I'm coming at you live from my cluttered desk, armed with Earl Grey tea and a brand new blog layout! Woohoo!
I'm just going to say this now, to get it out in the open and off my chest.
I quit NaNo.
It was partially because I feel like I kind of suck at writing MG, which is sad, but mostly because I AM SO BUSY.
I have to have Second Hand Lace in to my editor by the end of next week -- no problem. It needs more of a buffing than a polish.
And then there is Washed Up....
I just feel like it's never done.
Each time I make even the tiniest revision, I'm convinced it's the best it can possibly be.
Then I dream a new scene, or want to tweak some dialogue.
I'm putting it in a box and not looking at it again until December....
So just for shits and giggles, here is the first chapter of my MG adventure.
Everyone knows that secret agents don’t have to go to school. Well, not normal school anyways. Instead of spending half an hour reading, they get to practice their target shooting or assemble grappling hooks. I bet James Bond never had to worry about reading comprehension.
Well James Bond could probably read, I think as I stare at the space above my book. It’s not like I can’t read, I can, but only when the words are small, simple, and not upside down and backward.
“Alright class, guess what we get to do?” Miss. Pettiberg, my engligh teacher, says from the front of the room.
Twenty or so groans fill the air, mine being the loudest.
“Oh, give me a break.” Miss. Pettiberg says as she walks down the rows of desks, handing out single sheets of bright white paper. “There are only five questions.”
If there’s one thing I hate more than reading, it’s writing a pop quiz on what I was supposed to have learned from reading.
1. Weher did Leo mtee Juliet?
Easy peasy. I let the tiniest, hopeful smile cross my face. Maybe this won’t be so bad.
2. Wyh 0d L3o’s parents disapprove of Juliet?
I squint, trying to will the letters to arrange themselves, as sweat begins to prickle my forehead. The questions are starting to look like they've been written in alien code. I let out a long, deep breath, and move onto the next question.
3. Woh deos eLo cnvoice sih parents ot eemt uJielt?
My heart starts to gallop as the room begins to swirl. I read the question again while a sour taste fills my mouth. I swallow five times, my mouth now turning to chalk as dread, or at least what I think dread feels like, settles on my bony shoulders. I look at the clock, then back at my paper, and sigh again.
“Are you alright?” Miss. Pettiberg asks, her head tilting as she peers at me.
“Yup, I just need a different pencil,” I say, ducking down and tugging on the zipper of my backpack.
I push a sweater around and lift up my lunch, a tuna on rye from a gourmet bakery with a bottled frapaccino, and wrinkle my nose. Mom clearly forgot it was her turn to grocery shop yesterday, and the fact that I’m twelve, not thirty. I’m going to program her stupid blackberry to remind her I like mountain dew, not coffee.
I’m just about to give up my pretend search when I hear a subtle clack and look up to see Miss. Pettiberg walking back to her desk, a freshly sharpened pencil lying on my desk.
I go back to rereading the second question, and after ten minutes, I finally understand enough of it to answer. By then, the rest of the class is shuffling and tapping their pencils. They’ve already finished the quiz.
Suddenly, the shrill bell sounds off and everyone leave in a stampede, dropping off their pages as they go. I jump up, grab my bag, and stuff my half-blank sheet under the growing pile.
I push my way through the crowds and walk right by my locker—I’m in no mood for homework. Once I’m outside, the sweat dries up and the sour taste goes away.
I walk along the edge of the parking lot and duck through the opening in the fence that separates the school and the woods.
“Alex!” I hear from behind me. I turn around and see my best friend, Colin, struggle to push his way through the gap. Mom says he eats too many complex carbs—whatever that means. “Why didn’t you wait for me?”
“Sorry, I had to get out of there. I just failed another one of Miss. Pettiberg’s pop quizzes.” I start walking once Colin catches up.
“That one was tough,” Colin says, swinging his backpack around so it’s resting on his chest. He unzips it and rifles around until he comes up with a baggy of broken cookies. “Want one?”
“Sure,” I say, my stomach growling from skipping out on my fancy lunch. “Hey, if you knew we had a test, why didn’t you tell me? I would have made myself barf or something.”
