I like to have a schedule to do almost everything – except when I write! I do need certain things to be in place when I write, such as special “mood” music, and a large beaker of sweet ice tea with lemon that I will sip on until a refill is needed. And I go into an almost hypnotic state where what and whom I am writing about are more real to me than being at the computer in my home. But for your sake, according to your feedback (“Now just what day do you post to your blog?”), I will be featuring poetry and short pieces of writing on Mondays and Fridays, and on Wednesdays I will be asking you to TRULY “watch me write” An Agreeable Man, my latest work-in-progress.
I have mentioned this book as being the one that I got so much help with from that third writers’ group. I will need help from you as well, so read with a critical eye and let me have your feedback.
First, though, a little background. I was moved to write this book several years ago after reading a particularly shocking news story which became the subject of several television news programs. I knew what I wanted to say about the subject matter and I could see the end as well as the beginning of the book. The characters just popped out to me, fully formed. I knew who they were, inside and out. So, as usual, I did my research on the key topics I would be dealing with and I sat down to write. After repeated attempts failed, (and I am never at a loss for words!) I sat back and said out loud: “What do you want me to write?” And I got directions, almost at the level of a whisper, but more like an understanding of the minds. I swear to you, I felt the presence of this woman behind my right shoulder who assumed the persona of Merlie, my main character. From this vantage point, she alternately scolded me (“I would never say THAT!”) and praised me, putting both her hands on my upper arms as she rejoiced that I had “finally got it right!” She was not scary, just THERE, and when I argued with her, things would happen to my computer or my phone would begin to ring incessantly or someone would email me – and I couldn’t progress until I wrote it HER way. So I guess this is a collaboration of a sort. It is certainly NOT the way I have begun my other 11 books!
My plan is to begin writing, using the three rough drafts that I have, and add in bits of information as I find them (remember those pieces of paper I write notes on?). There are a few plot lines I have not yet developed and you will see how I do that. I already know that this is a story based on fact that I have fictionalized because this is my writing modus operandi, my M.O. – it’s how I do it. In order to let the early writing introduce the emotional maturity – or lack thereof – of my main characters, this first writing will be very simplistic in nature, almost childish. As the plot thickens and more characters are introduced, the chapters will be longer than the Introductory Chapter 1.
So here we go!
Meet Merle Evans, wife of AN AGREEABLE MAN, Chapter 1.
On the way home from the funeral, Merle Evans stopped by the pet store and bought a dog. He was a Scottie puppy, no more than eight inches from his jet black nose to his tiny little tail. The pet store owner said he had papers, but that his long ears would make him unsuitable for show to prospective owners.
“Unsuitable for show – indeed!” thought Merle. She loved his long ears, and the way his hair parted down the middle of his back, and the way his beady little black eyes stared straight at her, as if awaiting orders.
The clerk packed up the dog bed and the puppy food and toys while Merle held the puppy. She handed the clerk a credit card (which Mr. Evans would not have approved of), shifting the sleeping ball of fur to her left arm while she signed the credit slip with her right hand.
As the clerk loaded the packages into her car, she wondered what she would tell the relatives and friends at home. She couldn’t tell them she had bought a dog; that seemed callous, even to her. The truth was, she had grown tired of sitting on the couch at the funeral home before the service while people filed by her, making remarks intended to be kind, but which came off as kind of banal. She didn’t relish the thought of sitting on her own couch at home and hearing the same kind of remarks, while trying to remember who made them. She was in no mood to think of Mr. Evans’ death right now. She would do that later, when she was in a better frame of mind.
She needed something to cheer her up, to make her happy, to take her mind off of Mr. Evans’ death. It was then that she thought of the puppy. Yesterday, she had passed the pet shop on her way to the funeral home to finalize arrangements and saw him in the window. He had cocked his head to one side and put his chin on his paws, sphinx-like, and looked calmly at her, as if he knew she would come back to get him. But she was just as surprised as anything to hear herself say, just as the funeral was over, “Why wait until tomorrow?”
The funeral had been grim. First of all, while she was used to going to church on Sundays, she had never attended a funeral in all her life. Jack went to those with his friends, Tom Watkins, Dan Newsome and Bob Roberts. Those four went everywhere together – hunting, fishing, golfing, ball games – and each supported the other when their various charities had events.
Jack was a banker, a founding member and one of the senior employees in the bank. Tom was in insurance – the one-stop-insurance agent, he liked to say. Dan was in alumni relations for the local college and traveled a lot. Bob was the president of a small company that had international ties to China. He traveled as well. But they were all here today to honor their friend Jack.
