January 31, 2011
Today’s Special: I don’t know, because I’m home sick with a cold.
There’s quite a lot of impressive coughing of the kind I imagine in an old-time T.B. ward, and I’m about as energetic as an old towel, but on the whole I’m pretty content because I worked on the new book for a long time.
Mona has made it from St. Clair to Calumet in her Econoline and Lucy’s back from her excursion to the airport with Vince. Lucy and Mona have just met at Ida’s house and are staring at each other warily. Thomas has just arrived too, via a 737 (I have to check this detail, but not right now, not while I’m actually writing) from Detroit Metro to Houghton County Memorial Airport. Vince has no real idea what to do with this unexpected and not especially welcome houseguest, and Thomas is appalled at the change in his old college friend.
Also I discovered that Leonard has been working two jobs for a long time now. Days at the carwash, and nights at the Sno-Kreme cookie factory. I see his hands in translucent blue food handler gloves, I see him grabbing six cookies in each, see him swiftly and yet gently packing them into their plastic cartons. The conveyor belt goes on and on, cookies and cookies and cookies. Leonard must hate Sno-Kremes now, even though he told Marilyn when he got that job that it was sort fulfilling an old childhood fantasy of his, to work in the place where his favorite cookies were produced. I know he’s used to line work, but this isn’t the Buick plant, he’s not making good money, he’s not young anymore, and this has to be hard on his hands, which ache some from arthritis anyway. I see Marilyn watch him sleep in his easy chair, see her slowly coming to a decision: this cannot go on. No matter how much she loves their house and likes her job at Meijer’s pretty well and just got promoted to shift manager and got a little raise, this cannot go on.
And that’s all I have to say about any of that. It’s not meant to make much sense to anyone but me, but it is a window into how my writing brain works. Some of it is methodical: getting Mona to Calumet in that van and getting her plunked down on Ida’s couch, drinking an off-brand soda she nabbed out of Ida’s pantry. Having Lucy walk in, having them meet. This is a job of work, and it can sometimes take many writing sessions to achieve it. The information about Leornard and Marilyn comes differently, appears like pictures flashing on a screen. I see Leonard’s hands packing cookies, which I did not set out to think of. I see him sacked out, exhausted in that ugly plaid easy chair, and see the way Marilyn studies him, full of love and regret for the way things are going, and determination. The rest is up to me to fill in.
People pretty often ask me where characters, events, and ideas come from, and that’s the best I can do to answer. I don’t examine it too much. Examining it seems like it might break the magic machine.