Posted by: Memorizing Nature | December 26, 2011

Winter Means Fiction

SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION FOR MEMORIZING NATURE – Snow has fallen and nature has mostly gone invisible, except for the odd ladybug in the house and those suffering birds that decided to stick it out. (Yes, lots of trees, but I find them too boring to blog about – sorry about that, they just stand there and give off oxygen for us to breathe). In any case, winter for me is about fiction-writing, so here goes, a draft sample from a new work-in-progress. Trying to get the voice of the narrator right, so any feedback is appreciated. You might recognize a bit of self-plagiarizing from old blog posts. And now for the untitled draft excerpt. . . . Elaine

I had no ability to save Nicole, not that she was any of my business. My job is to observe, rather than to interfere. Seeing doesn’t mean forcing change. It is one thing to be aware, and another to act. Luckily, Nicole arrived in the meadow during the early spring, before the mosquitoes and after the snow had melted. For most people, spring is a time of year to reflect, evolve preconceived ideas, and act with newfound insight. Screw all that for Nicole. The coming of spring meant she would survive, physically anyway. She had escaped a series of earthquakes and consequential chaos, the usual sort of upheaval where police end up smiling behind bloodied visors. Spring, it gave Nicole the best chance. Not to say that it was easy for her. It was damn difficult for so susceptible a specimen.  With growing alarm, I witnessed the crows gathering on the branches above, tasting the young woman’s incompetence. They were actually drooling, those stygian dogs with wings.     

Man, how Nicole carried on during those first few days. Even the screaming of mating frogs scared her. Hundreds of amphibians belted out a symphony of vocal sacs that filled the air with an ear-blazing collection of high-pitched chirps and trills. Yet she only heard an annoying drone that kept her awake at night. She would grind her fists against her ears to stop that concupiscent screeching. I felt like saying,  it’s just frogs getting it on, ma’am, and the other noise is a couple of raccoons duking it out. If only I could have comforted her, sung her a dumb lullaby, and advised her to dream her way through the dread. It wasn’t her fault that her eyes were calculated for sunlight and not for the panic hours. I doubt she slept a minute until that evening she begged for some shelter. Obviously I couldn’t communicate with her. Mine is a tongue understood by dinosaurs and massive ferns, but not by urban princesses displaced.

“Hello, are you in there?” Nicole shouted into the cave, where the old woman lived. It was a day of slanting rain, and the world smelled of trilliums and deep mud.  “Are you busy? I’d like to have a little chat.” Then, more to herself than to the elder hiding inside, Nicole murmured, “Your ears are probably shot at your age. Either that or you’re ignoring me. Are you afraid? I should be afraid of you, you’ll probably murder me. It wouldn’t matter – I think I’m dying. I’ve got diarrhea, I’m itchy all over.”   

Trillium photo by E. Medline

She was sick, but not exactly dying at that point. Even from afar, I could observe the strong pulse thumping through Nicole’s wrists and neck and feet. I could tell she had enough red and white blood cells to get her through a few hard days. My sight, you should know, is superior to any other living thing on this sorry earth. Prove it, you conceited shit, I hear. Look it up on the Internet, why don’t you, I respond. You can’t find anything? Search harder! But seriously, my gift, I don’t take it for granted, and I don’t question what has been attained through destiny. There is no good explanation for it, other than the two main guesses – a mutation, or a miracle from on high. I have witnessed the rays of the sun break into particles that are remodeled into molten metal. The creek, it is a kaleidoscope of currents, and the soil is a lustrous, industrious morass. See, you need to look underneath. Up and down, sideways, let the eyes vacillate. My sight, my insight to be more exact, helps me view everyone from all their foxy angles. That is how I can be your anecdotist, your minstrel. Me, I have examined the ants rebuild their defensive hills at the same time I peer with trepidation at the birds above. You might find chickadees darling, but they can attack at any time. I am a seasoned soul with certain neuroses. My movements are unpredictable – they can shift in any direction, like a flying machine with technology so sophisticated it will only be conceived once my own attributes are imitated. Hell, it’s crappy to be hyper-vigilant, and if I wanted to be melodramatic, I’d call it a curse. Sometimes, I wish I was blind, or at least in need of reading glasses; instead, I mark the suffering of others in high resolution. Oh, why, why me? I am blessed with such self-hating excellence. 

©Elaine Medline, Dec. 26, 2011



  1. A great tantalizing glimpse of what you have been working on. What happens if spring arrives before the book is finished? Multi tasking????

    • Didn’t think of that. Trying to write 800 words per day, but that’s not working out. Didn’t take into account re-writing the drafts of the first few chapters ten times over. So multi-tasking it is, come spring!

  2. I want to keep reading! I’m intrigued by this narrator, by her detachment (“My job is to observe, rather than to interfere”) and by the richness of her observational powers, which seems to owe something to detachment, as if we see more clearly and deeply when we don’t have an axe of any sort to grind. And of course I’m wondering about her species. A fly as god?

    • Sue, as usual, you nailed it. I’m trying for an omniscient narrator with attitude. It flies, but isn’t a fly per se. Stay tuned.

  3. Fantastic news! Congrats on your wonderful wanderings and sharing with us. Michael

    • Thanks, Mike. So honoured to be nominated for the 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards, nature category.

  4. Well, I’ve received some verbal feedback on the excerpt above, and folks seem to be confused about who the narrator is. That’s good to know. Now I’m thinking: will readers be confused in a suspenseful way, or in an irritating way? Here’s some more info. The narrator is not human, but is an extraordinary example of its species. These sentences crop up in the draft third chapter (voice of the narrator). “I know too much. Frankly, I would have preferred a more pedestrian existence, living the usual lifespan, ignorant of the big theories. A brutish life, how preferable that would be. The usual crap would do me fine. Wake up, go to sleep, eat a little, dodge a crow, mate if possible, complain, lift my wings, evolve and then go extinct. Truthfully, though, I’ll probably never die, not unless the planet itself is destroyed, and even then, I could probably cling to a piece of blasted rock scooting through space and land up somewhere else, somewhere better.” Elaine

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