Angst makes funny … troubled youth makes funny … and today I want to do funny with Gail, the first version of her, before she went into her dream state.
At the moment, she’s in her unconscious, I-don’t-remember-my-name state.
The original draft of Gail’s story … if you can remember … was titled:
Does Anyone Out There Miss Ronald Reagan?
Or … How I Survived The 80’s, YUPPIES and Six Blind Dates
It was what one of my critique partners called “episodic” or “stream of consciousness” … in other words … like Candide, Gail tripped from one manic mess to the next, clueless almost until the very end when she is rescued by the Pizza Guy.
In the first two drafts of this book, I did lots of political satire, poked at the romance genre, and of course, trashed women’s lib.
For whatever fun it is worth … this is the original opening …
Here I sit, with my Diet Pepsi, waiting for candidate number one. I spent five hours choosing the perfect dress and matching high heels, applying acrylic nails and having my hair straightened.
My sister has decided my main problem is I don’t pay enough attention to my appearance. I pay attention. However, I think a girl is entitled to get a little plump in her middle years and bury her sorrows in a tub of comfort food. It is either that or bury a hatchet in my ex-husband, Ben’s head.
Try though I might, I can’t stop them. It has become our family mantra. How the hell can we get Gail married off again?
Gail. That’s me. Gail Sylvia Goldblum-Silverstein. Jewish girls should never hyphenate their names. I mean, Goldblum-Silverstein is not the same as Carter-Smythe. With a handle like Lizbeth Payton Carter-Smythe you can walk into Saks and abuse salesgirls, charge up the American Express, take a cab cross-town to your Upper East Side, newly refurbished co-op, and hold your over-pinched nose in the air with the best of them.
Me? Well I don’t live on the Upper East Side. I don’t even live on the Upper West Side. No, I live in Washington Heights, a place most Manhattanites consider the Bronx. It doesn’t matter that Kissinger’s mother lives only one building from us, or that Dr. Ruth is one floor below her.
Wait … let me go back three weeks and explain:
In the summer of 1981, exactly six months after my divorce from Ben, my mother and sister begin their search.
My mother stands in the doorway of the kitchen in her gym position, feet spread twelve inches apart, hands on hips, head held high, at the ready for whatever crisis comes her way.
This is Miriam Goldblum. She is a take-charge kind of gal. She waits for my sister, Elaine to arrive. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
My father winks, his small round glasses perched on his prominent nose. “Don’t worry, Gail, we’ll finish our puzzle first.”
“This is hardly the time for levity, Ira.” No self-respecting Jewish mother allows her divorced daughters to remain unmarried for more than one year.
My sister Elaine saunters into the room and drapes her Burberry jacket on the back of a chair. “Mom, let’s face it, Gail is not getting any younger.”
My mother turns back to me. “Gail, you should be grateful we’re here.”
It’s not that I’m ungrateful. Every damn day I’m grateful. Counting my blessings, I would have to be grateful for Elaine, my younger, thinner, sister, the one who married well and whose disposable income is equal to the national debt.
Of course, there’s Bubbie, who was kind enough to move into a home so I can inherit her rent-controlled apartment. How could I forget my parents? They live two floors above me in another rent-controlled three-bedroom, retired from my father’s hardware business so my mother can devote more of her time to Mahjong, while my father walks the neighborhood in baggy khaki pants, muttering about how ungrateful we are.
Dad and I are working on a ten thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and munching on Doritos.
In one swift motion, my mother slaps the Doritos out of my father’s hand and answers Elaine. “And it wouldn’t hurt if she lost a little weight.”
I would answer, but it doesn’t matter. Elaine and my mother ask rhetorical questions or talk exclusively to each other. The last thing they want is for me to spoil their fun with an answer. I look up at Dad and wave a small yellow puzzle piece. “They’re going to start again. First Bubbie, and now me.”
He grabs the piece. “I can’t believe you found the link.” He shrugs his shoulders and puts the key piece where we know the rest of the border will soon follow. “Dates for you, homes for Bubbie. Next they’ll send me for tennis lessons.”
Elaine concurs. “Yes, it’s high time we got someone for Gail.” She taps the table with her fifty-dollar, French import pen. “Let’s make a list.”
“Sure, sure, we can call your Aunt Rachel. She mixes with the best podiatrists on the Upper West Side.” They start a list.
I look over at my father and moan, “They won’t stop.”
He nods in agreement. “I know, bubulah. Go on a couple of dates and make them happy. Then go out with your friends and have some fun.”
“Dad, I’m not exactly in any shape to have fun.”
He rolls his eyes. “Shape, smape. You’re not an old maid. Do something, Gail. Go out and act like the gay divorcee you are.”
I know I will cave in as usual and meet this poor soul. Why not? I’ll stumble out into the world, trip on my high heels and push my blind date off the curb where he’ll be flattened by on-coming traffic.
New Yorkers stop for no one.
Gail was only my second novel after the Third-Eye with Antoinette. Both of them are my fledgling attempts at both funny and mysterious … although as most cozies will attest … it is a hoot when you combine the two.
I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything with her other than snip here and there in the blog. However, each time I return to something I wrote when I first put fingers to keyboard, I get a tickle. Then I get a rash at how awful some of it was.
Remember that somewhere in there, even in your worst draft and your most awful first attempts, there is something special about what you said.
I believe that is what causes most writers to return to their first baby, even after the third or fourth novel. There was something magic about the first time, be it the first kiss, the first love, the first time you wondered at a child’s smile … and for writers, certainly our first books.
That was the time you found out who you really were and had the courage to let one or two of your imaginary friends say it for you.
Tell me …
Has your first book gotten into print?
And if not, have you promised yourself
that one of these days it will?
fOIS In The City
Note: I have adopted Maxine as my alter-ego. She is most perfect for my Gail. You can Google or go to Pinterest to find dozens of her.