“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~Toni Morrison
As I mentioned in “Rediscovering my passion” I’ve dreamed of being a writer since the fourth-grade.
Throughout my school career writing always came easy to me. In fourth grade my story “Ottsie’s Adventure,” earned me the first-runner up Newberry Award in our classroom’s writing contest.
One of my favorite writing memories in middle school was writing a story for our make-believe Greek newspaper in seventh grade, in which we had to cover “up-to-date” news about the characters of Greek mythology. I chose to be a sports reporter and covered Atalanta’s Race. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Greek heroine … Atlanta is said to be born to royalty, but unfortunately her kingly father was hoping for a boy, and literally through Atalanta to the wolves, carrying her into the forest and leaving her to die. But a she-bear took Atlanta in and raised her in the wilderness. As a result Atlanta was quick and agile, loved the outdoors, and, ironically, ended up becoming a very experienced hunter, extremely skilled with a bow and arrow.
Eventually her outstanding athleticism caused her father to recognize her as his daughter and she returned home, but her father soon set to work finding her a husband. Not wanting a husband, Atlanta proposed a contest: she would challenge any suitors to a foot race, if one of them won she would marry him, if she won, she would not marry anyone. I covered that race, and once again fell in love with the writing process.
In high school I continued to write, my favorite writing memories, not inspired by any teacher or class, were the creative notes I used to write to friends explaining the series of outrageous events that would occur had I chosen to pay attention in class, become bored and fall asleep, instead of writing them a note. Remember those, LB?
In college I minored in Creative Writing, and in grad school I used to find ways to incorporate my writing into my social work practice. I would create projects and stories such as “Mrs. Heart’s Bag of Tricks” to use as a biblio-therapy tool, and once I began working as a School Adjustment Counselor I worked with kids to create their own stories and books about friendship, feelings, etc.
I loved to write, and would write little stories here and there, and even got a few of them published online and in local publications when I was staying at home with my three young children. After Shea went to kindergarten five years ago, I began working for a weekly newspaper to gain more writing experience and loved it! Now I am blogging and working on my young adult fiction novel, and I decided to start including some of my fiction projects into to this blog to keep me writing, give me some feedback, and to continue pursuing my writing goals and dreams.
The following excerpt is from the first chapter of my young adult novel which focuses on how teenaged twins cope with the news that their father has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Please let me know what you think.
The below content is copyrighted 2012 by Renaissance Mom and K.W. Bevan and may not be used without written permission.
I peered at my brother through the billowing smoke waving my hand in front of my face in an attempt to disperse the noxious odor from my nostrils. The bright orange flames bounced menacingly between the two off us reflecting off of Bryan’s spiky blonde hair, making the rest of his body seem to glow. He looked like a cross between Heat Miser from my favorite Christmas movie and the Human Torch from “Fantastic Four.”
As I waited for the inferno to overtake us my brother looked up at me, his blue eyes sparkling with fire, grimaced through perfect white teeth compliments of three grueling years of braces, and surprisingly winked at me.
Then from beyond the kitchen doors I heard my father shrieking.
I’m sure he would prefer everyone called it singing, but when even the dog runs for cover as soon as Dad begins belting out one of his favorite tune, I’d have to seriously disagree with that. As the door swung open Dad limped through the doorway wielding his new Nikon, halfway through a jazzed up rendition of Happy Birthday. I rolled my eyes at my brother knowing we’d have to suffer through one more round of the song before we’d be able to blow out the forty sparkling candles melting all our birthday cakes.
Note, I said “cakes,” plural. Birthdays have always been a big deal in our house. When they only come once every four years you tend to create a celebration worth remembering when they do. Add that to the fact that you are celebrating two Leap Year birthdays, and your mother ran off the day you and your brother turned eight (or two if you only count Leap Year birthdays), and you’ve got a Dad who has something to prove.
This year apparently Dad had something extra special to prove, as evidenced by the blazing inferno currently separating my twin brother and I. I guess a year of watching “The Cake Boss” on TLC at all hours of the evening had paid off. I had to admit, the end product was pretty impressive. Sitting on the dining room table in front of us were four cakes — two round layered cakes, each depicting a different theme, and two mini-cakes the size of approximately four or five cupcakes. The smaller cakes were made to resemble our favorite sports — a football for my brother and a soccer ball for me. Each had four candles on top representing the number of actual Leap Year birthdays we had had since the day we were born sixteen years ago on February 29.
I was utterly amazed at dad’s TV worthy skills with those mini-cakes, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw my brother’s other cake which re-created his high school football team’s Superbowl win from last season right in front of us in micro-form. There he was, number fourteen, perched on top of his teammate’s shoulders, a ginormous football-shaped trophy held over his head with his right hand, the game-winning football tucked safely in the crook of his left arm.
“Wow Dad,” Bryan said. “You really outdid yourself this year.”
Dad, who had been standing perched in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room watching our reactions, waved the compliment away and added, “It was nothing really.” Then he turned around pretending to fiddle with his camera lens, but not before I caught his brow furrow and a small tear escape from the corner of his left eye.
I turned my attention back to the bigger of my two cakes, which depicted an entire soccer field replete with grandstands, fans, players, goals, and a mini-ball at the feet of player number seven. Her plain brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and somehow, I have no idea how he did it, my dad had managed to create the small braid I always wore on the side of my head. He had piped the word Brynn on the back of my shirt just in case my brother and I didn’t know it was me. Fondant replicas of my brother and Dad sat perched at the top of a set of bleachers holding a banner that read “State here we come!”
“Thanks dad,” I said.