“I had a dentist appointment at lunch, remember?” Colin says, grinning so I can see the bright blue elastics dotting the steel tracks of his braces. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, it doesn’t really matter if I took it today, or tomorrow, I still would have failed.” We turn left at the forked trail and I can see the clearing in the distance.
“Do you want to come over? Jack forgot to return the newest piranha movie. Mom says I can’t watch it because it has boobs in it, but she’s still at work.” Colin waggles his eyebrows.
“I can’t, it’s family dinner night.” I roll my eyes.
“I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow,” Colin says as we come up to his back fence. “See ya.”
“See ya,” I echo. I walk keep walking through the clearing until my back fence comes into view. Dad paid the big bucks so we could back onto the clearing, with no other houses behind us. Mom says it’s all about the view, even though the only thing you can see is Mr. Douglas’ poodle take a dump in the same spot every morning, and a few straggly trees. Some view.
As usual, the back gate is locked, which leaves me two options.
A)Step back seven feet, run at half speed, push off our bronze sun statue with my left foot, catch the stone angel with my right, all while flinging my backpack over my head. I will land belly first onto the fence, then wiggle until my legs catch up before dropping down to the other side.
B) Walk around to the front door.
James Bond would never simply walk. I back up the carefully tested seven feet, and launch myself at Mom’s fancy statues. I make it onto the fence and over, but the knee of my jeans does not.
Mom is going to kill me.
I pick any trace of fabric off the fence and let myself in the back door. A note on the fridge tells me they’ll be late, but one of them will bring home take out. I open the fridge and find it fully stocked and organized. They must have used the grocery service; Mom never remembers to buy chocolate milk. I take out the milk, three cheese strings, and a pudding cup before taking the haul to my room.
An hour, maybe two pass, before I hear the garage door open.
“Alex Theodore Vincent,” I hear Mom yell from the kitchen. “You have five seconds to get down here.”
Crap. She must have found traces of denim.
I think back about everything else bad I’ve done the past week, including spilling paint in the basement, and prepare myself to be royally chewed out. I jump down the stairs and slide into the kitchen before Mom can reach one on her count down.
“What now?” Dad says as he comes into the kitchen, his arms overflowing with brown paper bags.
“Why don’t you ask your son how he did on his English test?” Mom stands in the middle of our huge kitchen with her hands on her hips.
“You failed another test?” Dad stops unpacking and stares at me.
“It’s not my fault, it’s the words….” I hang my head, blinking back the hot tears that are spearing the back of my eye balls.
“Yes, we know, it’s the words fault,” Dad says, turning around and slamming down containers of steaming food.
“You are officially failing English, and your history mark is not much better,” Mom says, her heels clicking the marble tile as she starts to pace.
“You need to do your homework, and study.” Dad starts to load up plates, not bothering to ask what anyone wants.
“He needs more help than studying can provide,” Mom says, coming to a halt in front of the fridge and pulls out a bottle of white wine. “Miss. Pettiberg has set him up with a tutor. You will meet with him every day after school, for an hour, until you are no longer failing.”
“What?” I roar, panic taking over. “I have to stay after school for a whole hour? Every day?”
“Yes, and you better pray that helps or you will be repeating grade 7,” Mom sloshes the wine into two glasses, uncharacteristically ignoring the drops on the counter. “Now, let’s have a nice family dinner.”
I eat in silence, not that anyone was trying to talk to me anymore, and listen to my parents discuss their jobs. Mom is treating a prisoner from a high profile case, she’s a shrink, and Dad is defending him. I have the world’s busiest parents. Tonight, I don’t mind that they don’t ask how the rest of my day was, or how I felt about failing my test, I’m just grateful they’re not grounding me. I finish eating, clear my dishes, and go back to my room.
I shut the door and jump onto my bed, hugging the bear I have to hide when Colin comes over. If I were a spy, I wouldn’t need to know how to read. I’d have a special pair of glasses that would just read everything to me. But, my shooting skills aren’t good enough to be an agent. Yet.
I roll over until I fall off the bed, leaving my bear on my pillow, and land on a cluster of bean bag chairs. If I have to stay after school every day, there’s no way I’m going to practice reading now. I grab my controller, flip on my system, and start my secret agent training.