(It’s a song now.)
He comes, the old man by John R. Erickson.
Read it somewhere folks won’t see your eyes tearing up.
My mom had two cakes she introduced us to when I was a kid. She called them Mayonnaise Cake and Tomato Soup Cake.
Yeah, that’s how we reacted, too. Allow me to expand: the mayonnaise is used as a substitute for eggs and oil in a chocolate cake with coffee in the batter. A thick, dense, moist explosion of coffee-chocolate flavor. Frosting would be pointless. Vanilla ice cream works. We’d stir them together, unknowingly creating a cookies and cream experience 30 years before anyone was selling it.
My father was most precise in his speech. It was from him that I learned to look for the right word, the difference, for instance, between “loping” and “trotting” or “thinking” and “pondering” and such shades of meaning which give depth and clarity to our communication.
(That’s called “setup” so you’ll wonder, as I relate this, where it comes into play.)
After three variations I found myself stumped. The third feels right, but is it?
It’s easy to fly through storytelling, getting my readers to The End with the least fuss.
It’s better to make the critical scenes more than simply the conveyance of information. The deeper I dig into the core scenes, those that turn the story’s direction, the more memorable and emotionally fulfilling they are.
I’ve never done that, pushing myself to rewrite a scene multiple ways, looking for the best version. In the past, I’ve been satisfied to note the scene’s purpose, write a direct sequence of actions fulfilling that purpose, and let my editor tidy it up.
If he tidies brass, you get highly polished brass.
I want my books to be solid gold.
He didn’t reply. She tried again.
“My owner will pay whatever ransom you want.”
“How much am I worth to you?”
“Stop talking. If you were only a possession to barter with you would already have been sold.”
“Then what am I? Why are you taking me?” She suspected an answer but wondered if he would respond.
“Don’t I have a right to —”
He slapped the back of her head. “Stop talking. I won’t say it again.”
She turned. “I will not. If you intend to drag me through the forest you will hear me every step of the way.”
He had stopped a moment after her, one step too close. As he slid his machete from his belt she kicked him, hard, below that belt.
Before the machete dropped from his hands she was holding it.
“Do not follow me.”
He backed away. She stepped closer and flicked the machete in her two hands. The middle of his tunic split; just a small split, but the tip had touched him.
He continued backing away.
She turned and ran without a backward glance.
“Keep moving.” He shoved her.
Stifling rage, she smiled coyly. “I thought this might be a good place.”
As she stepped closer he raised his arms to either attack or defend depending on what she did next. “A good place for what?”
She softened the smile and tilted her head slightly. “Unless you don’t want to . . .”
That was the look she was expecting. All men everywhere were the same.
He lowered his arms.
She stepped closer and raised her bound hands. “Aren’t you going to untie me first?”
His face reddened and he put one hand on his machete. He leaned and stepped at the same time, his nose nearly touching hers.
As he opened his mouth to shout at her no sound came. Her hands were locked behind his neck, the thick rope pressing against the front and sides.
When he was unconscious she let him fall, took the machete, and fled back down the path. Time enough to free her hands when she was out of his earshot.
Every few minutes his pace changed; he slowed, to check behind or to rest or simply because it was how he marched.
She started counting.
The third time, it was almost exactly the same count.
The fourth time, she anticipated, quickened her pace, and was hidden among the trees before he could touch her.
One month ago at this moment our yard was silent and white. A foot of snow covered everything, including the lake. The pines had a light frosting of white and the darker bark of the elms and walnuts stood out from it all.
Nothing moved. No sound but a tractor in the distance.