“We’ll get ‘em next year kiddo,” he assured me.
States. Ugh, I didn’t even want to think about it right now. If I did I would definitely start to replay that missed penalty kick over and over again in my head, and I already had done enough of that in the last three months since I lost the state title for my team.
“Hello?” my brother said, rousing me from my thoughts. “Are we going to blow out these candles anytime soon? I think we are definitely in danger of burning the house down if we don’t.”
The candles were flickering ferociously, waiting for the two of us to make our birthday wishes.
“Yeah, let’s do this,” I said, fully back in the present now. “Then I’ll take you for a ride in my new car.”
My brother groaned. My car was not a subject he liked to talk about. It was a 1966 maroon Mustang that used to belong to my Grandpa George on my mother’s side. It had been my mother’s when she was in high school, and when it finally kicked the bucket her sophomore year in college he couldn’t bear to part with it. I think he was living vicariously through her when he bought it, a collector’s item even then, and the car was as much his baby as it was my mom’s.
Grandpa used to tell me how he had taught Mom how to change a flat and the oil, and how they would toil away for hours in the garage with that car tweaking this or that and chatting about everything and anything. Grandpa said he tried to get Mom to help him rebuild the engine again before she went off to college knowing it didn’t have much life left in it, but by that time she had started dating my dad and didn’t want much to do with fixing up the car anymore. So Grandpa tucked it away in the corner of his three-car garage, covered it with a tarp and forgot about it.
After my eighth birthday Grandpa rediscovered the car, removing the ratty blue tarp, and slowly began rebuilding the neglected hunk of metal. Mima thinks he was heartbroken when my mom ran out on all of us, and working on the car seemed to help him heal, reminded him of how things used to be. When he was feeling sad Grandpa would escape to the garage where memories of his Izzy-girl still existed, and the reality of who she had become disappeared into an oily haze.
I remember envying my grandpa for being able to escape into another time, a happier time, even if it was just for a little while, because as hard as I tried I couldn’t. After Mom left it seemed as if all the happiness had been sucked right out of me, and packed in the lone backpack with the few belongings my mother took with her when she left. Remnants of my mother’s old life were scattered all throughout our house, and instead of making me feel better like the Mustang did for Grandpa, they suffocated me with the messages they held. The messages that reminded me of all the lies my mother had told during those first eight years of my life, the promises broken, and how insignificant me, my brother, and Daddy were in her life.
A glance at the brightly colored array of photo albums stacked neatly on our family room bookcases with years of memories from our annual summer trip to Cape Cod tucked inside would send me sprinting to the bathroom, gagging and spewing whatever little food I had managed to eat that day into the toilet bowl. The sight of the macaroni necklace I had crafted for my mother in kindergarten still dangling from the lampshade on her nightstand would elicit a tsunami of tears, that would begin with a small tremor deep in my stomach, and then thrash and crash through my entire being until the aftermath of the storm lay spent, shaken, puffy-eyed, and snot-covered on top of the floral comforter which had decorated my parents king-sized bed ever since I could remember.
On those days Dad would find me hours later, my face now crusted with tears and snot, prop me in a nice warm bath, and sing to me in that wretched voice of his as I soaked under the bubbles and begin to feel a little bit more like the old me. When I was done I’d run to my room, dress in my fuzzy pink leopard printed pajama pants and one of my dad’s old AC/DC T-shirts, and then meet him and Bryan back in his room to watch our favorite movie, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat and the Hat.” By then dad would have removed the macaroni necklace, or photo, or the pair of mom’s earrings or whatever object of hers that had set me off that time, and we would all snuggle under the covers, Thing 1(me) and Thing 2 (Bryan) tucked neatly under each of Dad’s arms and fall asleep, safe and comforted, before the movie ended.
But then another day would come, and another melt down, and soon I looked like an eight-year-old ghost of myself. I had lost quite a bit of weight and some of my hair had started falling. People began asking my dad, in sympathetic whispers they didn’t think I could hear, if I was undergoing chemotherapy. That was the last straw for my dad. He brought me to child therapists and support groups, he volunteered to coach my lacrosse team that spring, and he began bringing more of his work from the advertising firm where he worked, home. But nothing seemed to help me snap back to my old self, until one weekend in July Grandpa introduced me to Molly, nearly five months after Mom had left. Now Molly the Mustang sat completely rebuilt, thanks to help from Grandpa and Dad, in the garage with a big red bow on her awaiting the end of the party so I could take her for her first spin in almost twenty-five years— a bone of contention between my twin brother and I.
“Just blow out the candles will you?” Bryan said through gritted teeth, and then reached around the flames and gave me a playful smack upside the head.
“OK,” I said rubbing my head dramatically as if he had really done some damage. “Ready? One. Two …” But before I said three, the phone rang.
“Wait! Wait!” Dad said limping to the phone on the wall next to him. “Let me just get this quick.
“There he goes again,” Bryan said. “Dragging out the birthday production as long as he can.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I wouldn’t doubt if he planned the call to come exactly at this time himself. It’s probably Mima and Grandpa calling from Florida.”
“Check his cell phone, they were probably listening in on speaker the whole …” Bryan stopped in mid sentence and looked towards my father in the kitchen doorway. I followed his gaze, and found my father squatting in the doorway, the phone dangling limply from his right hand. His face had gone completely white, devoid of the smile that had graced its surface just moments before, and he was shaking uncontrollably.
He looked up slowly and met my brother’s gaze and then mine before hanging his head again. Then, in a voice that was barely audible I heard him say, “It’s not good,” and I knew instantly our celebrating was over.