Commentary: Buzzed

The behind-the-scenes commentary continues!

Today I'm pairing two moments from two books. What do they have in common? The texting of the word "fire" and the buzzing of pockets (corduroy and ruffled). 

Thank you for hanging in. These are fun for me and I hope you're enjoying them as well.

Chapter: How Hard Can You Throw?    

     “Sunrise over the tar pits? Probably kind of spectacular. But we’re smashing the mint dish just after midnight, right? And then we eat? So what happens between the omelets and dawn? That’s like. A few hours, at least. What’ll we do?” I actually made a little itinerary for this night a few years ago because I wanted to know exactly how long Fair and Gomery would have between the omelets and dawn. I calculated around four and a half hours, which seemed a pretty long time for a slightly elicit middle-of-the-night non-date first date. The more I know them the more I believe they would fill a lot of that time at the Mmm Mmm CafĂ©, chatting and listening to the jukebox. Also? I have their favorite jukebox songs written down, too, somewhere. Oh yes I do.
     “Swim?” Gomery smiled his hugest smile of the night. His mouth, formally an equal sign, was pure half radius. Googling radii to confirm they could indeed be smile-like was one the oddest things I did while writing "Redwoodian."
     All the degrees on the planet. Inside me. Hot. I reached into my pocket, removed my messager, and, with three quick thumb strokes, copied, pasted, and sent the last text I’d received. I stowed my messager and waited. All the degrees on the planet is a very, very, very large number, even if you're counting just surface degrees. I hope Fair knows what she's doing when she unleashes that sort of hyperbole. Also? Slightly embarrassing secret reveal time. I texted myself "fire" to make sure it could easily be done in three quick thumb strokes. Confirmed: It can be. Also? While Fair is waiting for her message to bounce off some distant space satellite and back down into Gomery's corduroys she is feeling very, very, VERY pleased about what she just did.
     His pocket buzzed. He ignored it. Gomery knew what was happening the whole time, with Fair sending a text. He knew he was to be the recipient. Thus he had to repeat inside his head "don't answer, don't answer" seconds ahead of his pocket buzzing, because he might have just automatically reached for his phone upon it buzzing, out of habit. But that would have undermined the flirty response he intended to set up.
     “You have a message.”
     “So my leg tells me.” What else does Gomery's leg convey to him? Hmm.
      I made a face. “You don’t like texts.”
     “I like important texts. And I’m pretty sure the message in my pocket is the most important one I’ve ever gotten. Let me confirm.” He pulled out his phone and looked at it. “Indeed it is.” He repocketed it and continued to smile his half-radius smile. He then retrieved his phone. “Oh, it said ‘fire,’ if you’re curious, and it was sent from, hold on”— he adjusted his glasses and peered at the screen­—“Fair Finley! Now, Ms. Finley, why would you send a text that says ‘fire’ when we already have an impressive blaze before us?” The teasing tone, the one he’d taken for a test drive during us not not touching, was back. When he adjusts his glasses and peers at the screen he is repeating "don't laugh, don't laugh" a few times in his head, because everything gushy and wonderful is bubbling up inside his chest. I see that pause in conversation as a moment for him to take a small breather and compose himself, the better to keep his pseudo-serious stance about the text. Because I sense he's quickly losing composure and he might just puddle into happy laughter at any moment.
      “Because I have a question. Can fire put out water?”
     “Pool water?”
     “Impossible.” The beam was back. “But I wouldn’t mind running an experiment.” Hoo boy. Hang tight, Gomery. You know that long, bouncy plank-like thing that kids sometimes cannonball off of, at the motel? That will soon be in the mix. Trust.

Stay Awhile
Chapter: Can You Imagine the Stress?

     I felt him reach into his own pocket, extract something, and put the object away. Moments later, my ruffles buzzed. There was no need for me to check my messager, because I knew exactly what the one-word text would say:


     If ever a text would burn a hole in my pocket. If ever. They'd just been discussing the long, bouncy plank-like thing that kids sometimes cannonball off of, just ahead of this scene, hence Gomery texting the word "fire" to Fair. This moment is a little companion moment to the one in "Redwoodian," obviously: A character receiving a one-word text, a text they don't have to check because they know the content. Truth? I love setting up companion moments and callbacks.

     Monty, hearing the buzz, groaned. “I can’t take it, Fair! Why don’t you tell that rich kid to stuff it!” This makes me chortle, a bit, because Monty is younger than Thurs. But the motelier calls the mysterious hotel heir "a kid" on a few occasions. I see this "kid" business as Monty raising his own self-worth rather than diminishing Thurs. Well, maybe he's doing that, too. Montgomery Y. Overbove has a bit of an ego.
     “It’s not from the rich kid.” Then I considered the text’s sender and his many attributes. “Wait. Yes, it is.  It is the rich kid. The kid with so, so much.” This was one of the passages I fussed over the most in the book. I wanted it to be exactly right and full of feeling. I must have rewritten it, oh, over ten times, tweaking, tweaking, finessing.
     “Delusional. He must really believe he has a chance with you,” sighed Monty.
     “Does he?” asked the real rich kid. Seven words, also loved on again and again. Had to be just right.
     I mulled, then spoke carefully. “I think the day’s coming soon when I’ll see he’s all wet.”
     My answer seemed to satisfy both listeners. I'd always wanted to write a statement that could be interpreted in two totally different ways by two people who were both in the presence of the person making the statement. But it's incredibly difficult, for a few reasons, principally because so much of our meaning is delivered via *how* we say something. The inflection. That's why Fair speaks so carefully. She evens out her voice and drains a lot of her color from it, to not tip her hand. She's really talking to Gomery here, of course, not Monty, but Monty's interpretation is not off-base. Fair does want to eventually see Thurs Mathers as all wet, in the sense that she wants to get over being cowed by his business acumen and tactics and find her own power.
      Gomery, who has a natural antenna for secret messages, is delighted by her answer, and he instantly recognizes the two meanings, where Monty is only privy to one.
      Montgomery X. Overbove's all-wetness, of course, involves his green swim trunks and chlorine.
     It's no frosted window or neon sign, but Fair, like Gomery, was able to craft, then hide, her own stealth valentine and leave it in plain sight. Or plain hearing, rather.        



Erika said...

I am so glad you highlighted these moments! The idea of a "fire." Text makes me all twitterpated. :)

bess said...

Oh my goodness, a stealth valentine! I want one.

do dah said...

bess, agreed!

Caitlin #1 said...

Fact: "I think the day’s coming soon when I’ll see he’s all wet" is one of my top three favorite lines in all of "Stay Awhile."

I love that you test-texted "fire" to yourself to see if it could be done in three strokes.

Wilfair Book said...

Erika: You've mentioned "fire" before. Nice. Thanks!

Bess and do dah: All valentines are fab, but I'm with you: Stealth ones are heart-flippers.

Caitlin #1: The things I've tried out before they've gone in the books are numerous. I should probably do a post.

For what it is worth, I put my hand on the wall opposite my computer a few times. Didn't don a necktie, to determine its particular hang, but I wanted to get a sense of space. :)

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