They’re Only Words: NaNoWriMo Eve

Happy HalloNaNoWriMoween

At 12:00 midnight, November 01, 2010, I shall begin to write my bad NaNoWriMo novel. Notice how, in the spirit of the spirit of the thing, I use the word “shall” rather than “will.” I shall complete my 50,000 word execrable monster of a book by 12:00 midnight, November 30, 2010. During that time I might find it necessary to write nothing else of literary worth, not even here on the ever-famous Spilled Beans site. I have owned the Spilled Beans domain name for many years now, and only death shall steal that name from my grip.

“Why?” you ask. “Why no stories here that might be worth the effort to read them?”

“Well, I might post brief excerpts of my novel here, all according to the philosophy delivered to me by the Great God NaNoWriMo: After all, they’re only words. One word follows the one before.”

So onward. Today’s reflection is not an excerpt, because I obey the Great God’s invocation not to begin my bad novel until the hour set in stone tablets at the mountaintop once scaled by the intrepid apostle Chris Baty.

Wallace Tarlow shot Mr. Chadwick Bakey of Jasper, Indiana on a late November afternoon in 1958 after the two men argued about the price of a pane of pebbled glass. Tarlow used what he thought was a snub-nosed thirty-eight caliber revolver to do the deed. But then Wallace Tarlow knew nothing more of guns than that which he read in detective novels of the 1930s and 1940s.

Mr. Bakey stared wide-eyed at the sight of black-and-white blood spurting from his suited chest, and then he fell to the dusty wooden floor of his office, shivered and died. Tarlow shook his head back and forth because the sound of the gun firing deafened him and left him with a headache.

Harvest Lane was, at the time of this gruesome crime, a quiet street, a sharp turn off West 47th Street and not a long walk from the post office on North Portersville Drive. Tarlow looked right and left as he departed Bakey’s Antique Shoppe, the pane of pebbled glass awkwardly poised under his arm. He expected that the gunshot’s shock would draw the ever-curious crowd of cliched onlookers, but in 1958 there were no crowds to be had anywhere in Jasper, Indiana.

He opened the door of the 1946 Ford he’d bought to suit the plan for mystery and romance he had in mind, wrapped the thing in a chenille bedspread, tilted it at an angle between the car’s back and front seats so as to secure it against breakage, and sped off for home in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Ohio Avenue — pronounced Ohiuh Abna by the locals, close to railroad tracks that saw little use except in summertime, when a flood of blue-collar tourists descended on the boardwalk city. Number 2472. A vacant office that once was home to a tired accountant named Tiny Battaglia. Tarlow eased the Ford onto the gravel driveway, slipped his treasure from the car with great care and carried it inside.

He looked around the premises and saw that all was good. Except, that is, for the rectangular space inside the inner door, the one that required a pane of pebbled glass.

“It has to be pebbled glass, cut close to the following dimensions,” said Wallace Tarlow to countless real estate agents, estate sale managers and antique collectors for almost a year prior to this day.

“I have one that approximate size in milk glass.”

“How about a translucent window designed for a bathroom?”

“What the hell is pebbled glass, and why do you have to have that kind?”

“It must be pebbled glass, or she won’t come,” said Tarlow. “I can apply the black, flaked paint later on.”

It had been a long and trying year for Mr. Wallace Tarlow, but persistence paid off in the end.

Rather than attempt to cut the glass and thus risk cracking, Tarlow lined the surrounding wood with pencil and sawed. He slid the pane into the door and applied the putty in long, smooth beads. He outlined the letters to spell “Wallace Tarlow, Private Investigator,” and filled them in with quick-drying black paint. With his fingernail, he created flaking.

Next, he entered the inner office where he expected soon to meet her, sat down in the wooden swivel chair, snatched a swatter from his desktop and pretended to slap a green-head fly. He stared at the fly’s remains, picked it up from the floor by its one remaining wing and tossed the mess into the metal wastebasket.

He imagined that the telephone rang, and so he picked up the receiver.

“Mr. Tarlow?” she whispered.

“Yeah, who wants him?”

“Well! How rude of you to ask! I don’t think I want to hire you, not if you’re going to be fresh!”

