Susan's Blog

Friday, April 28, 2006

Novel Novel Scenes

More novel excerpts. I have changed the main character’s name from Nat to Emmy because it was confusing to people, given that my son’s name is Nat. I also changed the estranged husband’s name from Todd to Eric, for reasons I cannot disclose except here’s a hint: I have a thing for Eric Clapton.

As she opened the waiting room door Emmy thought, see this is why you don’t get involved with your kids’ specialists. You don’t shit where you eat.

Jim was standing behind the desk, sorting mail. He looked up at her. “Hey,” he said, friendly enough. Well, thank goodness he could be a professional.

“Hi. Go ahead, Nick, take off your sweatshirt.”
“Yes,” said Nick.
“Seems happy,” Jim remarked.

“Yeah, sure. I think he likes coming here,” Emmy said, taking a seat. She glanced at the magazines but they were all the same as last time. She really should have brought a book.
“You don’t.”

Emmy just looked at him. She had tried to block their date from her mind. Her experience with Eric had left her feeling mixed up about where she stood with Jim, and whether she should even be considering dating him at all. “I’m fine.”
“I don’t think so,” Jim persisted. “Nick, go in and play with the play-doh for five minutes while I talk to your mom.”
“Play-doh, yes.” Nick ran into the room.
“I hope he doesn’t eat it,” said Emmy. Nick had always loved the salty flavor of Play-doh.
“It’s non-toxic anyway. What kid doesn’t eat Play-doh?” He came over and sat right next to her again. Just smelling his soap smell made Emmy want to bury her head in his shoulder. How could she like him so much physically, when they hardly got along? “You seem so forlorn. What is it?”
“Jim, it’s hardly the time for a heart-to-heart.”

He gave a self-conscious cough, slapped his knees and stood up. “Suit yourself.” He walked away. Then, “Nick! Whoa, looks like you like orange, huh Buddy?”

Jim brought down the Beginning Drawing book that was something he had brought to the office on a whim, as something to fill the vast bookcase that took up one wall. He had found all but the very first lessons to be elusive to him; his skill was definitely in the oral and verbal rather than the tactile or artistic realms.

But something about the way that Nick had opened every can of orange Play-doh and pressed his fingernails into the flattened mushy discs, the same pattern every time, gave Jim an idea.

“Nick. No Legos today. Today, art.”
Nick did not respond, but kept indenting the Play-doh with his thumb and then index fingernails.
Jim leaned over and put his hand on Nick’s, to stop him so that he would attend to him. “Nick.”
Nick looked up and then away. “Yes. Art. Okay.”
“Good, you heard me. I think you like art.”
“You like art.”
Ah-hah, thought Jim. An immediate response, though echolalic, indicated some passion. “So we can work the Play-doh for a while and then maybe take a look at the is drawing book and get out the paints.”
Nick snapped his head up from the Play-doh. “Paints, yes. Yes.”
“You like paint?”
“You like paint.”
“Then let’s paint.”

Jim brought out large white paper, brushes, and paints. He opened the Beginning Drawing book, and pointed out the steps of forming basic bodies with the most basic shapes. He would point to a shape and ask Nick to tell him what shape it was, and then have Nick first draw it with a pencil, and then he got to draw it with the brush in the color of his choice. Nick had no problem doing everything Jim requested, and had a remarkably steady grasp of the pencil and the brush, far better than his shaky handwriting indicated.

By the end of the session, Nick had drawn and painted a house, a snowman, a cat, and a clown, using basic shapes and naming them all clearly. His lines were crisp and true and he always chose his colors in the same pattern: orange, red, green; orange, red, green.

“Let’s hang them here to dry, Nick. It’s just about time to go home.”
Nick jumped up from his chair. “Yes. Go home.”

Outside in the waiting room, Jim walked over to Emmy. “A fantastic session today,” he said. “Does he paint much at home?”
“You know, only just now, because we tried it when he was little, you know, when they’re like three or four and you get them finger paints – “
“A lot of neurologically atypical kids are squeamish about messy wet stuff like finger paints.”
Emmy nodded. “That’s what I discovered. I tried brushes with him, too, but he just looked right through them. After a while, I gave up, you know?”
“A hazard of the disability. Sometimes these kids aren’t into things developmentally until years passed the time.”
“Yeah. But I found out the other day kind of by accident that at school he had been thrilled with painting, particularly orange paint. So I bought him some, right away, and he’s been painting in his room every day after school.”
“Really? Independently?”
Emmy nodded, smiling. Pride shone from her eyes. “It’s the first thing he has ever liked that I can understand. You know, not much I can do with wiggling string or squeezing air with my hand.”
“I know what you mean. This is fantastic. We can really do a lot with this.”
“That’s great to hear.” Emmy smiled warmly at him, and with that, all the bad feeling from the other night dissipated.

Henry knew that he had a few more minutes until Mom came back with Nick from therapy. Little Thing 2 was watching Dinotopia, a really bizarre long movie, so he’s be okay and would leave Henry alone for a while. He deserved a little break. He had worked all day in school, aced his math test, did okay in French, and even got out of breath in gym. Then, onto Taylor’s office, to Xerox like a million things and staple them. Then, home to watch the brat. Yeah, now it was his time. He dug out a joint and lit up, with his window cracked a little bit.
He coughed and felt the slow heaviness settle on his brain, stroking his thoughts until they each stood separately like a shining beautiful thing. He thought about Sylvie, now in the privacy of his room, and how she had stood up in front of the class today presenting her report on a figure in 20th century American history. Sylvie had picked Amelia Earhardt. Not that original, but he knew that Sylvie had wanted to choose a woman; who could blame her? She had looked luminous; he had just learned that Wordmaster word. Usually he hated spelling but luminous reminded him of pearls, flower petals, ice on a lake in the cold sunshine. Sylvie.

He closed his eyes, seeing Sylvie, and dragged on the joint a bit more, until his thoughts were too muddy to look at anything clearly. He could hear the noise from the movie coming up through the floor and he could practically see the dinosaurs marching in front of him.
Suddenly, his head started hurting like a hammer had come down on his skull. He stood up, clutching his forehead. As soon as his feet hit the floor, his lunch traveled upwards, seizing him by the throat. Covering his mouth, but knowing it was futile, he tried to run to the bathroom. But he could not move his feet quickly enough. It was like they were blocks of cement. Panicking, he reached for the desk chair to pull himself along, but the chair flipped over and he fell on his back. The vomit started coming up, out of his mouth, all over his shirt and the floor. He could smell the acrid aroma
and this made more vomit heave upwards. He closed his eyes to all the pain and disgusting odor around him.

The joint fell from between his fingers, next to his bedspread which dragged on the floor. The end of the joint glowed, a tiny dot of orange, turning the hem of the bedspread gray, then black as its heat spread across the white cotton.



— added by Kristen on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 4:30 am

Susan – I finished your book last night. It was the fastest I’ve read a book in a long time. Your family sounds wonderful.

I feel responsible for the name change (Nat to Emma)! I think I was the only easily confused reader out here though. 🙂

— added by Wendy on Monday, May 1, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Wendy –
Don’t sweat it! It’s a good change. Thanks for reading/enjoying.

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, May 1, 2006 at 8:07 pm

Vomit. Fire. Drugs. It sounds like my day.

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm

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