Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chapter 25! Meet Aunty Jaz

Merry Christmas! I'll be posting again Monday, December 27. I'll miss everybody. I hope this is enough to get you through the weekend. I'll be checking back for comments when I can sneak away from wrapping presents.

Hugs and love to you all. You've given me an incredible gift I can never repay. Your support on this journey means so much to me. I treasure every comment. Thank you.

Okay, here's what you've been waiting for . . . meet Aunty Jaz. I dreamed her up years ago when I first thought of writing a sequel to TAKEN BY STORM. It's cool to finally put her on paper.


POEM # ??

Michael drives me to a world
I didn’t know existed on Cayman.
Narrow roads, no sidewalks.
Cinder block walls, corrugated
metal roofs, wire fences.
Fat chickens and skinny dogs.
Laundry outside drying on lines
strung from trees, baking
in the hot Cayman sun.

No manicured resort lawns
and tropical gardens. No beach,
no sand, no ocean.
Jungle-like growth encroaching
each habitation, green upon green
punctuated by scarlet bougainvillea
in rampant profusion climbing
telephone poles, fence gates,
houses and engine-less cars
rusting in the front yards.
Dusty black children play
in the dirt.

Aunty Jazz’s fish shack is truly
a shack. Vines entangle the tiny
structure as if they’ll pull it apart.
Pres. X told us she lives
in rooms behind it.

Michael parks in front.
“Are you sure, babe?”
He looks up and down the street. 
“This part of the island
isn’t what you’re used to.”
A rooster struts across the road.
“I come from a farm full of pigs.
My grandma had chickens.”
He frowns, uncomfortable.
“But every body here is—”
“A different color.”
I frown right back.
“That shouldn’t matter.”
His hand rests on my head.
“I’m not leaving you here
until I know you’re safe.”
I lean over and kiss him.
I climb out, and a small boy
with a huge dog calls from across
the street. “Aunty Jaz is sick.
No fish, lady.”
I cross the street and pat
the mutt’s head. “Hi, I’m Leesie.
I’m Aunty Jaz’s friend.”
His lower lip juts out.
“How come I never see you before?”
The dog growls.
I recall my hand. “I’m a new friend.”
“I thought so.”

Michael won’t unload my bags
until we check things out.
We pause in front at windows
secured with heavy wooden shutters
painted yellow and purple.
And a locked pink door.
“Around back,” the boy yells.

“Keep behind me.”
Michael shields me with his body,
quietly creeping, in case
we’re attacked
the two large, laughing women
we find on a screened porch.

“Don’t make me laugh, sister,”
the gray-haired one shrieks,
“it hurts my foot.”
“Laughing hurts your foot?”
“Everything hurts my foot.”
They see Michael and stop.
“Aunty Jaz?”
She frowns. “The restaurant’s closed
I step out from behind Michael.
“Pres. X sent us.”
Her hands flap up and down.
“Mercy, where’s my manners?
You’ll be Sis. Hunt?”
I can’t help but smile back at her.
“Leesie, please. Can I call you
Aunty Jaz?”
“Only if you come right here”—
she holds open her arms—
“and give this old soul a kiss.”

The other sister opens the screen
door wide, beams and nods.
I got right up to Aunty Jaz,
lean over, and kiss her sunken cheek.
She hugs me to her ample bosom.
Her eyes move from the ring
on my finger to Michael and back
to me. “I bet you got a good story for me.”
“Leesie’s a poet.”
Michael stands in the doorway.
“You don’t say.” She moves
over so I can sit beside her
on the sagging couch.
“I’ll be having that after dinner then.”
A void in my soul makes my head droop.
“I can’t. It’s all lost.”
Aunty Jaz’s shoulders heave up and down.
“Write me more then—after dinner.”

“Excuse me.” Michael disappears,
returns with my bags, pulls
a packet of scrawl covered scraps
from an outside pouch I didn’t notice
when I unpacked.
“It’s not gone.”
He places the scribbles in my lap.
“I’ll leave you the laptop.”
I pick the bundle up, stare at it—
unbelieving, jump up and hug him.
“So I can stay?” I whisper.
He nods. “I have a good feeling about this.”
He turns to Aunty Jaz. “My dad loved
your fish fry. Do I get a kiss, too?”
Aunty Jaz grins and puckers her lips.
Michael kisses her cheek like I did.
She kisses him back. “Sit down, boy.
Sit down and we’ll have us a visit."
He perches on the arm of the couch.
She grasps his young, strong hand 
in her ancient one. "I have a good 
feeling about you, too."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chapter 24- The Big Finish

Yay! I made it. I know you're all busy getting ready for Christmas, traveling, running around doing great things for people and probably don't even have time to check in today, but in case you do, in case you be broken-hearted if I don't get this post up, I finally got a chance to break away and pull this scene together.

