Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Reason for the Split

Nearly done with this draft of my new novel. The rewrite process is pretty much sucking the lifeblood from me... so blogging will remain sporadic for a few weeks.

For those who have asked about the book, titled Split Infinities, here's a glimpse:

Of course she knew; it didn’t require a medical degree to deduce that if the three packs a day didn’t kill her, the repressed anger eventually would.

Though “repressed” wasn’t the most accurate term. Not with her record of rants against incompetent magazine editors or the tirade of e-mails sent to her ex-husband during their divorce proceedings. “An explosive, pitiful woman,” his attorney had called her. Kate smirked. As if his opinion was at all objective.

But no, repressed was clearly the wrong adjective. She knew she’d have conjured up the perfect modifier if she weren’t, at this particular moment, propped up in a hotel bed, in the midst of a heart attack and awaiting the ambulance she called.

The heart attack itself came as no surprise, though the prematurity was hardly expected. She was only 40—too young statistically for her lifestyle and temperament to have already caught up with her, wasn’t she? Her father had been 46 before his own three-pack-a-day habit zapped his heart. But his anger issues were practically nonexistent compared to hers. Unless, of course, his own anger was truly of the repressed nature.

Kate squinted, struggling to concentrate. Her anger was more…volcanic. Yes, that would describe it more accurately, she thought, pleased at her ability to self-edit even amidst the nausea and the crushing pain in her chest.

God, she’d love a cigarette. Probably a good time to quit.

The siren screamed in the distance, and Kate reached for her purse on the nightstand. She’d propped open the hotel room door once she was certain what was transpiring, before she’d grown too weak. No need to have the EMT crew battering down the door. Though most of the tourists were likely too preoccupied to notice this late night show.

This was an irony that couldn’t escape her: that she would be someplace like Disney World, surrounded by thousands of families taking part in their blissful and oblivious celebrations, while she lie dying, alone, in her hotel room.

Alone on New Year’s Eve, for Christ’s sake.

Disney hadn’t been her first choice, of course. Wanting—no, needing—an escape from the barbaric Niagara Falls winter, Kate had pitched the travel magazine editor on a story about New Year’s cruises. But the magazine had just run a cruise story, and the editor suggested the Disney angle instead. Desperate for both sunshine and a paycheck, Kate had agreed.

So off she journeyed, alone, to the kingdom of joyful families. And judging by her current condition, she might not live happily ever after.

As the siren neared, she visualized her obituary in the paper back home. Damn-she wished she’d had the forethought to write it herself, ahead of time, as writers often did. Though she’d have had to fudge the unforeseen details, she could have at least injected some humor, plugged in a bit of bravado. Left to other hands, instead it would read simply pathetic.

She imagined her sister-in-law, Linda the Wicked Witch of the Southwest, tsk-tsking how predictably pitiful it was for Kate to expire this way. And what a friggin’ nightmare for Linda to have to help plan the funeral, though she would offer to do so, naturally, with fabricated tears and a spray of cheap, dyed carnations. She hoped her death might come at a particularly inconvenient time, perhaps in the midst of one of Linda’s charity balls. Kate managed a smile at the thought.

Not that Kate welcomed being the subject of anyone’s hypocritical sympathy. She’d managed most of her life flying solo. She’d handle her death the same way.

She took a deep breath and pressed her hand to her chest. It would be easier if she didn’t suddenly feel so afraid.


“So Katherine, you began the evening feeling nauseous?”

Kate opened her eyes and gazed hazily at the nurse in the ER exam room. “Nauseated,” she said. “I felt nauseated.”

The nurse looked back down at the chart, with slight confusion. “Yes. You were nauseated.”

Kate nodded, closing her eyes again. “Right. I was nauseated, meaning I was sick to my stomach. If I were nauseous, it would mean I was making others sick to their stomachs. Though worse has been said about me.” She smiled, appreciative that her wit hadn’t fully disappeared, even though the pain appeared to be taking a toll on her wits.

With a painful smile, she tried to explain this play on words to the nurse, who simply nodded and turned away.

“She’s delusional,” Kate heard her remark to another nurse.

Before Kate could comment, the world turned black.


Disney World. Parade. Puking next to the Tower of Terror.

Had she gone on the ride? Not likely. Wasn’t she acrophobic? Yes, she was certain that was the case.

Though her eyes remained closed, she became aware of tubes and wires connected to her body. Where was she? A hospital? Vague images drifted through her mind.

Kate remembered watching a parade and taking notes. She recalled some indigestion, which she’d first dismissed to acid reflux. Probably bad judgment, her attempt to get the real Disney experience by eating those two corndogs and funnel cake.

But then a cold sweat started in, and she’d vomited.

On the monorail ride back, she’d puked again, hadn’t she? Yes, this time more discreetly, into a plastic shopping bag that read, “Capture the Magic.” And she nearly stumbled to her room, with no one even raising an eyebrow, apparently assuming she was celebrating New Year’s in predictable drunken fashion.

Her memory blurred again. Had she been drunk? No, she couldn’t recall a single drink. She suddenly remembered the pain in her chest, which had intensified and spread to her shoulder. Her eyes blinked open.

She gazed around the hospital room. One could simply sleep off a drinking binge. This was clearly more complicated.

So, this was how she spent her New Year’s Eve? Kate grimaced. How could she write an article about a New Year’s celebration when she spent the midnight hour in the ER? And what about her travel expenses? Could she still write them off?

If she was dead though, someone else would have to deal with her debt. Let the creditors just try to hit up her daughter. Meg could barely pay her own rent. Probably her brother would ante up, she reasoned. Wouldn’t that piss off Linda?

Debt was hardly her biggest worry right now anyway. Mere survival topped the list.

She’d contemplated dying four times in her life: When her mother died of ovarian cancer when Kate was 17. When she realized she was pregnant, two days before high school graduation. When her father died, just ten months after Meg was born. And when she realized her marriage had slipped out of her control. She’d not seriously considered committing suicide—just welcomed the notion of falling asleep and never waking up.

Funny, wasn’t it, that the thought she had embraced at those times was now her greatest fear?

She stared at the wires connecting her to the monitor and followed the undulating rhythm of her heart.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Keeping My Mouth Shut...

... for another week, while I focus on a novel rewrite. If you're having withdrawal pains (humor me here), feel free to peruse the archives.

The blog will be back in action sometime next week.