anything. I don’t know if he’s done one of those outrageous statements on me just to find out if I’m really listening or not. You know the kind: I’m gonna head out now. Thought I’d stop by the bank and hold them up, maybe take a few hostages, then grab some money, head to the store and get something for dinner. People do that to see if the other person notices or just grunts another ‘okay’ in their general direction. For all I know, my brother’s told me over the last few days that he turned his bellybutton inside out and he plans to have his eyeball pierced. Like I’d know!

In a few days, I’ll come down from this. I’ll either have the story done and finished, or I’ll be so exhausted and burnt my bro will shake his finger at me, make a pot of chicken soup, and insist I sit in front of the telly all day watching films.

We’ll see what happens. It’s a whole new year.


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