Friday, December 15, 2006

Character Assassination

I have a character who is giving me absolute fits. Bastard won't behave according to plan...my plan. Every time I have him where I want him, I get this response: You can lead me there, you can even give me the words to say and actions to perform, but unless I'm my own man, my quality of life will suffer. So will your book.

While I'm writing and rewriting, I hear the lick-lick, chomp-chomp, bite-bite coming from the wolf-hound I rescued in 2000. Not long before Christmas that year, a six-year-old neighbor boy whose mother refused to watch him dug beneath my fence and coaxed Chewy to come play. The boy survived unscathed when the van caught up with them, but Chewy was injuried. He was knocked twenty-five feet or so, and I received a phone call at work to come get him. He'd managed to crawl to a nearby curb and haul himself out of the street, but he was in a bad way.

Hours later, the dog was pronounced all but dead, totally paralyzed, and I was encouraged to have him put to sleep. Something in his eyes told me this would be unwise--he wanted to live. What the hell, right? It was only money...and a life in the balance.

They chopped off his beautiful long tail, shoved titanium rods in his back and left hip, sewed him up, and gave him a bed for as long as I held out hope. The day before Christmas Eve, I brought him home, after he'd been in the vet clinic about three weeks. Somehow, with the help of a friend, I managed to help him walk by lifting him with towels and forcing him to take steps 3-4 times daily. I'd get on my belly and hold out treats a few inches out of his reach until he started crawling towards my hands.

I even enlisted the help of his buddy, another rescue dog I named Pita. She'd take a sock dolly to him, and when he'd latch onto it, she'd drag him across the floor, with him growling, complaining, and generally mopping the floor with his body.

I feel like my disobedient character is much like Chewy. Chewy survived, and his quality of life is better than good--it's great. He stubbornly insists on doing a few things that annoy the crap out of me, though...like chewing his own skin. If he were human, he'd be a cutter, I swear.

Now I'm frustrated. Screw this. I lift my fingers from the keyboard and walk outside, taking the dogs with me. I think of my own quality of life as I light the cigarette that leads me closer to lung disease. I ponder the consequences of all our actions. Watching Chewy romp and play, I can't help but chuckle at the bald spot on his ass that has grown from a tiny wet thumbprint to a three-inch diameter badge worthy of a chemo patient, the dull grey skin a sharp contrast to his otherwise glowing coat.

I've tried medication, scolding him, distracting him, but like I, he reaches for what seems a panacea for what itches, that gap that needs to be filled. Nervous tic or disgusting habit? Who knows, and what does it matter?

I think of my character and his stubborn, dark side.

It's only a book, I tell myself. Just a friggin' book.

I look into Chewy's dark amber eyes, and he opens his mouth and pants lightly, almost as if he's smiling at me. It's impossible not to smile back.

Oh, chew your stupid butt until it bleeds, I think uncharitably, switching in midstream to silently scold my character who sits waiting for me on the computer. Same for you, buddy.

I stare at the cigarette. How about a little moderation this time? I ask myself. One cigarette instead of three or four...then you go back inside and write. I keep watching Chewy's eyes. Maybe I'll allow him one or two licks, not the Underwood Typewriter tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch, ding (as he gets to the end of his spine while nibbling then proceeds to start up high and glance his fangs down his back again).

Maybe I'll allow my character some leeway as well. None of us are getting out of here alive, but maybe our quality of life won't suffer so much if we all get at least a bit of what we want.

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7 Comments:

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I read your post, then left the computer to have a smoke (under the stove vent, not outside - too cold). Power of suggestion.
Can't help with your uncooperative character who is giving you fits but have to say that your post was beautifully written. I'm a sucker for dog stories and that was a beaut.
As for your "existential" musings - yes and yes...

 
At 12:28 AM, Anonymous raine said...

Lyn, bless your heart, I love ya.

Your post reminded me so much of a cat I rescued, also bound for euthenasia. After weeks of care he survived, and turned out to be one of the great loves of my life.

So maybe you could give your character a little leeway. Maybe he'll turn out to be the same for you. ;-)

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful dog rescue story. I had a friend years ago who rescued all types of animals and kept them in her home. She loved each one for it's personality and spunk like they were her own children and any available money went to vet bills. We can't have animals in our house because of hub's allergies so my boys loved to go help out my friend with her "orphans".

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Mechele Armstrong said...

Beautiful dog rescue story.

And yep had characters who just won't do what they are supposed to.

Mechele aka Lany of Melany Logen

 
At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why don't my posts go through?
Awwwooooooo! I hate the new blogger!
Anyhow, love the doggy story!
LOL about the feisty character.

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Trace said...

You're friggin' awesome. I lubz ya, chica. And I know what you mean about the stubborn, rebellious characters. They make you tear your hair out. Talk about bald patches!

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger Michele said...

That is a wonderful story - perserverance was surely rewarded,both you and the pup.

As far as your character. I keep trying to write a character and I get stuck..what would a guy really say? I keep waiting for the voices, but they're never there.
So, I type along .. sometimes it runs dry and only once the guy took offense to my calling him by his familiar name. I was to call him "Mr" until I earned the right not to.
Geesh!
Do men have PMS?
LOL

HAVE A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR, LYN!

 

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