A Father Story: Chapter 5

A Good Democracy

As I mentioned last time, I am going to listen to the math teachers. It’s something I should have done more of at school, but it’s never too late. I may never be a software engineer like every other Indian, and I may never be able to tell one pint from two, but my hearing is still intact and I can still listen.

The Edwards being a good Indian family (despite our good English name), and India being a good democracy (as good democracies go), the Edwards voted. We said we were happy to share plates, glasses, and everything else in the kitchen that had survived demolition at Butterfingers’ hands, but since Papa had made his bed, he must jolly well lie on it. In other words, he must jolly well get his own saucer.

I voted

As often happens after a vote, Papa put up a fight. First he declared his undying love for us (the emotion in his voice reducing the family dog to tears). Then he declared that he truly did enjoy drinking tea with us, just not from the same cup, boiled in the same saucepan, strained with the same strainer, or stirred by the same spoon. Other than that, he said, we were family and should behave like one.

Rubbish, said the Favorite Daughter with a look. And since the FD had the power to silence him with a look, Papa meekly lapsed into silence and went to the kitchen to dish soap his saucer.

The saucer had already been washed by the maid, but in Papa’s opinion no maid knew how to wash dishes, so he always washed his tea things himself. This is how dish soap comes into this story. Next time a new FD will come into this story. Or at least, the FD will be Further Discussed.

ch5

A Father Story: Chapter 4

Hitting the Wall (and Pleading Temporary Inanity)

A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, math teachers tell us. Literature teachers tell us about the shortest distance between two pints. Since I can never tell one pint from two, and since I will not indulge your Fervent Desire for Hamlet (which covers the longest distance between Enter and Exeunt), I’m going to listen to the math teachers on this one. From this point forward, I’ll take the shortest distance I can to The End.

To recap, Papa initially had only his own saucepan, strainer, cup, and teaspoon, deigning to share the saucers with his family, and this was stressful for all four women in the family. I have told you what Mummy and the Favorite Daughter did to relieve their stress, and now I will tell you what the Third FD did.

The Third Favorite Daughter relieved her stress by putting up posters of punk rockers all along the passage outside the girls’ bedroom. The posters were life-size, and Papa, being absentminded at the best of times, invariably thought that some white boy with pink hair had taken up residence in his castle. It would have been bad enough had it been a brown boy with black hair, but white boys with pink hair made him see red.

Whenever Papa saw red, there was an altercation with some white boy with pink hair. Each ended with a badly bruised fist, Papa having hit the wall. His aim being poor when he was seeing red, his fist invariably landed on the chin. Had the pink-haired punk rocker been able to speak (and everyone knew he couldn’t sing), he would have said he’d taken it on the chin.

On the chinkYou’re right. I did skip the Second Favorite Daughter.

You’re wrong. I did not forget the Second FD. 

I will never forget the Second FD. For one thing, I have the memory of an elephant. For another, I don’t have the manners of a goat. I never forget myself in public.

Elephants

Clever of you to so quickly figure out that I am the Second FD. It took me years to figure it out myself. For most of my life I thought I was the Third Favorite Daughter (of three), but I have realized that perhaps my perception was not reality. Perhaps we were all Favorite Daughters in our own way. So I will berth myself by my birth order.

Still, I refuse on principle to discuss my role in the dish soap opera. The principle being that while it’s inane to wash one’s dirty dishes in public, it’s insane to wash one’s dirty laundry in public. I can plead temporary inanity every now and then, but I can never plead temporary insanity. It’s insane how sane I am.Ch 4

The Yellow Story: Prologue

Some stories are born, some stories are achieved, and some stories are thrust upon the author.

Stories that are Born are the kind writers live for. They appear apparently out of nowhere, bringing with them the highest, purest kind of joy a first draft can give. But inspiration being errant as it is, the Born story is the rarest of the three. “I rarely argue with inspiration because it’s hard enough to be inspired,” Vikram Seth said once. He has probably said it more than once, but the video didn’t come up in the first four searches for him on YouTube, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to keep searching. You’ll simply have to take my word that those are his words. I could pass them off as my own, but coming from me people will call it a cop-out. More to the point, I’m giving Vikram Seth credit to show you that if someone who wrote one of the longest English novels says that inspiration is hard to come by, you and I won’t find it easy to define “hard enough.”

Of the ten stories in Pioneer Boulevard, only one was Born. That is, it had its origins in sheer inspiration. One moment I was reclining on my bed in my dorm room in Keele, looking at the tree outside my window and thinking of nothing in particular (I particularly remember that), and the next moment I was taking the three-and-a-half steps to my desk and turning on my computer. The other nine stories were Achieved. That’s a whopping ninety percent, to put it in uninspired journalistic jargon. (I only refer to “whopping” as uninspired. Arithmetic cannot help itself, but journalism should know better.)

Stories that are Achieved are the result of what bright people like Edison would say is 99% more necessary than inspiration: perspiration. Much as I hate to admit it, there’s no substitute for hard work. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman. You might be allowed to “gently glow” from the sebaceous glands, but from the pen you must sweat it out just like the boys. Nine-tenths of Pioneer Boulevard was Achieved by the sweat of my brow, sometimes dripping all over me at the Keele gym.

All writers will shed toil, tears, and sweat to Achieve a story, often with ruthless publishers, editors, and tutors holding the metaphorical gun to their head (which is not unlike that weapon being held to a journalist’s head by terrorists). Ah, but when that first draft is completed (never mind how Anne Lamott describes first drafts), the Achieved story produces a sense of achievement that is hard to put into words. Yes, even for a writer.

And then there’s a class of stories that is simply thrust upon an author with the request or, more often, the demand: “Here, author, tell me this story.” The story that will follow this Prologue falls in this category.

You may have noticed – or will now notice – that I have used the word author when referring to the Thrust-Upon story whereas I had used writer when referring to the Born and Achieved. This is a conscious choice on my part as a writer, because Thrust-Upon stories are only thrust upon writers after they become authors. Since my attaining authorhood with the publication of Pioneer Boulevard, which memorable event occurred exactly seven months ago today, I have realized that people expect authors to have an endless supply of stories for their entertainment. (The pronoun refers to the first antecedent, since people do not expect authors to write for their own entertainment.)

I have realized many other things besides, some of which it will be pertinent for me to share over the course of this story. Others it will be pertinent for me to share over the course of other stories. Still others it will be pertinent for me never to share.

Here endeth the Prologue.

yellow brick road