Our first assignment today was to create a scene from an object in the room. In our writing were were to endow the scene with meaning. Our objects should be a trigger for our character's memory. We were to make sure we moved the action forward in the scene and the interaction with the object should reveal something about the character.
Sands of Time
I looked at the DVD player and then the DVD in my hand. She’d sent this to me. Everything she sends has a purpose. I don’t always like her purposes. It’s like she sends me things to force me to acknowledge what she wants me to feel or think. Sometimes I can feel her hands; push, push, push. Driving me relentlessly toward her meaning, like a cowboy herding cows at a roundup. Mulishly I dig in and refuse to discuss or validate her point.
Opening the DVD case – unmarked with no clue about the content I slide it into the machine. It’s weird she would send me a message this way. I rarely turn on my TV and almost never watch movies. Indeed the only reason I have the DVD player is for the tuner/surround sound so music can fill my house.
Jamming the eject button the tray slides open. I realize how angry I am - because the machine scoots just a little as I pushed the button. “Oh very funny Mom. Here you go again, “pushing my buttons”. “And why do I always react,” I ask myself? Not wanting to confront that train of thought I quickly pop the DVD in and laugh as I push the button. The drawer closes. Images begin to unreel on the screen.
The great sweeping desert. Ravel’s Boléro plays in the background. The image of the endless cinnamon sand dunes and horizon stretching sky moves outside the confines of the TV screen. In the distance the cameras begin to track a tiny speck. As the speck becomes more distinct it is a horse and rider. The music swells. The screen hijacks me. I cannot spare any thoughts beyond breathing and holding on. I feel the heat from the shifting dunes, the air blasts my face and the rhythm of the horse pounds in my veins. Encouraging me deeper and deep into that scene is the grandeur of the music. I always knew Ravel was telling a story about the desert when I listened to this piece. I knew it long before it was tied to this movie.
Harmonious in their movements – blending into their environment, horse and rider leave the arid dune filled backdrop and dip down into a canyon. The rider peers out at the cliffs. The geology of time – the magma formed walls, the knife sharp rocks – all of this I can feel – while standing in the middle of my living room.
As the piece draws to a close – the DVD stops. I know it shouldn’t. This is just the beginning of Lawrence of Arabia. Why has she sent this to me? What is the meaning? What is her purpose? For once I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel like I am being forced to deal with something on her terms.
Maybe it’s the beauty of the desert. She reads my words and knows how my heart moves towards that austere palate. She knows how I get transported to a different place when I attend the symphony. Without words she wants to share this love with me. For me to come to my own conclusions. Maybe she’s realized how tricky words can be – and so now she is showing me our common bond instead of telling me.
The second lesson for the day was to work with dialogue. At the close of class yesterday our teacher asked us to write down 3 pieces of dialogue overheard between the end of class on Wednesday and the beginning Thursday morning. In class we passed our three pieces to the person on our left. Then after lunch we had 25 minutes to write a scene using the inherited words. When we completed composing the pieces we read them out loud and then had to guess which were the inherited bits.
Tommalyn sat in the luncheonette with Bernice, eating the daily selection of meat and three. Since Bernice wasn’t from “around here” Tommalyn stepped into the Walter Winchell role.
“His ancestors purchased his farm from my ancestors. There’s always been cotton planted on some part of the home-place”.
“Over our way we have the Tutwiler Plantation, just outside Clarksdale. It’s breaking my heart to know there’ll be no cotton planted on it for the first time in a hundred and fifty years, “ said Bernice.
“I’m sick of farming and cotton. Why, I wish they’d never have made that exchange. I wouldn’t be stuck here in this damn town trying to find cute clothes at Wal-Mart,” said Tommalyn, as she brought a spoonful purple hull peas to her mouth.
At that moment the waitress approached the table. She was wearing embroidery cuff embellished blue-jeans. Around her slender hips was tied a gypsy scarf with the same olive and rust colors and the cuff embroidery. Her hippy top parted in a V and between her breasts there rested a strand of polished stones. “More tea?”, she drawled.
Tommalyn’s eyes bugged out of her head as looked imploringly at the glass and then at Bernice. “Yes, I think those purple hulls are growing into mash in her mouth,” said Bernice indicating the distressed look on Tommalyn’s face.
“Naw, she just wishes I was pouring scotch,” said the server. Topping off the two glasses she moved onto the next table.
After swallowing the mash and gulping the tea to help it down Tommalyn opened her mouth and blurted out, “Look at her! Oh my God, she is so cute. Like a cookie! I guess I’d miss that if I moved to one of those big cities. The waitresses would never know I’m secretly wishing my glass was always filed with scotch.”
Sitting there talking and laughing the two women continued to compare notes on their respective communities. Who was having an affair with who, who’d gone bankrupt, who had died. It didn’t matter they didn’t know the specific individuals. It was the occupations and characters that made the stories so fun. The minister sleeping with the owner of the Crystal and Scents store, while his wife was excavating the back forty for Indian Pottery Shards. Or the investment banker who moved into the community to show them how ‘corporate’ farming was done. And the gleeful joy all the old-timers took in each sefl-made disaster that befell him.
As the dinette emptied out the waitress returned with the check. “I’ll treat you two like city-folk and take the money up to the cash register if you want,” she said. Glancing at the ticket Bernice handed it across to Tommalyn and reached into her wallet. Of course, Tommalyn had that screech-owl look on her face as she rapidly pawed through her own purse. Squinting and narrowing her eyes she then opened them wide and said, “I just don’t know where I put my glasses. Maybe I left them in the car. I’m gonna trust you to tell me the truth Bernice. How much do I owe?”
Can you guess which three dialogue phrases I had to insert into the story?