“Look, you called me, sister, so you must need help. Where are you? Are you, by chance, standing in the telephone booth across the street?”

“Gosh, you are a detective then. How else would you know that I’m almost close enough to touch me?”

“Hey, babe, trouble is my business, but I know where you are because I already read the book several times. That’s your cue, by the way, so get your cute hiney over here so I can flirt with you while you tell me all your problems.”

“Well! I don’t think I want to hire –“

“You’re repeating yourself, sweetheart. I’ll leave the door unlocked, but obey the script and knock anyway.”

She had the face of a mid-western angel. No makeup, hair arranged in a librarian’s bun that begged to be undone, and a twenty-four-inch waist just big enough to handle the grip of a five-foot-six-inch short private detective.

“Sit down,” said Tarlow.

She sat on maybe two inches’ worth of the chair’s edge and wiggled her butt.

“So, you come from Jasper, Indiana. Your brother Carl’s gone missing. Your father was a paralyzed preacher who was brow-beaten by your overbearing and sexually frustrated mother, and you want me to find Carl before we go to bed together.”

“Well, you are a detective then.” she said.

“You have a have a habit of repeating your lines, but I’ll forgive you because you’re cute and delicious, and because this novel won’t go anywhere if we don’t soon get to the point.”

“Is this the part where I ask you how much you charge?”

“Yeah, babe, and I tell you forty dollars a day, which is up from the twenty-five dollars a day of preceding novels, and then you pinch open your change purse and smooth your one, wrinkled twenty-dollar bill out onto my desktop, and –“

“And then you slip the money into an envelope that you in turn slip into your desk’s top drawer, and then you ask me a lot of leading questions about my brother Carl.”

“You forgot the part about your eyeglasses.”

“Go on.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’d look good in a pair of those cheaters that tilt toward points and make a girl look downright Oriental?”

“I think Asian is the acceptable term nowadays, Mr. Tarlow.”

“Asian, what will they come up with next? Anyway, nowadays, according to my script that is, is 1948. Post-WWII. Black-and-white film noir at the height of its popularity. You get the idea. So we’ll stick with Oriental. Tell me about Carl.”

“Carl’s a good boy, Mr. Tarlow, but he has a temper.”

“That’s good. His temper bodes well for the conflict and mayhem to come. I think we’ve got our readers hooked by now. You see, I began with a murder, not just first-page stuff, but the very first line.”

“Like I said, Carl’s good, but he ran away from our boring neighborhood in Jasper, Indiana. He ran even faster still from the overbearing mother you mentioned a few lines ago, and I can’t find him without your help.” she said.

“Oh yeah, what’s your name. I was supposed to ask you that a few paragraphs ago.”

“LunaMae Chest.”

“No. I guess LunaMae’s just quirky enough. But the Chest part is too damned obvious. I mean, I like the way you’re stacked, but both of us can be more subtle in the way we show, not tell. We’ll call you LunaMae Lanthrop. Now how about you breathe heavy because you’re nervous, and I watch your breasts pumping up and down?”

“Well, I’m not sure I want to hire you, not if you’re going to be so rude.”

“But you will go to bed with me if this novel hits the best-seller list, right?”

“For forty bucks a day?’

“Plus expenses.”

“What kind of girl do you think I am, Mr. Tarlow?”

“Whatever kind I tell you to be, because you have to get this much clear from the get go. I’m the author of this novel. You’re just a bit player from Jasper, Indiana.”

“And I’m still a virgin!”

“Well, okay, we’ll let the reader believe that. It’s probably good for sake of carnal titillation. But let’s not the two of us go overboard while we rehearse.”

“You’ll call me tomorrow with results?”

“My phone call will begin Chapter 2. But right now I want you to leave me, a shy but sly grin on your pretty face, so I can tie up Chapter 1 by pulling a pint bottle of cheap liquor from my desk drawer, swigging a slug straight up and back, wincing man-like, and contemplating the criminal underbelly aspect of Atlantic City, New Jersey.”

Well, readers, that makes 1667 words’ worth of story. That’s one day’s NaNoWriMo requirement. So you’ll have to wait for the rest.

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