Commentary: Middle Initial Jail

Chapter: How to Draw a Heart in One Easy Lesson    

      “Make way, way-cloggers,” boomed Monty. He set several sodas down, glanced up at the frosty knothole and stopped. “No. Are you kidding me? No. Are you kidding me? No. Are you?” I've been asked if I'm Fair Finley, or like Fair Finley, before. Yes, is the partial answer, and when I was 20 I had a lot in common with Wilfair's leading lady, who is a week away from her 20th birthday in the books. But I always feel closest to Monty. He's a bit saucier than I am, but we're both talky people. He's the easiest character to write -- I'm always anticipating Monty's reaction when he's in the room -- and him repeating "are you kidding me?" is not far from what my reaction would be here. Okay. Thank you. Sorry to talk about myself! That was a little dull but I'm done now.
     “Right? It’s a window, drawn on a window. I’m pretty upset about this,” muttered Sutton. “We could have had a real artistic sort of picture. Or a heart.” Sutton Von Hunt has only been hanging out with Gomery Overbove for all of, oh. A day? And she's pointedly saying she didn't like what he chose to draw, saying it in front of him. I can confirm he is delighted by Sutton's charming/rude reactions (which, in Wilfairese, could be defined as "chrude.") Politeness is a way of life for the guy who lives inside a 24-hour business, and Sutton saying whatever the hell she wants tickles him, even if he's occasionally the recipient. Maybe she's even a bit of an inspiration to him.
     “Or bad words. La la la,” sparkled Aunt Ever. She leaned toward Sutton in her patented “aren’t we naughty together” way, but her reaching out was for naught. Sutton ignored her. I like Aunt Ever. She's coming back soon!
     Monty looked at Gomery, and then at me. Then he grinned at Aunt Ever. “Hey, Aunt Ever. You know when you’re at a party, and you walk into a room, and you’re like, whoa, because there are a couple of people on the couch who are suddenly, um. What word would Fair say? Necking? And you get the hell out of there as fast as you can?” "Grinned" is a word I feel a little complicated about it, because it can be used too much, particularly for guys, but that doesn't stop me from using it now and then. It's such a particular kind of smile, one that's a bit devilish, and I'm a sucker for it (the word and smile). When I can use another descriptive term I do but sometimes it just fits. But I don't feel at all complicated about the word "necking" -- I love love love it.
     Aunt Ever of course’d, Prior very much’d, Sutton totally’d, I no’d, and Gomery remained silent. Where is Gomery looking here? When I wrote it I thought he might be waiting to see what Fair would say before answering. But now I think he is giving his cousin an even, sharply delivered "really?" look.
     “What about it?” asked Aunt Ever, curious. She looked like she wanted to whisper something conspiratorial to me, but was fresh out of ideas. Aunt Ever constantly trying to be conspiratorial with Fair or Sutton here is based on something I'm a little pet-peevish about: The person who constantly wants to draw you out of a larger group to whisper or give running commentary on the other people.
     “Nothing,” shrugged Monty, handing out the drinks. “But if you see me run outta here, don’t ask questions.” He leaned close to my ear. “Bet you’re glad you got outta your big tower for a night.” Monty says "outta" but Gomery does not. Also, I was going to have Monty take a pull on the straw of someone else's drink here, maybe Sutton's, but decided against it. I have to avoid overMontying moments, which, given my druthers, I would.
     Sutton scowled at Gomery. “I cannot believe you wasted a frosted window. I should’ve remembered old children can’t say dirty words, much less write ’em.”
     “What are old children?” Aunt Ever looked as if she wanted to add the term to her next bout of cozy, too-close ear-whispering.
     My friend thumbed. “X, Y, and Z here.”
     “X, Y, and Z?” Yes. YES. Agreed. It's slightly cutesy, but it just fits the world for me. So it stayed.
     “Middle initials."
     "Middle initial jail," breathed Sutton. "Anywayses. These three grew up in that hotel and motel, saw too much love, honeymoons and engagements, and retreated into their little stuffed animal rooms to think about bunnies having tea parties. But they also have to work all the time, and be polite with guests, and act all like they’re a thousand years old. They’re grown-up, but not all, like, at the same time. It’s some sort of condition. Old-child-itis. There’s no cure, as far as I know.” Secret: I enjoyed writing Wilfair in the very early days, writing writing writing, but I felt there was a piece of the foundation missing. The cousins and Fair were old children in personality -- well, Monty a little less so -- but that particular trait hadn't been defined or stated. When Sutton puts a name to it in the middle of the book, and describes it for the Overboves, I understood them better. And rewrites got easier. And "old children" was introduced, in a plain way, as a theme.
     “Suts, you know you’re supremo with me, and I don’t even mind your old children ribbing, but you got your dirty words with that window. You just don’t know it.” Monty winked at me. Winks are so old-fashioned and fusty and wonderful. They can be innocently saucy, too, or frankly cheesy. Or a tad creepy, which I try and avoid. But once I had Monty wink the first time I knew they'd be a recurring thing.
     “Don’t call me Suts. "And I don’t get your meaning, which is classic old children. All veiled and crap. Classic. You do have my girl here making eyes at her lap, which is also so old children. Lap staring. Always a cry for help.” She turned to me. “I hate this soda. Can I get a beer, Fair? Maybe a screwdriver? Or margarita. I want a margarita.” I returned to add "screwdriver" here as a set-up for a Fair-Gomery conversation later in the book.
     “No,” I said.
     “Pre-buzz killer. Classic old child,” Sutton sighed. In books or films where underage characters drink, they're either all on board or the "goodie-goodie" attempts to dissuade his or her friends. But I'd never seen an underage character deny another underage character alcohol access because it was her bar. So that interested me.
     Monty set a tall Shirley Temple in front of me. It was stuffed with cherries top to bottom, with trickles of fizzy liquid pooling in the non-cherried spaces. “Your special pink drink, Madam Old Child.” I haven't recreated this at home but intend to one day.
     I ate a cherry. “Generally I go with about nine cherries, not, um, thirty. Is there even drink in my drink? But . . . thank you, I guess?”
     “Anything for my girl, as Suts would say. Or. Not my girl, but the cruel vixen who’s trying to steal my swimming pool.” I wish Monty would tell Fair how he feels about the hotel trying to take the motel's pool.
     Aunt Ever’s arched eyebrows achieved maximum arch-o-sity. I add "o-sity" to a lot of things in my writing elsewhere. Just realized that. Er.
     Then I looked at Gomery. The nettles on the back of my neck foretold he was about to mouth something at me, and I briefly wondered if necks can prophesize the future more accurately than pinecones. Word clouds reveal that "looked" is a big word in all three books. All of those silent eye conversations.

