Ah. Finals are done. More than done. And I am sitting in my near empty room, on my still furnished and comfy bed (naturally, the last thing I dismantle and pack away) Hopefully I will continue to post more regularly now that I am on break. In the meantime, I would like to share another story that I revised for my fiction portfolio.
With this story, Cheers, (which was my first story this semester) I was surprised to see how spare the story became as I re-visioned it. As I revisited Cheers, I realized how much excess verbiage the story was carrying and as a result I felt that a lot needed to be clipped away in order to reveal how simple and powerful the story actually was. In all honesty, it was a bad story to begin with. I mentally cringed a few times at creative decisions I had made in earlier drafts which made me grateful for how much I have grown as a writer this semester. I purposefully chose to revise it for my portfolio for the aforementioned sole-purpose of tracking my progress as a writer. The results were surprising and satisfying because I truly have learned a lot.
In speaking more about the revision process of Cheers, I rearranged the entire story to begin more in medias res. I started the story near the end and eliminated an entire middle page. From there I moved paragraphs around and connected them appropriately. It went from being a very disorganized story to having a clear trajectory that said something. Most notably, I simplified the dialogue. Mrs. Malloy cussed too much in the first draft and I realized that it made her sound too vulgar to be believable. So I revisited the dialogue with the heart of Hemingway and did my best to let minimalism speak for itself. It was interesting to explore how much can be said through what information omitted.
“The cupboard is empty,” said eight-year old Annie Malloy to her hung over mother. It was Monday morning. The blinds in the living room were drawn because the morning light hurt her mother’s eyes. Mrs. Malloy was a dark heap on the couch.
“What?” said Mrs. Malloy, her eyes creaking open like the lids of ancient chests. Annie didn’t reply. She listened intently to the mechanized rumble of the recycling truck roll up in front of their house and the sound of glass bottles being emptied into the vehicle’s belly. Mrs. Malloy sat up. Annie stepped back.
“Take me to school Mama,” she said. Mrs. Malloy straightened up slowly but then sank down onto her elbows and let her head roll forward.
“School, mama,” Annie said. Mrs. Malloy didn’t answer. Annie leaned in to look at her mother’s face. Her breath smelled like the kitchen when they forgot to take the trash out. Annie gave the mouth a kiss. Mrs. Malloy responded by licking her lips, as if to clear them of excess crumbs.
“Where’s your dad Annie?” Mrs. Malloy said, staring at the floor. “Bring Mama something to drink.”
“I gave your bottles away,” said Annie but her mother wasn’t listening. Annie thought her mother must have a radio in her head. She looked like she was listening to someone who wasn’t there.
“How many bottles do we have in the cupboard?” Mrs. Malloy asked.
“None Mama. You have nothing left,” she said but Mrs. Malloy was listening to the radio in her head again.
“What?” said Mrs. Malloy but her daughter was silent. Mrs. Malloy relaxed back onto the couch, closed her eyes and let her mouth hang open. Annie looked at the woman on the couch for a moment and then decided to put on her shoes.
“Annie, where’s your dad?” said Mrs. Malloy but Annie already had her hand on the cold, brass knob of the front door.
“Annie?” she heard her mother call. Annie opened the front door and felt the warm sun on her face. She saw two daisies growing out of the patchy green lawn. She picked them and enclosed them in her fist. Then she pulled the door shut behind her and walked in the direction she thought school should be.