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I thought there was a good chance I’d better get more deleted scenes ready to send out in my October newsletter. With only five days left in September, we are thisclose to two more deleted scenes. Just six more reviews on GR to hit 1100 reviews, and 12 more to hit 200 on Amazon. That means two more deleted scenes, and probably a little something extra.

For anyone who needs motivation, here’s a little teaser of the next Donal scene.

May 1989

“Goddamn Liam,” Sean said. He was like Mama that way, always complaining about Liam. I mean how funny was that? Liam had been dead six years, and Sean was still going on and on about how everything was his fault.

“Lousy twenty grand. That’s all it woulda took to put me back on my feet. Woulda cleared me with the Leffer brothers. And all this–all this–” He waved his arms around wild enough that other people on the sidewalk stepped out of his way. People did that now that he’d lost his front teeth. You wouldn’t think four teeth would make that big a difference, but it really did. He just looked scarier without them, the way his mouth sagged in.

We were walking to see “this guy,” who Sean said could get him some work. Well, I don’t know if Sean had ever used the word work in his life, but he said this guy could him some money, so it was a job. Sean was supposed to go down to Mexico on the bus and drive a car back. That’s how the guy, whose name was Dougie, described it: “Just go down and drive the car back.”

As soon as we got off the bus in Mexicali and I saw the car, I knew exactly what it was. What Kellen used to call making a run. Because the car was just a car. It wasn’t anything special. Not the kind of car you go to the trouble to send some guy to Mexico to get. Unless the car had drugs in it, which I figured it did. I didn’t look. As soon as we got the car, I thought we should turn right around and head back, but Sean, being Sean, wanted to dick around.

“Let’s stop and get some tacos,” he said. “When are you gonna get real Mexican tacos?”

Right, tacos. But he was driving, so when he pulled off at this little roadside place, I took the money he gave me and went inside to get tacos. I figured you’d have to have pesos to buy tacos in Mexico, but they took my dollars.

When I came back to the car, Sean was slumped over in the backseat with a fucking needle in his arm.

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Right out here in the open?”

He didn’t answer, because as always he was wrecked. I sat there for about half an hour, long enough to eat my tacos. Then I got to worrying that we were just sitting by the side of the road in Mexico with a bunch of dope in the trunk, waiting to get robbed.

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Fairly early on in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Kellen gets arrested while he’s out drag racing with Wavy. The deputy who picks them up tries to make an overture of friendship toward Wavy. It’s clear that he thinks something is wrong with the situation and that she is in need of protection.

deputy sheriff… before we could walk out, the deputy reached across the desk and handed me a piece of paper.

“If you ever need anything, Wavy Quinn, you call me,” he said. That’s what was written on the paper, his name—Deputy Leon Vogel—and his phone number. I stuck it in my pocket and followed Kellen outside to the car.

Later, when Wavy’s parents are doing drugs and fighting, some of my early readers asked me to explain why Wavy wouldn’t call the police. I was startled, because it hadn’t occurred to me that for many people, calling the police would seem like the solution to a problem, rather than a whole other problem. The same people who have sometimes wondered how I could have kept my mouth shut as a kid, knowing my father was manufacturing and selling meth. I realized I needed to include an explanation in Wavy’s narrative, to help people understand.

Deputy Vogel told me to call him if I ever needed something. It’s what they taught in school, too. They said the police were there to help you, but I don’t think they knew what happened when the police came to your house. Cops ruin everything. They kick in the front door, throw people on the floor and handcuff them. They break things and steal things. They lock you in a patrol car, make you spend all night in the police station wearing your nightgown, and then send you home with strangers. That’s why I would never call Deputy Vogel, no matter how much Mama and Liam fought. I’d thrown away the paper with his number as soon as he gave it to me, because I remembered what happened the last time the police came to our house.

There are kids who call the police on their parents. I knew a few when I was younger, and you sometimes read about it in the news, like this 10-year-old boy in Pennsylvania. I hate to see those stories, because I can imagine how bad things must be at home when calling the police seems like the only escape. When taking a chance on strangers seems less dangerous than continuing to trust your parents. I can’t help but think of Victoria Martens from my post last week, and wondering if there was ever a point where she considered calling the police. If she ever had a chance.

Wavy chooses the devil she knows over the uncertainties of going into foster care, and the likely risk of being separated from her brother and from Kellen. As the story progresses, she begins looking for other ways to escape her parents, and so do real kids in these situations. It’s worth remembering that their solutions don’t always make sense to those of us on the outside. That doesn’t mean their solutions are inherently wrong. They’re just outside our understanding.

