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Jul 19, 2010

Delivery Status Notification (Failure)


This is flash fiction. Any resemblance to the events of this morning is purely coincidental.

Stoic, I think. My character needs to be stoic.

I wrote half the scene on my laptop but to finish it I must email it to myself on my main computer. For some reason, each time I Send, I end up with a Delivery Status Notification (Failure). In the middle of my third Delivery Status Notification (Failure), my mother calls.

"What's going on with the swim lessons?"

I've put off this conversation two days. I try to explain about the cost of gas, the distance to her house, the other pool option. She doesn't want to hear it.

"He just doesn't want your kids to spend time with their grandmother," she complains.

I email the attachment to a different address. This time it works. My file fills my screen. I put my cell on speaker phone so I can type without interrupting my mother. She is working out a number of different alternative schedules. Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays, eight or ten o'clock, private or class lessons. I surf the net while she talks. From Epictetus, via Wikipedia, I learn to be stoic is to be "sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy." How should I show this in my character? Show, don't tell, show don't tell.

The half-written scene is a mess, a number of mutually conflicting scenelets, bits of possible dialogue. Should I put in a flashback? Or would that drag the pace? I realize I don't know if my character has parents or is an orphan. It's always easier to deal with a character who is an orphan. Parents just complicate fiction. Parents, like flashbacks, seldom move the plot forward.

"Are you listening to me or are you on the computer?" my mother asks.

"I'm trying to work."

"I know you're trying to work," she says, "but we need to get these swim lessons taken care of. Why do they need to be at the same time?"

"What?" I realize she must have asked me a question before, and I must have given her an answer which has made her imagine I require something to be at the same time. "I don't know. I'm trying to work while the baby is still asleep. He'll be up from his nap soon."

"You're really annoying to talk to when you get like this," she says. "It's rude."

There's definitely a scenelet missing, a bit I wrote last night around two in the morning, while nursing the baby. I was sleepy, but I distinctly remember writing it, on my laptop. Damn. I emailed myself the wrong draft. I've been working on the wrong draft this whole time. I go back to my laptop to email myself the right draft.

The baby cries. I use this as an excuse to hang up. After I've changed the baby's diaper and started to nurse, I check my email again. Delivery Status Notification (Failure).

3 comments:

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Okay, so why didn't you enter my contest???! You write great short fiction! I haven't read any of your novels yet, but I'm not sure you've shared any of them. I'll be they're lovely. :)

I like this piece a lot. It made me cringe because, well, I've had a way too similar conversation and experience...

Tara Maya said...

Thanks, Michelle! Your good opinion means a lot to me. You have impeccable taste. :)

Ban said...

hee hee