Twas the night before NaNoWriMo and all through the house,
not a keyboard was clacking, not even a word.
Wait, that didn’t rhyme. I’m really not good at this. Why in the world did I think I could do this? That and other thoughts were racing through my already anxiety riddled brain yesterday. In fact, this morning I texted my brother and said “Talk me out of talking myself out of NaNoWriMo”. Tomorrow’s the day. Make or break whether this is the year or not. I’ve downloaded the special edition free trial of Scrivener. I’ve added in my characters and brief sketches. I’ve been brainstorming for weeks, months even, yet here I am. Scared out of my wits to do this. Yes, this is incredibly silly. It’s self-reporting, self-tracking, and only self-satisfying so what’s the big deal? I know I’ll regret not doing it more than not finishing but the task is so daunting it’s only natural to pause. To ask myself “who do you think are, Hemingway?” (You’ve read this blog now, trust me, I’m at least sticking to fiction. You’re welcome.) So here’s the final call, the final warning bell for someone or something to save me from jumping in front of that train. If nothing else, I kind of love this year’s ‘winner’ t-shirt. Whatever motivates you after all.
I’ll leave you with this: Reddit Prompt #2 or why I won’t be writing Noir. (or as I’ve recently discovered, it’s called hardboiled if the protagonist is a detective and Noir if not).
WRITING PROMPT #2 A world-class detective who can’t help but find crime everywhere he looks, is tasked with taking schoolchildren on a field trip.
No stone was left unturned. No door was ever left closed. Sam Harding hadn’t won the P.I. of the Year award five years running based on his good looks. In fact he barely took the time to do more than shower. An ever present five o’clock shadow covered his square jaw, barely managing to obscure the scar that ran in a jagged line from his right ear nearly to his chin. He had been blessed with that particular memento in a back alley one night after he followed two shifty looking guys out the back door of a restaurant. Needless to say, he was the only that walked out of that alley of his own accord that night. Trouble didn’t find Sam, he could smell it, hunted it down and made it beg for mercy. His life was definitely not a bed of roses.
The only soft spot Sam had was for his sister Alison and her son Matthew. Never trusting any of her boyfriends, Sam was constantly on the look out for ways to get rid of any man Alison made the mistake of introducing to him. Alison was a single mom from day one, refusing to tell Sam who Matthew’s father was for fear he would take it upon himself to pay him a visit. She worked long hours as a secretary for a construction company, leaving Matthew to sleep on Uncle Sam’s couch in the P.I.’s back office. Sam tried his best to smooth his rough edges when Matthew was around but by the time the kid was seven, his vocabulary included words more likely found in a police station than an elementary school.
Sam’s phone rang as he was about to leave his downtown office on Thursday night.
“Harding,” he answered gruffly, annoyed that he was being delayed.
“How is my favorite older brother?” Alison asked, the sound of traffic in the background.
“Hi Als, what’s up?” He asked, his tone softening slightly.
“You know how you’re my favorite brother right?” She asked, pausing for effect.
“No.” He responded, knowing he was not about to like what she was working up to ask him.
“Oh come on Sammy, I haven’t even asked yet.”
“Don’t Sammy me sis, I know your game. You pull out the favorite brother line any time you want something you know I don’t want to do.”
“Not even for your favorite nephew who worships the ground you walk on?” She replied, playing her trump card.
“Fine,” Sam sighed, slumping back into his desk chair, “what do you need.”
“You’re going on a field trip.”
“A what?” He asked, hoping he had not heard her correctly.
“You heard me. Be at Matthew’s school at 8am sharp. His class is going to the fair in town and they need a chaperone. You know I would go if I could but I have to work and I’m next on the list of parents. I can’t bow out again. Matthew will be heartbroken.”
“A fair? With candy and rides and music? You can’t be serious.”
“As a heart attack.”
Sam pulled his hand down his face and scratched the stubble under his chin. He couldn’t say no and she knew it.
“One of these days I’m going to say no.”
“No you won’t. Love you Sam, you’re my hero.” She hung up before he had a chance to argue.
He arrived at the elementary school with a few minutes to spare. As we walked towards the front door, several of the children and a few of the parents stopped and stared at the stone faced stranger. He had to duck to pass through the door frame. He hated going anywhere when he wasn’t familiar with the layout of the building. He hugged the walls, peeking around every corner until he made it to Matthew’s second grade classroom.
“Uncle Sam!” A voice rang out as soon as he opened the door. Matthew jumped up from his desk and came running to the door, as Ms. Foster looked quizzically at the tall dark stranger.
