notquiteold

Nancy Roman

That Final Push

I’m making a commitment!  I’m going to finish that final third of the third (and final) draft of my novel. I’m giving myself one month to get it done.  So I’ll probably be posting a little less often here, as I try to write something there.

I thought I would share with you  the beginning of my novel – I’m hoping you’ll think it’s worth my time and yours.

******

Back in my twenties, I was married for a while.

I remember one day.  We’re having a cook-out in our backyard.  My husband is standing at the barbecue with a long fork, and he’s laughing.  I see him in an apron, but that must be my imagination.  Two other couples are over.  The men are standing in the charcoal smoke, and the women are lounging in those long webbed chairs that you can buy everywhere, even the drugstore.  We are all drinking pina coladas, which is the only thing I have learned to make in the blender that Aunt Lorraine gave us as a wedding gift.

I remember that one day.  It was the only day I thought it was nice to be married.

When we finally decided to divorce, the discussion went something like this:

What’s-His-Name:  “Marsha in Payroll has much better boobs than you.  I think I am going to live with her instead.”

Me:  “Okay.”

The actual conversation was a little longer than that.  It lasted three years.  But it was basically the same conversation for the whole three years, except that I didn’t say my line until the last day.

I found I didn’t miss him at all.  And I was glad that I had been married, for two reasons.  First, because I get to use the phrase “my ex” in a sentence once in a while, which makes me sound like I am full of life experiences.

More importantly, I kept the house.  I paid him for his half, or rather, his equity, which was about three tenths of one percent.  I like my house.  It’s small but with lots of windows and even a sunroom in the back.  It’s very cheerful, especially without him.

Once my ex was gone, I didn’t have much money, but over the course of the next several years, I replaced every stick of furniture we had bought.  So everything is mine, and there are no sweaty marks anymore.  I never saw a man sweat like he did.  It’s funny that I never noticed that when we were dating.  But after we married, it was uncomfortably clear that every place he sat was always damp.  He’d get up from a chair and the upholstery or the wood or the leather or heaven help me, the vinyl, would be wet from his sweaty butt.  I began to avoid the places he liked to sit.  I replaced throw pillows on a monthly basis.  When I went to my sisters’ houses, I would wait for either of their husbands to get up, and then I would jump into the empty seat like I was playing musical chairs.  I wanted to see if all men were as sweaty, but no.  It was just mine.  I replaced our mattress the day he moved out.  I paid extra for same-day delivery. The things he didn’t touch much were a lower priority, but eventually, even the lamps and the draperies went.  I repainted too, as he often leaned against the walls.

I lost touch with my ex-husband very quickly, but I heard from Carol at the supermarket that he and Marsha didn’t last long.  I think he was on a holy quest for stupendous knockers.  If I ever needed to get in touch with him, say if I needed an alibi for back in the 80s, like for the Wells Fargo robbery or something, I think I would look in Las Vegas.

Considering how broke I was when we divorced, I now I have quite a bit of money, even though I wasn’t in cahoots on the armored car robbery.

I’m no miser.  In fact, my sister Mary Ann says that I spend money like a drunken sailor.  She means that I pay too much for a haircut.  Mary Ann gives me one of her disapproving snorts when she sees me right after a salon visit.

“I look as good as you; in fact, I look just like you,” she says, “and I go to Cut’N’Go.  Eight bucks and out the door—and no tipping.”

Mary Ann doesn’t look just like me.  She looks like my mother, who went to Cut’N’Go for about forty years.  I think that a really good hairdresser would not be working at Cut’N’Go, but would work in the classiest salon in a very rich town, where one makes good money plus big tips. So I drive to West Hartford and empty my wallet.

And good shoes too.  I’m not talking designer shoes that cost more than your  mortgage payment.  But I won’t look like Payless.  I have nice clothes, an account at the dry cleaner where they know me by name, a BMW, and real china and silver.

So it’s as surprising to me as it is to Mary Ann that I have found myself at fifty with a huge nest egg.

Not having children probably accounts for a good deal of my accumulated wealth.  I had no sneakers or braces or video games or college tuitions.  Then of course there’s my job.

Just like that guy—who someday I’ll look up—said, it’s amazing how successful you can be by just showing up.  I wasn’t rushing off to PTA meetings or basketball games or school plays, or worrying about whether little Tiffany was letting the neighbor’s boy look up her dress.  I didn’t have doctors’ appointments every week or someone down with a cold or giving me one.

So I was at work every day.  I met every deadline, and I had time in the evening to straighten up my office and make sure I was prepared for the next day.  That’s all it takes.  Most people’s lives are such a mess, and their attention so scattered that just being reliable is enough to make you shine at the office.

