the stanchion (chapter 29, part 2)

I invented The Girl in the Hat and started this blog because not only was I not published, I also couldn’t persuade an agent to take me on.  

I wrote What Would Water Do after my first novel, Nothing Sacred, failed to capture attention.  

I identify with Drew, my main character–nerdish, uncool, alone, the one with a snaggle tooth and a button missing on her blouse who’s stuck in the past and in her head and probably won’t be able to unstick herself in time to get her hands on any shiny trophies– but I also identify with Wayne, Lang, and even Mae. All of my characters are little parts of me; other parts are lined up inside my mind, waiting to find expression.  Some characters are just better than others at being seen.  Mae Beacon, the starlet in my story, shines like a mirror in the sun. The Girl in the Hat is getting better at self-promotion, too, but others need a helping hand–a mother, a trainer, an agent, an editor, or a spokesmodel to represent.  

At this point in my story, there’s still hope for Drew. We’re partway through chapter 29 and she could still pull it off.  

Do you like happy endings?  

 

She somehow found her way to the Village Theater in Westwood.  Along the way she realized she had forgotten to have breakfast or lunch so she made do with half a bag of stale microwave popcorn she found on the passenger seat.  

She paid an astronomical parking fee at a lot and limped in her four-inch heels toward the giant neon marquee where Mae stood on the red carpet with her smile turned on full blast, waving at the crowd as though she was embarking on a wonderful adventure.  She wore form-fitted ivory silk as tantalizingly think and ghostlike as a second skin skimming ribs and hipbones.  She had white feathers tucked in her blonde-again up-do, garnet-studded shoes, cabarnet lips and brows arching like semaphores–every glossy bit of her, the whole perfect picture, glowed like burnished metal in the light of the popping flashes.  

That was when the first wave hit Drew, a bilious tsunami.  But still, she loitered in the background using a stanchion as a crutch, straining to hear Mae’s voice above the crowd.  

One reporter wanted to know:  “I’ve heard that you managed a break-out performance in this role.  What did you do to prepare?” 

“I’m so glad you asked.  I love reporters who ask serious questions.” She paused for a moment to pull her earlobe and furrow her brow, the same gesture Drew had seen on herself in pictures.  The memory of Wayne’s finger touched her between the eyes as Mae said, “I never had a formal education but I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know.”  She paused on the smile while the cameras flash like a strobe.  “So I read many books and articles (a library full, really) and hired experts to assist in my education about the south, history, psychology, women’s issues, etcetera, to inform my interpretation.  And, of course, I needed to learn the accent.”  It was like watching her own impersonator, someone who did Drew better than Drew did herself.  “Like so many artists, Kate Chopin, the woman who wrote the original novel, was ahead of her time but largely unappreciated.  The quintessential artist.  She deserves recognition here this evening.”

“Wow,” gushed the reporter.  “Sounds like a lot of work.” 

Mae flippped back to a practiced mix of spunk and self-deprecation: “Well, I learned enough to understand the character I played, but I don’t think any colleges will be offering me honorary degrees anytime soon.”

 She flashed her best smile and turned to another reporter who asked, “Why did you pursue this script?  They say you weren’t the director’s first choice and this role is vastly different from every role you’ve played in the past.  Did you deserve this part?”  Mae took a step closer to the woman and murmured something Drew couldn’t hear.  The reporter narrowed her eyes.  “Um.  Why do you ask?” 

“Well it’s perfect on you.  And thank you for your honesty.   I can’t speak for Ms. Westwood but I can tell you that I was initially intrigued by the way this screenplay dealt with motherhood. You see, Kate Chopin raised six children alone.  Because my own mother gave up so much for me, I felt a duty to highlight this theme of sacrifice.” Mae’s eyelashes fluttered.  “Plus, when I found out Lang was directing, I knew I’d do whatever it took.  She’s one of the superlative directors of our time and it was a dream come true.  She’s like a mother to me.”  When the reporter asked her follow-up, Mae urged her to pick up a copy of her autobiography The Real, True Life of Mae Beacon when it comes out.  

Drew clutched her stanchion, dizzy with wonder.  Drew’s Mae doesn’t ever mention her mother or use words like “superlative.”  Drew’s Mae didn’t know anything about Kate Chopin.  Drew didn’t step out and flag down a reporter but when the crowd started moving, she let it carry her into the theater.  

