Who can wait for the new year? Ahead of schedule, please enjoy the first installment of what could be a horrific mess of a novel. Yay!
So I guess it starts with a girl…
Is it already cliché? I promise she’s not beautiful. Or a vampire. Or from a tragic background. Still? Fine. Then how about:
So I guess it starts with a murder…
Is that too melodramatic? What if it’s true? Okay, I’ll try again.
So I guess it starts with a broken down truck and a baby and a miscommunication…
My father used to drag my high chair into the garage where he would inexpertly tinker with a partly dismantled piece of junk “classic” car while narrating his actions. He’d leave me with a stack of those special baby-formulated dissolving cracker-cookies, most of which would end up on the floor, or in my hair, or on the corner of the work bench that was just within reach of the fingers I had recently discovered were connected by invisible wishing strings to my desires.
I’d study the shiny silvery tools that shot sunbeams into my face and shaky spotlights onto the rest of the garage while he used the wrong words to refer to parts of the car that he was restoring. I had tested a number of those words in my mouth, operating under the theory that if invisible wishing strings could command my fingers, they could also command my noises. Most of them came out as a sort of garbled screech, but motor was a bit easier. The mmm was one of my favourite sounds and possibly the pinnacle of my vocabulary. The terr was fun to practice, like spitting out letters. The oh was the hardest, but after a week or two I had figured it out by making kiss lips and pushing noise from the back of my throat.
When I was ready to put them all together, I waited for a break in my father’s babble. I wanted him to know that I had been listening – that his chatter wasn’t in vain. I wanted to show him that I appreciated the cookie stacks and the fresh air from the open garage door and the silly bouncing refracted light and the intrigue of him creating a mess slowly, piece-by-piece, over hours and then becoming overwhelmed all at once by how much there was to clean up. He reached for a screwdriver – flathead, he told me, not Phillips – and I responded with my hard-earned word.
Motor I told him.
He looked at me. “What did you say?”
Motor I repeated.
He hopped up and ran to the inside door.
“Jane, you’ve got to get in here!” he yelled.
Motor motor motor I said, enjoying the active spectacle I had created.
“Jane! He’s talking!” my father yelled again, and then ran back to me. “Your mom is going to be so excited. Though you couldn’t make it ‘daddy’ huh? Oh well. Maybe the next one.”
I smiled at him. Daddy seemed like a pretty challenging sound to make, but for him, I would do my best.
My mother jogged into the garage. She was wearing the terrifying dish-washing gloves that gave her monster hands. I tried to keep my eyes on my father to distract me from the threat of them.
“Okay buddy, can you say it again?” my father asked. I gargled a little in my throat to regain my composure.
“Come on baby, talk for mommy,” monster-hands said.
Motor I repeated, and she squealed.
“Didn’t I tell you?” my father said, smiling his big bearded smile.
She reached for me and pulled me out of the high-chair with her monster hands, and I squirmed as hard as I could to get away. “Can you say it again?” she asked, and I weighed my options. If I talked again, maybe she would put me down, or give me to my father.
Motor I said, and she laughed.
“What a funny little gentleman you are. So formal!”
“I know,” said my father. “Who’s ever heard of a kid’s first word being ‘mother?’ It’s usually mommy or mama or something. That’s one classy baby we’ve made.”
I shook my head. I wasn’t saying ‘mother,’ obviously. How boring would that be? Plus, why would I have needed another word for her? She already came when I made the screechy cry noise.
Motor I said, trying to annunciate, Mmm-o-terr.
It was no use. They threw me about and clapped and petted and hugged and kissed. Their excitement was funny, and after a few minutes I got into the spirit of it as well, especially when my mother remembered to take off her monster-hand gloves.
Sometimes I think I should have tried harder to make myself clear – that giving into the first misunderstanding set the tone for the rest of my life – that I created this destiny for myself by giggling while they twirled me around and doted on my brilliance in that garage – but, then again, maybe I would have become who I was regardless of that mistake.
© 2014 Sarah Lund