Hi WFW Blog friends! Welcome to our first workshopping page. Yes, workshop is a noun and a verb. At least it is to me. My name is Amy and I’ve been a writing workhop and workshopping junkie since 2007.
Below is the first scene of my work-in-progress. The working title, because I always have to have a title (a post for another time) is, THE LAST BATHING BEAUTY.
That’s all you get to know.
I pinched my cheeks to add a hint of color. If Grandma Boop saw me without make-up, she’d know something was wrong, although the ragged duffel in my hand would also be a clue. As would the cardboard boxes on the backseat of my car. I used my key to open the weathered door, and placed my bag on the floor. I tiptoed toward the back of the house, stepping over the floorboards that would have creaked. The voices that peppered my childhood summers in South Haven trickled through the heartbeat pounding in my ears, and slowed my breathing.
I stood amidst the floor-to-ceiling gauze curtains that separated the kitchen from the screen porch, and held the door jamb as the breeze and the fabric kissed my cheeks and welcomed me. Subtle scents mingled. Hints of cinnamon, coffee, and burnt toast tickled my nose.
Boop and her lifelong friends—now, her housemates—sat hunched over the long barn wood table surrounded by screens instead of walls or windows, working on their craft project du jour. Scissors chomped through photographs, and the women swept round clippings into wicker wastebaskets with smooth brushes of their hands. They didn’t even watch what they were doing. They must’ve been at it for hours.
I stepped closer, watching Boop’s fingers, still somewhat nimble at ninety-two, moved with precision. Her joints ached and she rubbed them with Aspercreme, and even though Boop claimed it didn’t help, she used it every day. I peered over my grandmother’s shoulder. She flipped over the photo and set it down.
“You got here fast, Hannah.”
“You didn’t know I was coming.”
“Jordan called me. That shnook of a boyfriend kicked you out.”
My sister never could keep a secret. It was a Peck family trait, loose lips when it came to the other women in our family, believing all-for-one-and-one-for-all when it came to sharing news of food, clothes, and love lives.
“Clark didn’t kick me out, I kicked myself out. I broke up with him and left. Two weeks ago.”
“About time,” someone mumbled.
I kept staring at Boop.
Even verbal suspicion didn’t budge my gaze, but Boop’s head turned a sharp right, in her friend Georgia’s direction. I couldn’t see Boop’s glare, but I knew it well.
“Where have you been staying?” Mona asked.
“You’re with family now,” Doris said.
I looked at the women as if they possessed one giant, collective heart.
Boop turned back to me and stretched out her arms. I leaned in and wrapped my arms around her, resting my head on her shoulder, atop the white crocheted shawl that draped around her. She bear-hugged me with an affectionate growl, as she had my whole life. Today Boop smelled like lavender, and when I closed my eyes, the scent and the color, both well-suited to my grandmother, seeped inside me.
“A gentleman never makes a lady wait,” she whispered.
I gulped and stepped back, and Boop lay her hands, one over the other, on top of the photos again.
“What are you making, Boop? Stuff for Memorial Day weekend?” I loved teasing my grandmother and the other women about their hobby of selling handmade tchotchkes to vacationers every summer.
“If we were still making stuff, as you like to call it, we wouldn’t be ready for summer, would we? We’re at the packaging stage.”
“So, what’s all this then?”
Four pairs of scissors stopped mid-snip. Boop looked up at me with her wide, lined, blueberry-colored eyes. Her Maybelline-tinted cheeks flushed darker, and the hint of peach lipstick meticulously brushed onto her pale lips pursed into the classic Boop thinking position. My grandmother was a beauty, even when she behaved like a teenager. It was one of the million things I loved about her.
“Really Boop, what are you doing? C’mon, let me see your latest crafty thing.”
I slipped away a photo from the stack under Boop’s hands, and she rested them in her lap. In the picture I was wearing my favorite Grateful Dead t-shirt and jean shorts. My legs were tan, I was squinting. Delilah’s long leather leash hung around my neck, but my Golden Retriever wasn’t in the photo. This was our trip to the Upper Peninsula. My face had been saved, but there was a circle cut out next to it. I fanned out the stack of photos on the table. All photos of me. All photos of me with a circle cut out.
“Oh my God! You’re decapitating Clark!”
“It was her idea,” Doris blurted from the other end of the table, quick to turn on my grandmother.
Helen held up her hands as if part of a revival service, except all of us were Jewish. “Tell her Betty. Tell her it was your idea.”
“It was my idea,” Boop said. “Best one I had all day.”
No one told me about the perils of old women brandishing scissors. Or, maybe it was the glory they hadn’t told me about.
My grandmother had masterminded a photo-slaughter. My thirty-six-year-old foggy brain cleared as I envisioned my grandmother doling out scissors, photos, and mandates. I giggled. Then, Boop giggled. Then, we all giggled. I bent and kissed my grandmother’s powdered cheek, savoring the lavender again. I peeked into her waste basket. Dozens of Clark heads, right side up, upside down, color, black and white. Suddenly, I wished I hadn’t mailed her so many photos of me and Clark over the past five years.
“Can I stay with all of you for a while?”
“How long are you thinking?” Boop asked.
I lurched back. “How long? I don’t know. A few weeks, the whole summer? Does it really matter? You’ve been asking me to come back for a summer since I was eighteen.”
“Took you long enough,” Georgia mumbled.
“I don’t have anywhere to go, and I don’t have a job, because I worked for Clark. Remember? I have savings, you don’t have to support me.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“No, I shouldn’t have assumed. I should have called first.”
As I turned away, Boop grabbed my arm. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course we want you to stay. I was just surprised you were moving in, that’s all. It’s been a long time since you wanted to stay the summer.”
I slumped and leaned into Boop.
“You shouldn’t back down so easily, Hannah. You need to go after what you want. Do you know what you want?”
“I want to stay here with you. All of you.”
“Then that’s what you’ll do.”
“Are you sure? Because I could go to Jordan’s…”
“And have my granddaughters kill each other? I don’t want that on my conscience. Of course I’m sure, Hannah Banana. We wouldn’t have it any other way, would we, girls?”
“Nope,” they said in unison.
“Stay as long as you need to,” Doris said.
“It’ll be fun to have you around,” Helen said.
“No better place to shake the sand from your shoes, that’s for sure.”
That was Boop’s personal euphemism for getting a man out of your system. I kissed her forehead, then walked around the table and kissed the scented cheeks of Georgia, Mona, Helen, and Doris, all whom had been bandaging my knees, and my heart, since I was six.
I’d come to the right place.
Expectations set? It’s too early for expectations to have been met (or dashed), but have they taken hold? Do you have a sense of what this story might be about? There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m not revealing the rest of the story here, so it’s not about guessing (although feel free!). It’s not about writing either, it’s about laying out the story, at least part of it, as early as possible. It’s about listening to Vonnegut’s advice.
If you’re here, please leave a comment. Next time, it’s your turn!