Daisies and 309 manuscript pages

There is light at the end of the tunnel. The light being the potential for a final manuscript draft (before sending it out into the world, then there’s a whole other tunnel…!), the tunnel being the last 2 1/2 years of creating and editing and living inside Bea Porter’s world of lifeguarding and Nan-missing. I just started reading this 13th draft and am feeling pret-ty excited.

I’m about to embark on two weeks away to (hopefully!) get this bad boy post ready. I can’t wait to have uninterrupted time to spend with Bea. It’s been too long since we’ve hung out, just the two of us for any length of time.

Oh, and those daisies in the photo? After birthday brunch for a dear friend, we were walking down Roncesvalles Ave and a fellow was handing out daisies by the fistful. We each got a bunch and they’ve kept me good company during this last grey, damp week.

I posted the intro  of my manuscript while back, though it’s changed since, but I figured in honour of this almost-done-ness, I’d post some more of “The Opposite of Drowning.” It feels good when it’s less mine and more out in the world…

An excerpt:

When Dad was at work, or upstairs sleeping, my sisters would bike to swimming lessons, to day camp or their friends’ houses. But I wasn’t allowed to bike anywhere by myself, so I stayed home and watched beauty pageants in the basement.

“Hi, my name is Betty and I’m from Arkansas and I’d like to send a special thanks to my sponsors WKYT Radio!” said one of the girls with poofy hair and shiny lips. They each had a different way to announce their sponsor – “a special thanks,” “a warm thanks,” “a gracious thank you.”

It was always the southern girls who won. The New York and Pennsylvania and Maine girls were pretty, but it didn’t matter that their hair was just as perfect and blonde as Miss Virginia, or that their dresses were just as sparkly as Miss Kansas’, they just didn’t sound quite as fabulous with their “I Want World Peace and To Help the Starving Children in Africa” speeches.

I watched the pageants with the atlas open, keeping my finger on the tiny dot for dark-eyed Miss Hawaii, on the mint-green square of Miss Wyoming’s home state as she glided across the stage in an evening gown the colour of Grape Kool-Aid. The pink tongue of Toronto stuck out near Michigan, the home state of the girl who stumbled over her heels during her bathing suit walk. I thought she’d cry, makeup running down her cheeks like polluted rivers, but she didn’t. Not one tear, except her smile was so big she might as well have cried.

I liked the ventriloquists during the talent section of the competition, but I loved the girls who twirled baton best. I loved the blur of the rubberized ends, and how the silver caught the overhead lights.

Some afternoons, I’d put on my bathing suit, the one with the badges sewn up the side and pull my hair in a high ponytail. “My name’s Bea Porter and I’m representing Ontario, Canada. I’d like to thank my generous sponsors at CBC Radio. I believe in peace and getting rid of famine.”

But one afternoon I tried twirling the broom handle like a baton and broke the kitchen light into a million pieces. The tiles in front of the fridge were covered with bits of frosted glass and red polka-dots and it took me a moment to realize it was blood, my blood.

“What the hell?” Dad had come running down the stairs, his cheek pillow-creased. “Where are your sisters? Jesus! Jesus Christ!”

And I knew he felt like the worst father ever, sitting with me in the emergency room, my foot tied up with a tea towel. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he kept saying. “I should have been up. You shouldn’t have been alone.”


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