I turned fifty the first Friday in April.  The night before, right after work, I went to my hairdresser’s.

“Instead of just getting rid of the gray, let’s do something fun,” I told her.

“I can cut it so that it brings out your curl just a little more.  A little wild.”

“Wild.  Yes, yes, yes.  And how about some highlighting?  For drama, you know.  Not subtle.”

“Really?” she asked.

Oh, really.  I left that place looking ten years younger and full of drama, and not subtle.

I stopped at Monty’s, about three doors down from the salon.  This is where I have always bought my clothes.  They’re nice; well-made; classic.  I walked in and looked around.  The spring season was strong for pinstripes and sweater sets.  Every season at Monty’s is strong for pinstripes and sweaters sets. I walked out.

Next door is a store called, simply, ‘Lovely’.  I’ve stopped there once in a while. The clothes there are mostly imported from India and Mexico.  They are gossamer, beaded, feminine.  I had never tried anything on in that store.  But I’ve let the delicate material run through my fingers.

“Hi,” said the salesgirl, “I’m Miranda”.  She was about twenty.  With her emerald green dress Miranda was wearing four necklaces, seven bracelets, earrings like chandeliers, and a little red jewel glued to the middle of her forehead.  She wore sandals, and given the cool weather, socks decorated with purple cats.

“You look great,” I said.  “I want to look like the fifty-year-old version of you.  You know, not trying to look like a teenager, but looking sort of like an artist.”

“Right this way,” she said.  “Have you come to the right place!  I know exactly what you need.”

And she dressed me in a tiered skirt in gauzy Indian cotton, made from three shades of royal blue, the deepest at the bottom.  There were little mirrors and wooden beads embroidered into the hem.  She added an aqua tee shirt.

“That’s all you need in the summer,” she said, “with a turquoise necklace.  For now, you need to add a sweater.”  And she brought me a plum crocheted sweater, with silver buttons shaped like tiny animal crackers—a lion, a giraffe, an elephant.

“Adds a little whimsy,” she said, as if the ruffled skirt with mirrors was a bit too staid.

Miranda disappeared again, and a moment later returned with her triumph.  “Here’s the necklace I had in mind.”  And she fastened it around my neck. It was a triple strand of turquoise and silver, randomly-shaped beads born to dance together.

She sold me a couple of wooden bangles and a big silver watch.  She threw in some tiny turquoise earrings “on the house”, but of course I had already spent more than a week’s take-home.

“Shoes,” she said.  “Look, no offense, but you said you didn’t want to look like a teenager, so although you can wear sandals pretty soon, right now you just can’t add socks like me.  Go next door to Griswold’s.  They’ve got brown leather boots in the window… lace-up.   Go right now, in this outfit, and come back and show me.

“Wow,” she said when I returned wearing the entire ensemble, boots included.  “You’re pretty tall, and now you look leggy too.  You can really carry this off.  You look like an artist.”

“Or a dancer.”

“Or a poet,” Miranda laughed.  “What are you, really?”

“An accountant,” I said.

“Not any more.”

And she was right.

 *******

61 Comments

  1. Oh, Nancy! I love this! I love how much of you there is in this character.

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    • Thanks. I’ll admit there’s a lot of me there. They way to write what you know… I know “older trying to be younger.”

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      • I think the books that are most successful are the ones where the protagonist carries more than a little of the author. My books are that way, too. I can’t lie. Writing someone who isn’t at least a little like me feels like a lie.

        What I was referring to was not “older trying to be younger,” but the fashion. You care about it, and you made me care about it. That’s saying something since most of my shoes come from a thrift store.

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  2. Go for it! Do you have a writing group to encourage you?

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    • I’ve been working with a writing coach. He’s been terrific. And patient.

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      • Great. It’s always good to have someone waiting to read your stuff. It’s the only way I write. O need those deadlines…

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  3. You have left me wanting more! I’ll miss your regular posts, but I’m looking forward to reading your novel!

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    • Oh, I figure I will still post once a week or so. I love it too much to stop entirely. Thanks for being there!

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  4. Good luck. When you’re done would you please finish my memoir?

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    • Sure, how would you like it to end?

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      • With me still alive, please.

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        • I will make sure you are alive and very very rich.

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          • Perfect. I will split it 50-50.

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  5. This is a grabbing read. Come on. Let’s say it like it is. I raced though the lines like you do because you want to know what’s next. The accountant reminder made me smile. No doubt about it. Go.Sit. Write. 🙂

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  6. Wow! I just wanted to continue to read… hurry up and finish your book, so I can buy it! Thanks for the appetizer… can’t wait for the main course.

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    • Thanks – I’m at a point where some encouragement helps so much!