     So I braced. The fact is, one can never prepare for someone they are interested in to mouth something. Evening classes could help with my rolled-up sleeves issues, and saying “sorry” fifty times a day, and my problem with substituting less sexy words for sexier words, but I would have to deal with getting mouthed at without assistance. Substituting less sexy words for sexier words is something I absolutely do. That's why I turn to Monty, to say the things I often want to but won't.
     And go. "Go," of course, are Gomery Overbove's initials. :)
     “Snood,” he mouthed. You know how when two modems or motherboards or computer systems finally connect and plug into each other it is called a "handshake"? One system has important data for another system and that system has agreed to accept it?
      This moment, when Gomery mouths "snood," is the book's handshake.  

cr: Dudley Carr


do dah said...

1) monty's reaction to that picture was the best.

2) why haven't you re-created that shirley temple? seems perfect for a tuesday. or wednesday, since everyone over-uses tuesday now.

3) the "-osity"-ing reminds me of georgia nicholson, when i bother to find it unusual at all; it is such a part of my brainspace. i do not think it's a part of my actual-out-loud speech, though.

4) i think i had a dream about aunt ever the other night? or, she was in a dream i had about something else?

Caitlin #1 said...

Yes! Monty's reaction here is the best. Monty's reactions are pretty much always the best.

This scene was when I first got fully on board with the potential Fair/Gomery relationship. Sure, I liked them both before this point, but you could say this was when I started actively shipping them.

Wilfair Book said...

do dah: Right? Tuesday is so overused. Also, you started me on the Georgia books! I love reading recs from my blog ladies.

Caitlin #1: I was going to say that I wish I cared less, like Monty, but I think he cares a lot. Rather, he's carefree.

I had no idea this was your moment! Excitement.

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