Bob had been chosen to represent the three friends and he was to speak to the assembled crowd that overflowed into the church’s outer rooms, where the attendees would watch the service on closed caption TV. It had taken 63 cars to bring them all to the church and the Highway Patrol was out in full force for the trip to the burial plot.
Merle had been seated at the front and felt the full force aura of the assembled crowd. It pulsated down from the back rows to the front pews and broke over her like crashing waves at a surfboarding event. It numbed her. If only she could close her eyes and sleep through it…
But no. Bob got up with a few papers in his hands and laid them on the pulpit.
“Hi. My name is Bob Roberts and…I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of my friend Jack Evans who died last Saturday. Suddenly.” At this point, the suave world traveler gulped for breath and tried to regain his composure.
“I’m sorry. I really don’t know where to begin to tell you what Jack meant to me as my best friend…” He trailed off again, looking down at his notes.
“This is hard. Honestly, I don’t know how to tell you how intertwined our lives were. Like, you know, that cartoon character – a rabbit, I think or maybe the Roadrunner – you know how his long ears wound around each other until it looked like one big tall rabbit ear..?” Now the tears started and his face screwed up in a grimace.
He grabbed his notes and said “I can’t do this! Tom, you and Dan will have to take over.”
And he sat down, face in his handkerchief, shoulders heaving.
Tom stood up and walked purposefully to the podium. He had no pages in his hand. He faced the packed worship hall. “Jack Evans was my best friend. And I’ll bet you will hear that over and over today. Because if Jack took you as a friend, you became like family. Jack had a lot of friends. And there was nothing that Jack wouldn’t do for any one of us. He was loyal to a fault. He was the type of man who would give to those less fortunate than he was without even thinking about it. He always counted his blessings, and encouraged us to look at what we had going for us instead of what we lacked. He changed me from a borderline depressed person into an optimistic person who now tries to find the positive in every person and every situation. Thank you, Jack.”
He walked back to his seat, grim-faced.
Dan got up and slowly walked to the podium. Tall, lanky, with a burst of reddish hair that looked like it had been slept on, he turned to face the crowd. “Well, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Thank you all for coming to honor our friend, Jack Evans. Jack would probably be embarrassed. I loved a good crowd when I played basketball, and later when the joints began to act up a bit, the four of us would play “touch” basketball. I remember the first time we played. What should have been an easy win for me, being a foot taller than Jack, turned into the hardest game of my life. He was determined to give me a run for my money! Jack was never afraid to go after what he wanted no matter how hard he had to work for it. I racked up the most points, but Jack taught me how to win in the Game of Life.”
He started to say something else, but thought better of it and silently ambled back to his seat.
Then it was the minister’s turn to talk about Jack. How he contributed to so many charities – not only money but volunteer work, inspiring others to volunteer as well. How he helped build the new hospital, and a kitchen/sleep wing in the Family Activities section of the church to feed and care for the homeless; and how you could always count on Jack Evans for advice, money, people or whatever was needed to enrich the town he so loved.
Merle was not mentioned once. For all the world knew, Jack Evans was a bachelor.
She did not recognize the man whose funeral she had attended by the words she had heard spoken. Could there have been two funerals at the same time for two men named Jack Evans? I am losing my mind, she thought. That would have given her cause to panic, if she hadn’t been so very tired. She needed to get out of here before the crush of people came over to her to offer condolences. But since she had not even been acknowledged as Jack’s wife in the funeral eulogies, why should she stay?
It made perfect sense to her to stand up at the end of the funeral and walk out, announcing to no one in particular “Go on to the house – I’ll be there shortly.” Everyone nodded and whispered “Poor thing, it’s just beginning to sink in…” and “She needs to grieve in private…” and “Some fresh air is just what she needs…” (Actually, it never occurred to her that she should be grieving. She felt a cautious sense of freedom, as if a prison door had been carelessly left open. Should she make a run for it? Hurry, before they come back and close the door!)
So, now what? Here she was, back from who knows where, with a puppy in her arms. How would she smuggle the puppy into the house? She had to think, to make a plan. Mr. Evans usually made all the plans, but he wasn’t here now, was he? It was up to her to work this out.
End of Chapter 1.
COMMENT ADDED OCTOBER 2016
The book was finally published in 2016 and is available at AMAZON:
If you like Murder Mysteries, this book will take you on some amazing twists and turns and really surprise you with where the story goes!