I get it. I do.
First draft vomit becomes final draft exquisite entree.
Wait. Somehow that seems backwards. I’m not sure I want anything constructed from reconstituted vomit, even in analogy form.
Lets try this: first draft buffet–all those paths partly taken before realising they don’t quite work out–becomes the single platter of a final draft. The most appealing choices from the array in front of you.
Which means that some things gotta go. Like this.
I didn’t even write it thinking it would fit in the draft, but more for my own knowledge of what happened. Then I tried to shoehorn it in several places but no way a near-2,000-word flashback isn’t going to kill the pace. Even broken up into chunks.
Given that it’s been a while since I’ve had any WIP stuff up here, I thought I’d share. At least it’s going somewhere, and this might purge my urge to make it fit the draft.
This, for those keeping track, is from the 4th novel I wrote this year, tentative title Nothing and Forever. It’s YA sci-fi.
You can find it below the cut.
Extra scene/outtake from Nothing and Forever:
Zen’s father had called from the restaurant to ask the driver for a pick up. As the restaurant was over by Donovan’s house, Zen decided to tag along, thus avoiding the whole worry about getting his car back home later.
By the time the driver had waited for him to grab his stuff and they’d made it through the hell of Friday evening cross-town traffic to the restaurant, they ended up stuck for 20 minutes behind an accident, a delay they could’ve avoided if he hadn’t made the driver wait. His father pointed this out at increasing volume during each phone call, as the intervals between them grew progressively shorter.
They finally made it, Zen having offered to be dropped off afterwards, only to find that his father, drunk and sick of waiting, had caught a ride with his new lead actor, who’d only had one drink so was in no way drunk—or on any other mind-altering substance. The papers kept repeating that fact like it was the best punchline fate had come up with yet. Like that made it more of a tragedy. Like anything could make it worse.
If only he’d not asked the driver to wait. If only he’d driven himself, or met Donovan there, so what about the hassle of finding two parking spots by the beach or getting back the next day? Not like Eric, invariably sober and enjoying being designated driver because it gave him one more thing to be smug about, wouldn’t drive him back. Or if not, the driver could take him. After all, wasn’t getting rides back to places you’d drunk-ditched your car the point of having a driver in the first place?
All of which added up to one unavoidable conclusion. All his fault.
Because of his selfishness.
His mother hadn’t even been in the country. An upcoming shoot had motivated her to sneak off to Switzerland to “get in shape” while also being in close enough proximity to step up her campaign to wrangle some NGO into appointing her their global ambassador.
So, fresh out of her secret plastic surgery, she’d refused to fly home for five days, leaving him to wander alone through the huge empty house, grief and guilt turning his flesh and beating heart to stone.
Not that the house was really empty. Couldn’t be, what with housekeeper, cook, his mother’s PAs, hangdog driver clearly itching to sell his story to the tabloids, gardener, a whole security team, and his father’s secretary, who refused to leave her newly-established command post in the solarium, all floating around—a strange mishmash of people topped off, for some reason he couldn’t fathom, by his old nanny.
He hadn’t seen her in a decade but despite her white hair and seamed face, she smelled of the same ginger and eucalyptus mix that set him retching every time she pulled him into a slobbery hug—which was every time she saw him. Of course, that reaction only convinced her he was so weak with grief she needed to feed him reheated Irish stew she’d carted from home, its surface glistening with rainbow slicks of grease.
His refusal of these offerings, in turn, convinced him he must be feeling so distraught that he needed a hug, kicking off a whole merry encore. And another one. To top it off, she had the knack of knowing—like when he was a kid trying to sneak more video games than she thought healthy—exactly which room he’d holed up in, and she’d linger outside the door for hours as they played round after round of whose bladder is bigger?
The actor’s girlfriend, too, ended up at the house. She wandered around in a haze so dense it had to be drugged, though she refused to share. A silent language evolved between them, consisting of traded grimaces whenever they encountered each other at 3 a.m. or whenever, followed by head tilts and eye rolls—behind you!—as staff scurried out to offer hours-thickened coffee or jelly donuts bleeding red jam.
As if anyone could offer the one thing he really needed.
The studio for the new film sent a press person, who immediately joined forced with his father’s secretary. Their combined arsenal, by then having expanded to four computers, three new landlines plus assorted cell phones, a random barking dog, and a widescreen TV that hadn’t come from any of the bedrooms, spilled out into the front hallway. Press releases and threats of legal action leaked out at regular intervals, but they at least had sense not to ask him for an interview.
The slim French cook kept handing him green frothy smoothies that looked like things you called the pool company about, begging them to unleash chemical warfare. But even if she’d given him real food, he couldn’t have stomached it, how could he possibly consider eating when his father…
How much more of a betrayal would it be to digest when…when…
He hadn’t wanted to see anyone, and one good thing about a suddenly zealous security team on indefinite overtime: if you wanted a tight perimeter, you got it—for a few days at least, until Vanya seemed to realise he wasn’t going to call. Finally, his refusal to leave his room, her persistence at the gate—or both—led someone to make an unscripted executive decision and let her in.
Out of the blue, she’d appeared next to him, voice warm in his ear even though he couldn’t stop shivering, despite piling on cardigans and hoodies until he could barely bend his arms.
She didn’t say any of the things he expected, no It’s not your fault or I’m so sorry for your loss, or even What can I do? None of the useless junk phrases other people tried to stuff him with, that turned his stomach even more than the smoothies or gristly beef.
She simply sat beside him on his bed and held his hand. The butterfly flutters of her pulse thrummed against his fingers, the gentle whoosh of her breath somehow managing to drown out all of the dreadful sounds from downstairs. For the first time since that can-you-confirm-the-accident phone call from the press as he and the driver waited outside that goddamn restaurant, he sat cocooned in silence.
At first, the absence of noise seemed stark and overwhelming: galaxies of emptiness resided inside him and now took the opportunity to whiz away from each other, forever expanding.
Then, slowly, everything began to fall back in on itself, thickening and taking shape until he felt like he had solid ground underneath him. A mere foothold, but enough to bear his weight, not shatter the moment he stood up.
He’d held Vanya in his arms and by the time his mother arrived home, time became solid and dependable again as well, the moment a fixed lynchpin in his universe, terrible but bearable. We survived this. I survived. What worse could possibly happen?
Fate had needed less than a week to rise to the challenge.
Except it hadn’t been fate. Pure him, and unlike with his father, this time, people actually said so. Put all the blame square on him, right where it belonged.
Except Vanya, of course. She never spoke to him again.