It was a crowd of perfectly intelligent, nice-looking people dressed in dark colors, scented with beauty products, with flashy jewelry and cinched waists and the same look of apathetic optimism, each with his or her own reason for being here, each having presumably contributed to this project in some capacity, large or small.  Drew felt her muscles slacken and let herself go, let herself be conveyed toward a seat.  

And sure enough, when it started, her name was not listed.  

At that point, she was ready to hate the film.  

Join me for a joyride!  My short story “Down River” can now be found in issue #12 of  ElevenEleven, a literary journal by California College of the Arts. Go there, click the “Thugs Not Drugs” hot rod, and you’ll find my story carefully seatbelted in the back seat.  

Do you sometimes wish you had a spokesperson or do you manage nicely all by yourself?  And while we’re at it, who would you hire to play yourself in real life?    

About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

14 comments

  1. I’d love to have a spokesperson. It’s hard to ‘toot my own horn’ and do the writing, too, but then I wonder if it would feel easier if I thought I was at least a little successful at either one. I can’t think of a real person right now who I’d want to play me in real life. I can only think of Alicia Florrick on “The Good Wife.”

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter of WWWD. I want to know what happens with Drew on this night, happy ending or not.

  2. Yayyy!!! Congratulations, Anna!! I loved the story about Aster and her mother when you posted it a while back. It’s such a thrill to see it published.

  3. Congratulations on your ElevenEleven publication of your short-story Down River.

    Fine-writing by its author! A gripping read. HIgh quality.

  4. Why thank you, Sam! So glad you enjoyed!

  5. yes, i do like happy endings. life is tough enough. and i like white feathers in the hair. and i would love to be discovered, picked up and carried the rest of the way. ah well.

  6. 2&4&12B&24 9 29A 27C 26B 18A 14B 22 12A 18B 26A 20B&7&16A&16B
    14A 15A&15B 11 23C 3B 3A 19A&19B 29B 28&13&27A&23A&23B&21A&21B
    20A 6 10 21C 25A&25B&8&17A&17B&5&1

    The style of this story is scattered – I have compared it to telivision series set in
    small towns, where everyone is a character. You mentioned the ending. This story
    strikes me as a series of stroungly stressed moments in the lives of it’s characters.
    I myself never even consider a sad ending unless it makes a very stroung or poinent
    statement, but thats me. If one doesen’t like to suger coat it – then go bitter-sweet or
    more neutral and poinent. The story has a series of notes both low and high. One can
    choose to end on a low note, or keep writing till a more neutral or light outcome is
    reached.

    If you’re really worried about all these side characters – I would suggest haveing
    each one play a role in the ending, learn some kind of lesson perhaps? Or reach
    an unspoken conclusion about themselves? Once again – these are only
    suggestions.

    • Thank you– as usual, your comments are full of great ideas. And now I realize I have forgotten to continue posting the final chapters of the book. To tell the truth, I got caught up in other things and completely forgot the novel. Oops.

      I haven’t “seen you around” in a while and I was starting to wonder– hello! how have you been?

  7. I took a break to eak out another story – I discovered an audio book
    distributor called MindWings Audio, they sell audio files to persons in
    large cities – (to listen to on their way to work it seems.) They ask for
    works no shorter then 7,800 words, and no longer then 11,000 words.
    They want solid, satisfing endings so I coulden’t offer RUST as a trilogy -

    Burlap cat was too good I felt, to risk on a rush job, so I took the short peice
    “A Model Employee.” and extended it into a 10,000 word adventure, all the
    time I had to sit in frount of a computer screen was dedicated to my Loyal
    army of Burbon street witchdoctors and their otherworldly pets.

    Having swapped his mortality for slavery, Sam the undead butler must serve
    one human master after another, but his past will come back to haunt him when
    it’s discovered that his foggy memories hold the key to a priceless treasure.

    I will post it on my blog in snippets if the thing is regected. It’s finnished now
    and I will once again be feeding the blog monster, that is untill, one of my pending
    projects calls me away again. :D

    • What an excellent and exciting reason for absence here. Guess it’s not nice to hope it’s rejected so I get to see it? Sounds muy, muy interesting. (And welcome back!)

  8. It could still be seen – or more appropriately – heard, if it’s accepted. Via a purchase off their site. For some, two or three bucks, people can download them like music. I may even be allowed to post it on my blog even if mind Wings wants it. I hear they let you keep most of the rights, since the royalties aren’t that great – but it’s excellent exposure nonetheless.

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