Feeling brave today? Here’s a raw, unedited excerpt from my in-progress NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel, A Runaway Life. Remember, it’s a “Really Shitty First Draft,” so don’t get your red pencils out (mine is twitching like a divining rod, but I’m not allowed to use it till December 1st)! Comments on the concept welcome!
Background: Year: 1970. Dina, a brilliant but depressed 16-year-old, has run away from her East Coast home and ended up in California, where she thought she would find Nirvana. Instead, she finds herself caught in a downward spiral of homelessness, hunger, and dependance on others for survival. As of this writing she is living in a detached garage in a down-at-heels working class neighborhood in Santa Maria. Her new friend Monica lives in the house with her mother; her father has recently left the family. Here goes!
While she was musing over ancient Chinese poetry, she became aware of light footsteps approaching the garage door.
“Hi, Dina, are you there? May I come in?” It was Monica! Dina ran to the door and wrenched it open.
“Oh, wow, hi! Come on in,” bubbled Dina. She had rarely been so glad to see anybody.
“Sure, well, do you want to come into the house? My mom won’t be home for a couple of hours yet. We can get something to eat and watch TV or something.”
Dina walked out into the sunshine, blinking. She had no idea how long she had kept herself locked up in the garage, but she remembered that it had been cloudy then. She was glad to see the sun, and had some misgivings about going into the house, but the idea of company and food prevailed.
They trooped into the dark kitchen and Monica turned on the light, revealing a white linoleum floor flecked with silver and a 1950’s vintage dinette set that obviously was not purchased as an antique, judging by the corroding chrome and chipped table top, and the split vinyl seat backs revealing their tired grey stuffing.
Dina’s heart sank when Monica got the pretzels out, thinking she was going to stop with that; but her spirits soon rose when she saw the Skippy Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Fluff and store-brand white bread come out. She had always turned her nose up at “Fluffernutters,” as the sticky sweet peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches were called; but now, so many things were changing; and food was food. So she thickly buttered a slice of bread with peanut butter, spread the sticky marshmallow “fluff,” which more correctly had the consistency of hide glue, on another, and slapped them together. Biting into this confection was an experience in slipperiness and stickiness, sweetness and saltiness, held together with the gluey sponginess of the white bread.
It was one of two or three times in Dina’s life that she had eaten white bread. At home, they always made their own, partially for economy’s sake, and partially out of mere snobbishness.
Eaten with pretzels, the fluffernutters were quite satisfying. The pretzels added crunch and more saltiness, which Dina appreciated, since she really wasn’t much on sweets, especially not in sandwiches. So alternating a salty pretzel every other bite worked out well.
“So Dina,” began Monica, after they had munched for a while in silence, “how did you end up out here? How did you get out of school early? How did you get your parents to agree?”
Those were already more questions than Dina was prepared to answer, or wanted to answer for that matter. But she made a beginning, and Monica was an eager listener. She seemed hungry for friendship, and Dina perceived in her a deep sadness that in some ways mirrored her own. Monica would seem to drift into some far away place, then with an effort she would be back in the conversation. Somehow, Dina felt, Monica’s cheerfulness seemed forced.
Monica changed the subject abruptly.
“You ballin’ yet?”
“Huh?” returned Dina, surprised.
“You know, ballin’. Gettin’ it on.” She looked at Dina suggestively, raising one eyebrow, leaning into the couch on one elbow. “Bobby and I been ballin’ already for about a year.”
Dina took all of this in and said nothing. Hmm, “ballin’,” she thought. I guess that’s what Tracy and I did last night, huh?
Before they had time to delve further into the subject, the front door flew open and there was Monica’s mother. She breezed into the room.
“Hello, girls, what are you up to? Did you have a good day?” And she swept into the hallway leaving a trail of perfume and cigarette smoke in her wake, without waiting for an answer,
“Whew,” whispered Monica, “glad she’s in a good mood. You never can tell these days—“ CRASH! The bedroom door slammed shut with such force that a mirror in the hallway fell off the wall and smashed on the floor.
“Quick!” squeaked Monica, grabbing Dina by the wrist, “out the back door! She’s on a rampage!” And they scrambled out of the house in a panic.
“What was that all about?” panted Dina once they were safely outside.
“Who knows? Ever since Dad left, every minute is a crapshoot,” Monica mumbled. “I never know from one minute to the next what’s going down. It’s like living in a shooting range, and I’m the moving target.”