It was fun chatting last night on Twitter. We'll have to do it again. I feel like we chat every day here on the blog. But live back and forth is a different experience. Let me know if you're interested and I'll schedule another live Tweet.

Tomorrow will be my last post before Christmas. I hope you're all getting ready for a wonderful holiday.  I'll be back next Monday, December 27th--but we'll discover Aunty Jaz together tomorrow, before I leave you.

Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  06/18
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  

            Leesie wants one of those blessings things like her dad and Jaron did back in the hospital before I take  her to Aunty Jaz’s. All the sudden she’s moving in with a sick old lady. Aunty Jaz's fish shack was my dad’s favorite place to eat on the island. A dump from the outside, but the best fish—spicy and moist. It’s sad she had to close the place. The woman’s a perfect stranger to Leesie. But the way her and Pres. X talk about Aunty Jaz, she really is an aunty. Sister this and Brother that. I got sort of used to that when I was in Provo before Christmas last year, but it still sounds weird. Especially, Brother Walden. That sounds the weirdest of all.
            I don’t mind slowing down. Making sure Leesie thinks this through. If this blessing gives her a chance to do that cool. I’m curious to watch it again.
            Pres. X invites a second dude to join us. This guy is short, sunburned, mostly bald with a buzzed blonde fringe. He smiles at Leesie, runs his hand over his head. “I like your 'do.” He speaks with a British accent. He and Pres X make quite the odd couple.
            “This is Bro. Y.” Pres. X’s eyes rest on my face. “He’ll assist.”
            Bro. Y has a silver cylinder on his key chain just like Jaron did. I feel totally useless. If he was here, he could do this for Leese—instead of these strangers—brothers or not.
            Bro. Y opens the cylinder. “This is olive oil, like they had at the time of Christ, that has been consecrated”—he notices the puzzled frown creasing my forehead—“blessed for the healing of the sick.”
            “She isn’t sick.”
            Bro. Y and Pres. X stand on either side of Leesie’s chair. Pres. X grasps the back of it. “Physically, she is well. But spiritually . . . ”
            Leesie whispers, “I’ve got a long way to go.” She closes her eyes.
            “Can I stay?”
            “Please do, Brother Walden.”
            Bro. Y puts a drop of oil on Leesie’s head. He and Pres. X place their hands on her head, too. Bro. Y says a few rapid words I don’t catch, their hands lift off her head a beat and then rest down again.
            “Leesie Marie Hunt.” Pres. X’s rich Caymanian accent fills the room. “By the power of the Holy Melchezedick priesthood which we hold, we place our hands on your head and give you a blessing. . . . ”
            The rest is intimate, personal, holy. I don’t feel right writing it down. I couldn’t if I tried. He blessed her with health, strength, and the power to conquer temptation. Does that mean me or just sinning with me? I get a strong impression that it doesn’t mean me.
            He says stuff about the accident and Phil. Her family loving her. God loving her.
            And then he says, “You’ve found the love of a valiant son of God. Cherish that love. Build upon it. Eternal happiness can be yours.” My first thought is he’s talking about Jaron. Dump this jerk and get home to your destiny. Then a powerful force hits me in the heart, and I know that it’s me. Pres. X is calling me that. A son of God. Valiant. Me?
            I don’t recall anything else in the blessing after that.
Leesie can be eternally happy with me? I didn’t think that was possible. I thought I was against all the rules—even if we got married.
            I can’ t marry you if you’re not a Mormon. How many times has that echoed in my mind since I proposed the first time, and she threw my ring back at me? That’s not fair. She cried. It hurt her as much as it hurt me.
            What’s changed now?
            What’s so different?
            That power speaking to my heart whispers--

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chapter 24 - Part 2 What will Leesie do?

