The first words

It’s 2:39 AM and my first words of this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) are down on paper. Or down in pixels, as the case may be. After a few minutes of staring blankly at the screen, then looking at my notes, then back at the screen, I was off and running. It always feels good to get into that fiction writing flow – like visiting an old friend.

Here are the first few paragraphs of Saving Katie, my new novel-in-progress, written in the voice of its protagonist, Kat Roseland. I hope she intrigues you.

saving_katiePeople are endlessly disappointing. You don’t have to look far to find examples. There’s this lady who always parks a ratty lawn chair at the intersection by the local Wal-Mart. She stands there in her threadbare windbreaker and thrift store jeans, shoulders hunched, holding a cardboard sign that reads:

“Single Mom NEEDS MONEY for FOOD!”

Every time I see her there, I stop, roll down my window, and hand her whatever cash I can spare. Sometimes it’s just a dollar or two, but a few times I’ve handed her an Andrew Jackson because it was the only thing I had in my wallet. I’m not even sure why I give her money except that I realize it could be me, you know? It could be anyone. We’re all one lost job and a depleted savings account away from the streets these days.

Then, one evening I pull into the gas station and see Single Mom at the next pump filling up a late model SUV. Her hair is styled and she’s wearing makeup, but I’ve seen her up-close leaning into my car window and saying, “God bless!” enough times to know that it’s the same bedraggled woman from outside Wal-Mart. Maybe she’s gassing up her employer’s car, I think. So I say to her, “Nice SUV. Bet it’s a gas hog, though.”

She answers cheerfully, “Thanks! It does use more gas than a Prius, that’s for sure.” She laughs this high, crystal-like laugh. The laugh of a fucking debutante. “But I love it,” she enthuses. “It’s so comfortable!”

I hate humans.

An SUV-driving panhandler is one thing but, of course, the closer you get to a person, the deeper the potential for disappointment. I once loved a guy enough to let him move in with me, even when I should’ve sensed disaster ahead. A couple weeks after I made that the decision, while his boxes of books and bags of clothes were still scattered around my living room floor, I came home from work early to surprise him. Instead, he surprised me when I caught him in flagrante delicto with his ex-girlfriend in my bed.

Like I said, disappointing. Clichéd, even. There’s a reason clichés like The Boyfriend You Walk in On exist, and it’s because people never fail to suck when the opportunity presents itself.

Even my own mother was a disappointment, or so I’m told. I wasn’t even old enough to walk when she left me. She was 18 years old, and the minute she graduated from high school she fled to the Pacific Northwest to start a new life, dumping me with my grandparents. She wasn’t ready to be a mother, they told me, despite not having the common sense to use birth control. The elders were mostly kind, if clueless, and I loved them, despite the alarming frequency of their comments about my mother’s “mistake,” which, it was implied, wasn’t leaving me but actually having me in the first place. Foolish girl.

There’s an early glimpse, with plenty more writing and rewriting where that came from. And now, it’s time to get some rest – there are words waiting to be written when the sun comes up.