Reporting my National Novel Writing Month total at the halfway mark of this 30-day exercise of writing abandon: I’m at 37,901 words, ahead of the 25,000 word pace. Knock on wood that the dreaded writer’s block will continue to stay cooped up.
Dixieland could be even longer at this point except for my habit of writing dialogue without attribution, movement or other scene-building verbiage. I make up for that, I believe, with my ALL CAPS THINKING AS I WRITE, I NEED A REFERENCE HERE TO FORESHADOW A CHARACTER’S APPEARANCE IN THE NEXT SCENE.
That’s how I write when I’m on a roll. I know what I want to say, but I don’t want to get hung up on a detail that might derail that roll. I’m not sure how many ALL CAPS BURSTS OF INDECISION I will have come Nov. 30, but those SHOUTS are my cue to reach into my mental queue for something more meaningful.
Meanwhile, I’m offering another conversation between my main male protagonist, Alvie Ferguson, and little 11-year-old racist Ladd Miller. Remember, it’s during World War II, just before Alvie goes off to join a flight crew for bombing runs over Germany. His young bride, Edna Mae — the main character in Dixieland — eventually joins them.
There’s no attribution for some of the dialogue. Alvie speaks first, followed by Ladd …
“You boys savin’ the foil from your gum wrappers?”
“Ain’t got no gum, Mr. Alvie.”
“Well, let’s say you erase ‘ain’t’ from the dictionary in your head and I’ll give you a few sticks.”
“That’d be swell, but I don’t see how sayin’ ‘ain’t’ is so bad. Everybody knows what it means.”
“True. But your talkin’ could mean the difference between working the shipyard or bein’ one of the slick lawyers on Lawyers Row.” REMEMBER: EDNA MAE IS A STENOGRAPHER FOR ONE OF THE SLICK LAWYERS, AND HE’LL LET HER GO WHEN HE DISCOVERS THE FERGUSONS ALLOWED DIXIE AND LEWIS KING TO MOVE IN WITH THEM, AFTER ALVIE GETS HIS ORDERS TO DEPLOY.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, when you go to look for work, they might say, ‘This chap sounds like a shipyard scrub,’ and you’ll get your job there.”
“Well, I kinda like that idea. Them fellers are some tough crackers.”
“Oh, yeah, and nice, nice guys. Not saying anything about their character. But their education has ‘em working in the shipyard today, which is where they’ll be workin’ the day they retire. You wanna work that hard for that long?”
“But I ain’t – well, I don’t gots much up here.” Ladd pointed to his noggin. “I might just be shipyard material.”
“Well, Mr. Crosby says if you don’t work hard in school and get your lessons and graduate, you may grow up to be a mule. Or a pig.”
Edna Mae spoke as she gently shut the screen door behind her. “Or a fish.”
ANOTHER REFERENCE TO MUSIC OF THE ERA. ‘SWINGIN’ ON A STAR’ WAS A BING CROSBY HIT, AND ITS MESSAGE WAS “STAY IN SCHOOL.” BE SURE TO INCLUDE OCCASIONAL REFERENCES TO THE RADIO SHOWS, MOVIES AND MUSIC, JUST ENOUGH TO KEEP THAT MID-40’S, WW2-ERA AURA.
Alvie gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Eww! Yuck!” the little imp Ladd retorted. Edna Mae ignored the boy’s reaction and swept a lock of her husband’s white hair off his forehead.
“Alvie, I declare you will have your own little army of boys to do all of your bidding. Maybe you should own a shipyard. You’ll have reliable, loyal hands.”
“Reliable?” He pointed toward Ladd.
“Have you conducted all your business with Mr. Ferguson here?” she asked the boy.
Ladd crossed his arms, cocked his head and cleared his throat.
“My daddy says he heard you got a colored livin’ with you. In the same house.”
“I am not aware of any reason why my living arrangements are any of your business, young man.”
Ladd looked away and kept his gaze fixed on the horizon.
“Well, if’n that’s true, I just know you got more sense than to let them coloreds use your indoor commode, the same one y’all use.” He shook his head and turned to face the other direction, never making eye contact. “That’s just plain nasty.”
Alvie waved the boy away. “You run along, Ladd. We treat people like people, no matter who they are or where they’re from.”
Ladd Miller walked away. “Everybody’s gots their place is all.”
Alvie wrapped an arm around his bride’s delicate waist and shot back. “And from the sound of it, your place should be in school.”
Let me hear (read) what you think. C’mon, now. Just a brief comment will make my day.