“Ahem,” she said, clearing her throat, “may I help you?”
“Sam Harding,” he said, levelling his gaze at her, “I believe I’m supposed to chaperone today.”
“Oh,” Ms. Foster said hesitantly, “I thought Matthew’s mother would be joining us.”
“She had to work today so she asked me come instead.”
“Uncle Sam is a detective,” Matthew said enthusiastically, “he’s amazing. He put a couple of Micks away last week when they tried to bust up a joint downtown.”
“Matthew!” Ms. Foster said, inhaling sharply, “we do not use that kind of language.”
“Sorry Ms. Foster,” Matthew said, chastened. “He really is the best though. He won a big award and everything.”
“Well I’m sure he is very good. Thank you for joining us Mr. Harding.”
“Sam,” he corrected her.
“Sam. Now children, please get your jackets and line up in an orderly fashion.”
They piled onto the school bus and made their way down to the river where the temporary fair had set up its grounds. When they arrived, Sam was the first to the door of the bus barring the way.
“Stay here, I’ll run a sweep before,” Sam started before Ms. Foster interrupted him.
“Mr. Harding, please. This is a school field trip not one of your stakeouts.”
“I just think,” he tried again.
“Sam,” she said, placing her hand on his arm, “we will be fine. Now, if you don’t mind, please take the boys to the ticket booth. They should each have money for admission, a candy of their choice and a voucher for free rides. I will take the ladies.” She brushed passed him and off the bus before he could protest any longer.
He led the gang of scraggly boys to get their tickets and followed them inside constantly scanning the crowd as they went. Two of the boys wanted to go into the House of Mirrors but Sam said no, scaring them with tales of little boys that got abducted in darkened rooms. He led them to the carnival games and each boy spent their extra money tossing rings at milk bottles or throwing baseballs at tin cans. Candy peddlers walked around with calls for cotton candy and popcorn, causing the boys to abandon their games and clamor for the sugary confection.
“Stop!” He cried as he stepped in front of the fair worker pulling a bright pink bundle of cotton candy from his cart. “Let me see what’s inside the cart.” He insisted.
“I’m sorry?” The young man said, confused by the strange request.
“I said, let me see what’s inside the cart. If you think I’m letting these kids take candy from a stranger walking around with a cart, you have another thing coming.”
“Sir, I don’t think,” the worked replied, starting to protest but Sam was already opening the side of the cart to inspect the jars of sugar waiting to be spun into the pink clouds. Grabbing one of the jars, he held it up.
“Show me,” he said, forcing the young man to make a fresh batch of cotton candy. Instead of taking it from him when it was done, he insisted, “no, you eat it.”
“You eat it and then I’ll know it’s clear for them.”
“Uncle Sam,” Matthew pleaded, “we just want some cotton candy. Please just let us get some.”
“I’m waiting,” Sam replied, staring down the man in front of him. The worker finally took a bite of the cotton candy with an exaggerated to swallow to show all was good.
“Fine. Now was that so hard?” Sam asked. “one for each of them.”
Once every boy had his own bag to devour, the worker walked away swearing under his breath. The other boys ran up ahead but Matthew stayed back, looking up at Sam.
“Uncle Sam,” he said, tugging on Sam’s shirt tail.
“You know I love you right?”
“Of course buddy,” Sam said, raising his eyebrow in question, “what’s up?”
“Can you stop?”
“Can I stop what?”
“You’re not letting us have any fun and you’re ruining the field trip.”
“What,” Sam said, clearly stunned. “I’m just trying to protect you.”
“Well can you protect a little less?” Matthew said, running after the other boys to ride the bumper cars.
“Not that easy is it?” A voice said from behind him. He turned and was looking at Ms. Foster, Matthew’s teacher.
“I know what goes on in this city. A good day can become a nightmare in the blink of an eye.” He said.
“I know,” she said, offering him a sympathetic look. “I appreciate that you took the time to come with us but I think it’s probably best that you don’t make this a habit. I don’t think kids are exactly your forte.”
“Is it that obvious?”
She laughed, her smile lighting up her whole face.
“Mr. Harding, why don’t you wait for them at the ride exit. We’re about to head back to the bus. Why don’t you make it up to them with some boxes of popcorn and I’ll let you off the hook for the next outing ok?” She said, with a grin.
“Only if you let me take you out to dinner tonight to prove I’m not such a boor,” he replied.
“You have yourself a deal.”