May 24th, 2016

Oh my darlings, will I have to kill you all?

In the fall of 2000, I started working on a big project called “Homing”, which I occasionally (and for years) retitled “All the Pretty Girls.” I gave up on that still-incomplete novel sometime in 2002, came back in 2004 and chucked a bunch and wrote some more. In 2005 I planned to work on it as my MA thesis andrevised some of the old material for my MA application portfolio and some grant applications, and added some new stuff along the way–including a new title, “The Scenarios.” By the time I needed to properly work on the thesis in fall 2006, though, my focus had shifted to short stories, and that is what the thesis project became–poor old *The Scenarios* went on the back burner.

I revised and edited that thesis to create my first book, *Once*, then went on to write another collection of stories before returning to *The Scenarios* at the beginning of 2011. By this point I had realized short stories worked for me as a structure, and I thought perhaps I could finally write this thing by breaking it up into stories–that would allow me to shift point of view, time period, etc., in a less weird way. And it worked because I was able to finish a draft by early in 2014, having acquired yet another title–*So Much Love*–along the way. I retained a few chapters of what I had written previously, some of which was already shaped as stories and some of which had to be sculpted into that shape. Of course, a lot had to be junked, but some of the old stuff–almost as old as the beginning–remained, albeit re-contextualized and somewhat rewritten.

The book was sold the M&S with the caveat that I would work with an editor to make into a true novel, rather than a novel in stories, as well as substantially increase the page count. Under the guidance of the tireless Anita Chong, I’ve done that–a challenging process. The lesson is, if the inherent form of the thing should be a novel, don’t write it as stories! So now, there’s a number of new chapters and all of the old stories have been reworked (a lot) to becoming chapters…and again, a bunch of stuff got tossed. But there is *still* some of the original material in there going all the way back to 2000 (or close–the memories are a little murky). But less and less–my writing at the time was different, the book was different, my goals for the characters were different, and it’s very hard to make old material fit the new mold.

Thus, this piece below, one of the original bits, is getting cut. If you have read a lot of my work, you might recognize Alan, who shows up in every book I’ve ever written–he’s a favourite, for sure. But he doesn’t really belong in *So Much Love* anymore–he had a major story that was taken out, and now this piece, an intro to his character, doesn’t lead anywhere and is confusing. He’s going to end up with 1 or 2 scenes and the occasional oblique reference and that is all. It’s sad, but it’s what the book needs–which is more important than the sentimental affections I retain for what I wrote 15 years ago.

Anyway, I present to you my darling Alan:

I find Alan, my TA, darting across my driveway as I pull in. The low beams catch the trailing edge of his long coat as he jumps up on the retaining wall by the front door to wait. He’s got his Inspector Gadget trenchcoat cinched tight. He is clutching a package to his chest. As I turn off the ignition, I notice ketchup on my right cuff from the fries I had at lunch. I roll up the cuff, and then the other one to match. I think about putting my face down on the tan, stretched plastic of the horn. Then I get out of the car into the chilly darkness.

Leaning against the hot, clicking hood, I wait for Alan to stroll over to me. If I went to him we’d be too close to the door and I’d have to invite him in. He crosses the driveway briskly; I’m sure he doesn’t want us to end up sipping tapwater in my living room any more than I do. I’m sure Gretta wants that even less.

“Professor Altaris. Hi.”

“Hey, Alan. What brings you by?”

He stops about a foot in front of me. “I brought over the marked essays, sir.” The bundle rests in the crooks of his arms, exposing the pale blue insides of his wrists.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

He shrugs, his narrow shoulders dragging up the hem of his coat a few inches around his shins.

“You could’ve given these to me next week, remember?” Nothing. “Or during the day at my office instead of in a dark driveway like this is a drug deal.” Too much alliteration. I yank the package out of his hands. “What’s the median?”

“It’s all in there, sir. But I think it was about sixty-two or sixty-three.”

Sixty-two. Alan, we talked about this.”

Another shrug. His face is shaped like a light-bulb and completely expressionless. “The short answer will probably bring it up some.”

I start to argue and then stop. I don’t care. They’ll pass or they’ll fail, and if it’s really important to them, I’m sure the students will be happy to let me know. My shoulders curve inwards.

Alan seems ready to depart—not yet moving but relaxing into his new freedom from marking. I don’t want to interfere with that glee. “We’ll talk about this next week, Alan. In my office. Come up after class, ok?”

“Yes, sir.”

 

4 Responses to “Oh my darlings, will I have to kill you all?”

  • Scott Watson says:

    I remember Alan. Can you at least tell us whether he graduated or not?


  • Rebecca says:

    Ha, yes, I believe he does. I don’t know that I’ll have another occasion to write about Alan in the future, but what I know of his adventures remains pretty interesting…


  • AMT says:

    i remember alan too.

    when i first met him, i was an undergrad and i had TAs and they were scary. now… let’s just say professor me has a different attitude to alan now. :)


  • Rebecca says:

    Ha–me too, AMT. Interestingly, though I know more about Alan’s life now, the way I portray him hasn’t really changed. I think it was always accurate, I just didn’t know why!


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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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