Merry Christmas week! I hope some of you can join me on Twitter @liv2writ today, December 21, either at 4:00-4:30 PM MST (two hours from now!) or 9:00-9:30 PM MST. Add #liv2writ to each Tweet so we can all see your questions and comments. This is my first one solo, so I'm kind of nervous. If you're not into tweeting, you can follow my comments via my FaceBook wall. I'll try to respond to all of you! I hope some of you can make it. If it works, we'll try it again.

Here's today's post. I'm finally answering questions. I think. 

I'm a hero's journey writer. The final leg of a hero's journey story is called "The Return" when the hero returns home in triumph and uses his new skills to set things right there (think of Frodo and Sam in LOTR) or the hero ventures further into the special world and uses their new skills to vanquish a bigger, badder evil--or find true love--or both! I like to write fairly lengthy returns. My editor was an Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 girl. She didn't quite know what to make of my return sequence at the end. She thought it was an Act 4. Act 4's aren't allowed. 

With TAKEN BY STORM, I ended up cutting Michael and Leesie's trip to Florida (Michael's return home and Leesie's venture deeper into Michael's world) from a full week of Spring Break to three short days. But she let me have my return, in SING ME TO SLEEP. She still thought it was an Act 4, but decided it worked. If I ever have another editor (and I hope I do!), I'll hold firm for those returns. 

I am the worst plotter in the universe. The hero's journey has helped immensely. I did read Campbell (THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES, etc.) but highly recommend Christopher Vogler's application in THE WRITER'S JOURNEY.  If I had to choose only one writing book to take me with to a deserted island, it would be that. No question. 

I'm so excited. This poem launches Leesie and Michael into the return. Which direction do you think it will go? Back home? Or deeper into Grand Cayman?

POEM #??,

Hesitation clutches my stomach
before I enter Pres. X’s office.
Does lost Leesie lurk in the corner
where Grandma and Phil’s heaven sent
light left her licking her wounds
and planning a counter offensive
to retake my soul at dawn’s first light?

Michael guides me through the door—
my buffer, my strength, my love.
The room feels sweet, inviting, holy.
I whisper a prayer of thanks as I sit.
The Spirit washes over me in healing
waves. Slowly, slowly. It whispers. Go slowly.

Michael reports my phone call home.
He knows I can’t speak of it without sobbing.
I stood in the shower for a half hour
last night before I stopped crying enough to sleep.
President X leans forward, hands clasped,
eyes concerned. “Are you leaving us then, Sis Hunt?”
He sounds disappointed?
“My dad said I can stay if I need to.”
I swallow and sniff, blink watery eyes.
President X smiles. “The Lord works
in mysterious ways.”
Michael doesn’t understand. “I can take
her home whenever she wants to go.
She’s known that from the start.”
“I appreciate that.” Pres. X’s voice calms the water.
“I have an opportunity for Sister Hunt
to consider.”
I sit up straight and try to focus.
“Like a place to stay?”
“Like a job?” Michael chimes
in at the same time.

His mouth splits into a welcome
grin. “Let’s call it a service project.”
Michael frowns back at him.
“That’s what she called me.”

“A sister in the branch—
we all call her Aunty Jaz—”
Michael’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Aunty Jaz is a Mormon?”
“You’ve had her fish?” Pres. X closes
his eyes to savor a succulent memory.
Michael does the same. Inhales a phantom
scent. “It’s the best.”

The story unfolds—
Hot oil. Burned foot. Blisters.
Bad infection. Diabetic. Not healing.
Released from the hospital but needs
help round the clock. LDS sisters
from the branch
have taken turns all week.
Her daughter in the states
just had twins. Her son on
Cayman is court-ordered
to keep his distance.
Fish shack closed. No money
coming in now for weeks.
“We’re looking after her rent
and food, but hiring a companion
is beyond what we can do.”

I sit up tall, straight, feel the Lord’s
hand redeeming my life.
“I can do it. I can. I looked after
my grandmother.”
Pres. X holds his hands up,
slow down, girl, slow down.
“You’ll have to cook and clean.
She does have a nurse
stop in to dress the wound
and bathe her.”
“Yes, yes, yes, please let me try.”
I’ve wallowed in guilt day after day
week after week, months now.
I can serve, Lord. I can.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

“Are you sure, Leese?”
Michael’s hand rests on my knee.
I nod. So sure.
His eyes turn to Pres. X.
“What about the son?
Will she be safe?”
“Aunty Jaz hasn’t heard
from him in two years.”
How sad. Poor Aunty.
If not for Michael—that could be me.
Estranged forever. But now I’m released.

