January 23rd, 2006


My dinner with Agnes

So I decided I was going to try to eat dinner at Nuestra Cocina, a highly-regarded Mexican restaurant that's always been too busy. But one person, on a Monday night, might be able to get in. But then I missed the turn off of McLoughlin and wound up going over a mile out of my way, and when I arrived parking was suspiciously easy. Yep, closed Mondays. Damn. Oh, well, Clay's Smokehouse isn't too far away... but it too was closed Mondays. Argh and damn. Third and last choice: a burrito at Pepino's on the corner. I knew it would be open and quick, and it was. But grr argh.

As I was finishing up, an old lady came up to me and asked me what it was I'd been eating. Thai chicken burrito, I said. Was it good? Yeah, I almost always order the same thing.

How did I get it? she asked.

How did I get it? This struck me as odd. She was only about 60 or 65, had all her teeth, didn't seem confused, and displayed perfectly good English skills with no noticeable accent. Furthermore, there was a glass of beer on her table, and she must have gotten it somehow. But I said that I stood in that line and told the girl what I wanted, and I paid for it, and then I waited for my number to be called. And she said "if I gave you the money, would you get me one?"

I figured she was panhandling, but then she pulled a wad of bills out of her coat pocket and peeled off a five... so I said to myself, what the hell, I don't have anyone waiting for me. So I asked her what kind she wanted, and I stood in the line and ordered it to go, and I gave her her change. She kept trying to offer me some money, but I said I didn't need it. She explained that she didn't know how to order because she never eats in restaurants -- too expensive.

While we were waiting for the order to come up we talked about retirement, and children and grandchildren, and what the weather was like in Alaska. She was from there, but hadn't been back in five years, since the last of her family there passed away. Her name was Agnes, and she was worried that her son might want to know where she was, but she'd left her cell phone at home. I told her I'd call him, what was his number? Five, she said, and then push Call. Or was it four? But she did eventually come up with a ten-digit number, and I dialed it, and the person who answered was indeed her son. I told him where we were. Did she need a ride? She said that she did, and he said he'd be right there.

We chatted a while longer, and then the order number was called, and I picked up her burrito and brought it to her table. Again she offered me money, and again I turned it down, and then I wished her good evening and left.

As I was walking out of the restaurant, a man pulled up in a white pickup and headed inside with a rapid and deliberate tread. On a hunch, I asked if he was picking up his mother. Yes, he was, and he thanked me for the call. Her daughter had recently died and she was having problems coping with it. Had she been drinking? I told him I'd seen her drink one beer. She didn't seem drunk.

The man thanked me again, and said that he was a Buddhist and that it had helped him through many problems in his life, including his mother's drinking. We talked for a bit about the Buddha and the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and he asked me to say nam myoho renge kyo, so I did. And I wished him good evening and went home.

I didn't feel too bad about missing out on Nuestra Cocina any more.

1/23/06: Infodumps, endings, and babies' bottoms

Word count: 1979 | Since last entry: 234

In addition to the 234 words of mostly infodump I wrote tonight in the actual draft, I also wrote over 350 words of additional infodump in a separate file of notes, working out the characters, their physical descriptions, and their relationships to each other. And as I was doing that, it became clear to me whodunit, and why, and what event would precipitate the crisis, and what they would all do after that point. The end.

No idea how many words there are between here and there. But my brain tends to leap to conclusions, and no amount of "let's just write it and see where it takes us" has ever derailed it before, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised it's done it again.

(My brain is a guy. Focused on the orgasm destination rather than the journey. Stupid brain! Down, brain!)

On the other hand, I know that I am capable of changing the ending if the story seems to lead in another direction. So I'm going to keep going, and hope for the best.

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One thing that stopped me from making forward progress for half an hour was when I needed to describe a character's... knees. See, he's curled in a fetal position, and he notices that his skin is as clear and unmarked as a newborn's, which is his first hint that he is actually a clone of the person he remembers himself as being. And I'm having a devil of a time describing it. I need a word, or short phrase, that describes skin that's smooth and clear and unmarked and translucent and beautiful... and brown. Food, wood, and leather metaphors all seem inappropriate. Right now I've got "smooth and unmarked as a baby's brown bottom" but I'm not 100% happy with it.

The hardest part to capture is the translucence, which is going to be immediately noticeable because this skin has never been exposed to light. Very few things in life are translucent in the way that human skin is. Porcelain is the traditional metaphor, but that only works with pale skin.

Ponder ponder ponder. But now, sleep!