the wrong alley
Sometimes, you need to go down the wrong alley to figure out where the right alley even is.
I’m working on a story that’s currently titled “The Five Foot Summer,” which is the orca selkie story. The first draft ran long–nearly 9000 words–and I decided to try to cut it down to about 7200. I have a particular market in mind for this one, and that’s their hard limit. I read over the story, and decided that I would just remove a secondary theme wholesale. That would cut down on the wordcount, and the story didn’t need that secondary theme.
I chopped out all of the references to the theme, yanked out a couple of scenes that weren’t pulling their weight any more, and…the story fell apart. Completely. Just lay in a quivering mass on the screen, making quiet burbling sounds. It was still vaguely story-shaped, but it no longer had legs to stand on.
So I’m rewriting it from scratch. Now that I know what happens in the story, and what the story is about (severed feet and getting to know your mother as an adult), I think I can do it better. It kind of hurts to completely toss out over seven thousand perfectly serviceable words, but perfectly serviceable isn’t really enough for me.
An excerpt from the story, from the bits I’m throwing out:
Mom turned to me. “I need your phone, Daria. We need to leave it behind. Your father can use it to trace us.”
I stared at her for a moment. “But–“
“I’m not leaving you with him. Once we get where we’re going, I’ll explain everything. But for right now, please. Trust me.”
I hesitated. Dad had never hit me before. Maybe with Mom gone–
That’s bullshit and you know it.
Dad was Dad. With Mom gone, there would be only one target left.
“Give me a second,” I said.
“Five minutes,” she said, and opened the door of our old car. She pulled out her phone–her old phone in its coppery case, not the new one– and reached over to open the glovebox.
I retreated towards the blank wall of the clinic, trying to think through the fog. I’d had plans for if this day ever came–didn’t everyone?–but I was having trouble thinking of them. There was something–
I thumbed through my phone and opened up the camera, then set it to video. I lifted it in front of my face, being sure that there was nothing but wall behind me. I took a breath and hit Record.
“You guys. Shit has gone down. My dad broke my arm and gave me a black eye. Mom and I are leaving. Dad might try to tell the police she kidnapped me. I am leaving with her of my own free will because I’m scared that Dad’s going to hurt me again.” My voice caught and twisted. “Dad has guns. I’ll try to be in touch when I can. Feel free to show this to the police.”
I stopped recording and saved the video, then attached it to a text to Sophia and Emma that read only I LOVE YOU PLS WATCH THIS, along with a string of random emoji–our code for “something bad is happening”. Then I turned off my phone and headed back to Mom.
I left my phone with hers, in the glovebox. Mom tossed the keys onto the driver’s seat, locked the doors, and slammed it shut.
We got into the car that Adelita had brought us and started west.