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Sometimes when I’m talking about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I have a hard time trying to get across the point that there are worse things that can happen to a girl raised around drug addicts. For a lot of readers, Wavy’s life seems utterly horrific, as is her relationship with what one person described as a “drug-dealing bike thug with a violent, hair-trigger temper.” Even as I wrote Wavy’s story, though, I was carrying in the back of my mind the knowledge that things could have been so much worse for her. As bad as Wavy’s parents are, there are far worse monsters out there.

Victoria-MartensToday, the morning news contained a visceral reminder of that. Here is the story of Victoria Martens. Drugged, raped, and murdered by her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s cousin. This is real life, not fiction, and it illustrates the absolute most horrific thing that can happen to a child when the adults in her life are drug addicts who have lost touch with reality, decency, and respect for human life.

And while the news doesn’t mention it, these people are drug addicts. Casual users of drugs pop pills or snort coke, like they’ve seen in the movies. Casual drug users don’t keep the necessary equipment to inject a 10-year-old girl with meth so that their boyfriends can rape her on her birthday. (I have no interest in parsing the details of who did the injecting, raping, murdering. If her mother was there for it and could have intervened, she as good as did it all herself.)

So while I will be the first person to acknowledge that Wavy’s relationship with Kellen is neither ideal nor desirable for a young girl, I also tend to look at it from the slant of other little girls’ tragedies. I wish every girl in this situation could simply get out of it and go to a safe home to live with responsible, loving adults. Failing that–and as a society, we are failing that–I wish all the girls in this situation had at least one person to provide them with unconditional love and protection. I wish the Wavies of the world could always have a Kellen in some form or another, but so often they don’t.

Love and peace to you, Victoria.

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It started Friday night and by Saturday, I had a full-blown fever.  Not yet of the achy, miserable, death-dealing variety, but a good fever.  Maybe that sounds weird, but there are good fevers.  The ones that detach you from your usual thought-processes, letting you wander freely through your subconscious and unconscious mind, leaving a trail of powdered donut crumbs upon which a million little mental ants will swarm and feed.  Delightful.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Paul Lawrence Dunbar

There’s something sensuous about fever as well.  The heat in all your limbs, the heaviness in your eyes, the way every sensation is magnified until even the seams on your clothes chafe and irritate.  If your partner isn’t afraid of cooties, fever sex is magnificent.  Intense but blunted, confounding and goalless.  No wonder there was such a cloud of romance around tuberculosis in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The bitterness of encroaching death sweetened by fever-pleasure and hallucination.  Some of the best fevers of my life were in college in the weeks before I was diagnosed with TB.  Luscious, trippy evening fevers that dissipated by morning.  Like a wine buzz, but without a hangover.  Too bad it turned out I had TB.  I could have gone on forever enjoying those fevers and the fruits of those fevers.

Because that’s the writerly element of my fever-pleasure: the things I think of to write while I’m in the throes of a fever.  Perhaps it’ll be weeks before they come to fruition, but the seeds are planted around 100-101 degrees.  It makes me wonder about all the artificial means writers employ to expand their creative visions, to access their subconscious, to free them from inhibitions.

Many people write while drinking wine or other alcohol.  I find it dulls me as much as marijuana.  Makes everything seem funny or clever or brilliant, until sober daylight falls on it.  It works for some writers, though. A little too well, perhaps.  Joyce, Cheever, Chandler, Hemingway, they were all alcoholics.  Tennessee Williams, he was just a lush.

Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe

Poe went full bore, a user and abuser of alcohol, absinthe, and cocaine. Same for Hunter S. Thompson, although his extensive pharmacological experimentation makes Poe look like a mere dabbler.  If alcohol won’t deliver, there’s acid and peyote. (If you don’t mind the “who crapped in my mouth?” feeling afterward.)

As a grown up, I’ve sworn off drugs, but there’s always that other fallback from my college days: sleep deprivation.  Such lovely strange visions it provided.  Go without sleep long enough and you’ll meet parts of your personality you never knew existed.  Or at any rate, your friends will meet them.  You’ll have a vague memory of it, like an old movie on late night television that you half-slept through.  Later, you can’t remember which parts were really the movie and which parts were your dream.

For example, in grad school I once had a deeply involved conversation with a bag of Legos at a thrift store.  It was the product of nearly four days of sleeplessness, powered by coffee and truckstop love.  Sadly, my boyfriend at the time did not value the hallucinogenic effects of my lack of sleep and intervened.

Then there’s the simple fact that sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous as many drugs.  All in all, I’ll take a nice fever to fuel my imagination.  What about you?  What’s your preferred creative “drug”?

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