“You should pray about it, Sis. Hunt.”
I make a strange sound halfway
between a laugh and a sob.
“I already did. I’m ready now.
But, first, President, will
you give me a blessing?”
I need Michael to see this,
to feel this,
to know the power
he’s brought back into my life.

Pres. X blinks his eyes.
“Of course, Sis. Hunt.
I’d be honored.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

CHAPTER 24 - Part 1

Christmas is in five days! Yikes. I'm never ready, but this year--between keeping up daily posts here--and the wonderful, shocking, overwhelming news that SING ME TO SLEEP was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award, I'm more behind than ever. Don't worry, though. Short post today. I'm heading out shopping with my boys. I have to admit, if I couldn't shop online, nothing much would get bought.

I hope to see all of you tomorrow at my first solo live Tweet Chat. I'm going to try to use Tweetdeck so my comments will post to my FaceBook wall, too. Comment there if you want to join in but are anti-Tweet! Otherwise, come join the fun. 4:00-4:30 PM MST and 9:00-9:30 PM. Follow me @ liv2writ and add #liv2writ to every tweet so everyone following can see your questions. Come with lots of questions. I'm looking forward to it.

Okay. Short Michael Dive log--partly because I need to go Christmas shopping and partly because this is a rest in between poems for Leesie. She needs to narrate the scene with Pres. X (that poor guy--I need to name him!), so Michael gets a turn here. I want his reaction to the phone call anyways.


Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  06/17
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  

            Everyone else is asleep when Leesie slides back open the balcony door. I’m awake in my cot. I whisper, “Babe,” get up, trip over Ethan. He curses me, rolls over, and farts.
            This could be Leesie’s last night. For all I know, her parents want her to get on a plane tomorrow and go home.  I’ll quit, go with her. They okay here with Dani back. I hate to bail and leave them short-handed, but Leesie comes first. And maybe if I take her home, it’ll get me a little on her parents’ good side. I did call her dad—and he was grateful—but I also stole their daughter. Do they understand why I did it? What did Leesie tell them?
            And then there’s Mr. Branch President dude. Who knows what crazy stuff he’s got in line. Probably, same idea. An airline ticket home. Best I can imagine is an apartment I can rent for her. A marriage license? If he insists, I’m not going to debate it. Not any more. It’s out of my hands. It’s all up to her now.
            I reach Leesie. She’s pretty much drenched in tears and other facial fluid. “You okay?”
            She holds her hands out for me and starts crying again. I step out into the warm night air on the balcony. “Hey, hey, hush now. I’m here.” I fold her up in my arms. “Are they making you come home?”
            Her voice squeaks through her tears. “Dad says I can stay here as long as we need to.”
            I close my eyes, don’t want to say this. “I can take you home tomorrow. Just say the word.”
            A shudder moves through her body. “Let’s talk to Pres. X first.”
            “Does your dad have a shot gun? Or that razor knife. Is he buying new blades?”
            She shakes her head—trying to remember. “He said something really sweet about calling you, ‘son.’”
            “He always does that.”
            “He meant it different this time.”
            I rest my lips on her silky soft head. “What does that mean?”
            She bites her trembling lip. “I think it means you can’t get rid of me no matter what.”
            “Even if I’m not a Mormon?”
“My dad’s got a lot of faith.” She sniffs and loses it again.
I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. So far—it’s all good. “Were they angry?” I sit on the chaise lounge and pull her down beside me.
            She shakes her head and speaks into my shoulder. “We were all devastated together.”
            I stroke her head. “You’ve been holding all that in.”
            “It’s coming out now.” She wipes her hand down her face. “All over you.”
            I squeeze her. “Any time, babe.”
            “If that’s what it takes.”
            “I don’t deserve you.”
            “I don’t deserve you.”
            “No way we’re even.”
            I kiss her nose. “Don’t worry. I’ll collect.”
            “Michael!” She slugs my arm.
            I love every note of her protest. I kiss her to make sure. All her old barriers are back up. “Freak.” I rub my face against hers. “You’re back. You’re really back.”