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  7. Love it! I kept picturing the character as Angela Lansbury in Murder she wrote, One of my icons ! Keep writing please!

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    • The picture in my head as I wrote this character was Geena Davis. Not too young but pretty and quirky.

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  8. Can’t wait to find out what happens next 🙂

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    • Thanks. The encouragement makes me feel great. When you write a blog you get immediate feedback. When you write a novel, you are really in the dark.

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  9. Keep going it’s great. I can relate to the main character. I too was an accountant. Still am a part time one but when people now ask me what I do I say I’m a writer. So are you and a lot of me is in all my characters

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    • Thanks Sheila. It means a lot that someone thinks I am a writer.

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  10. Love, love, love this!!! Can’t wait for more!

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    • Thanks Dianna. IYour encouragement means a lot to me. Maybe I should post a bit more… sort of an installment-based novel…

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      • That sounds great! I’ll be waiting for the next installment!

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  11. I love this! If there was more I would continue reading. Please finish so I can find out what happens?

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    • Thanks. I am sort of finished with the story. I need to improve the writing on the final third. I’m almost there.

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  12. I will buy this book. Do whatever you must to finish it. Soon. Seriously.

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    • Thanks! If only I could get a publisher to feel the same way!

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  13. what seabluelee said; my own novel is about the serious side of marital travails but yours seems so much better

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    • Thanks. I have a serious subject, but not exactly a serious treatment of the subject.

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  14. I like it! I couldn’t stop reading 🙂

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    • Thanks! I’m hoping someone will feel that way at the end too.

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  15. I love the foreshadowing of what’s to come, a strong woman character handling adversity and moving ahead with aplomb and a credit card. Keep the chapters coming!
    Toni

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  16. Very good read! Can’t wait to buy it! (It’s always good when people are willing to plunk down money) I think you should tease us a little every now and then.

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    • Thanks Kate. I’ve had a couple of other readers tell me they’d like to read a little more, so maybe I will. Very few people have read it yet, so I have had very little feedback. That’s why blogging is great instant gratification – you KNOW if it is working.

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      • Oh it’s working. Your writing is simple and honest and funny. I can relate to what you write even if it’s not my experience. Did you ever do one of those “I Write Like” on-line games? “They say” I write like a science fiction writer. You are closer to Nora Ephron.

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  17. Oh, it’s wonderful! Do keep writing! I’m in the revision stage of my memoir so I’m going to be writing less on my blog too – although I ,unlike you, did not give my readers a heads up (I was thinking that maybe I could do both). Enjoy the journey!

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    • My motive was actually to commit to my novel IN WRITING. So I’d feel obligated to finish.

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      • Well, whatever you do with it, it’s a good story and getting it out is good for you.

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  18. You pulled me right in! Sorry there wasn’t more. Hurry and finish. Need to know what comes next!

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    • Thanks! I’m committed to finishing the third draft in one month. Hold me to it!

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  19. I think I will enjoy reading this one. Hurry up and finish.

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  20. O.K. – I’m into it… really into it! So keep us posted when it goes to press. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this preview.

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    • It would be the highlight of my life to see it in print!

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  21. Hello again. In fact this chapter would work great as a short story in a magazine. Let´s say a woman magazine, anything Oprah would print for instance (Talk about empowered woman! :))… Maybe you should investigate that to get attention from à publishing house. Keep “doing your thing”! Love It!

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    • Thanks. It’s strange to me, but almost all women’s magazines have stopped publishing fiction. But I’d love to eventually get a little column for my blog.

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  22. It’s a great start. Lots of good lines in it. Whatever you do, keep writing. 🙂

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    • Thanks! although I was an English major, who wrote constantly in high school and college, once I started working, I gave it up and got my MBA. Then when I turned 50, I began to think about how much I had loved writing, and I began again. I will never stop now. I love it too much.

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      • Your story is similar to mine. I too was an English major and wrote a lot for some time. Working on short stories, poetry and novels that really didn’t go anywhere. I became interested in crime fiction and went back to school to study criminology (to give me some credibility). I graduated with a M.Sc in criminology then taught it for 18 years.
        Now, I’m back again to writing. Like I came full circle.
        Good luck with your writing and thank you for commenting. 🙂

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  23. Loved this and would like to read more. Only wish I hadn’t been eating at the start of it… x

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    • Thanks. Once I am satisfied with this draft – I may post a couple of chapters on another page – to better gauge the reaction. It’s so hard to write in a vacuum.

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  24. Really good! I’m so impressed you have the discipline to write a book. Now get back to work!

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    • It’s really close. I’m on the third draft, and I now like it very much.

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  25. Diane

    I love it, finish soon!!

    Like

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