So far I am finding that my April challenge to focus and stay dedicated is spilling over into other areas of my life that also needed a kick in the rear. Last October I took on a Weekly Writing prompt to stretch my writing muscles and try on fiction. I was surprised at how fun it was. So, I did a continuation, just for the blog. Then a friend started a writing group with me and two other women and rather than bring blog posts or bits of poetry to our first meeting, I brought my Dreams story. Since then, I have taken it further and plan to develop it into a novel. I am currently finishing chapter 3 and have big plans for chapter 4 and an add-on chapter in the beginning with some character development.
(*Note: The story has changed much since I posted it on here last fall. Opal is now Edith, I have edited it significantly, and parts have changed but the frame of the story is still about the same)
My friend and fellow writing group member, Jeannie, sent this to me last night:
“When we are in harmony, writing flows. When we compose a sentence, we follow one word after another until we reach the period. You know you’ve felt it, those moments (hours!) when time has no meaning. You’re absorbed into the flow of language and your story. Moments like that are not the sole property of the unusually gifted. They aren’t given only to the privileged few. They are yours when you get out of your own way.” –Laraine Herring, The Writing Warrior
It was impeccably timed because I had a lovely writing session Monday afternoon where I got completely lost in the story as if I was reading it and not writing it. It was after my hot fitness yoga class, so maybe that had something to do with it!
I really do think that yoga and writing go hand in hand. I find that once I clear my head of clutter, I am able to write with much better flow and new ideas surface. Like most writers, ideas come at various times in the day: when I am just waking, in savasana, in the shower, at the grocery store, etc. You never know when or how your story will develop. For me, sitting down at my desk with a militant finger-pointing “you will write” session doesn’t always work out. Neither do outlines, for me. In all honesty, I have an overall idea of where my story is going but I don’t have all the details mapped out and I like it that way, it keeps the process fun and exciting.
I thought I would share the unexpected side benefits of my April challenge, my writing process, and an excerpt from the story. It is wonderful to see the fruits of our labor in indirect areas.
An excerpt from Chapter 2 of Dreams Beyond the Jungle
(I am starting off roughly where the last post left off)
by Kerry Whiteley
Life in Texas took on a different tone for Kannika; she felt an invisible hand gently nudging her forward each day. She learned to ignore Edith and while it pained her to be so maliciously misunderstood; she no longer let it change the course which she set for herself.
Kannika’s first task in her new life was to learn, more fully, the English language. She set out early one morning to find the woman she met at the small Asian grocery, Juana. Juana was from Bangkok and very worldly compared to Kannika. She spoke English well and was hardened to the stereotypes and prejudice of the local people.
The unmarked building of Juana’s grocery store was run-down and dingy but housed all of the wonderful foods Kannika missed so much; especially fresh mangoes and lychee fruit. While prevalent in Thailand, lychee fruit was elusive in the United States. Even canned, lychee brought her instantly back home in her mind. As Kannika made her way slowly through the small store browsing with homesickness all the wonderful items on the shelves, Juana walked up from her counter and said, “Sawadee ka.” Kannika returned the greeting with a smile; it felt good to hear someone speak her native language.
“What are you looking for?” asked Juana.
“Anything and everything” replied Kannika with a sad smile.
Juana knew how Kannika felt, “I admire your bravery, Kannika. I know how hard it is. But don’t worry, you don’t have to do this alone, I’m here to help you” Juana said and she meant it for she had experienced it years before. Their friendship, sewn by the common thread of the Asian community in small-town Texas was built upon convenience but was one that would bloom into a lifelong bond.
Kannika and Juana spent much of their time together. Kannika wanted to spend less and less time at home where Edith reigned supreme over the trailer while Henry was away at work. There was little for Kannika to do there but she helped with chores in the afternoons to keep the peace as much as possible. Some evenings after dinner, Kannika would walk to the Asian grocery to pick up a few things for the pantry, or rather, that was always her excuse. She needed the items on her list less than she needed friendship and would plan her visits just as Juana finished work. They would walk down to a small fishing hole to connect over stories from Thailand as well as their new home. Kannika would recline on the grass by the water, close her eyes and pretend she was by the Yom River; looking at the stars made her feel closer to home. Sometimes they would speak Thai when they were relaxing but other times they would speak English so Kannika could practice the language.
One evening Kannika left the trailer after dinner to pick up an item from Juana’s store. She waited until the dishes had been washed and Henry and Edith were settling in for the evening.
“I forgot something I meant to pick up today. I’m going to run out, I’ll be back shortly.” Kannika said quickly as she ran out the door. She was halfway up the road as Henry meandered out the door yelling, “Where are you going?”
“Just up to Juana’s, I’ll be home soon!” Kannika yelled back and briskly walked on to avoid an argument about her leaving.
Juana was just locking the front entrance to the grocery when Kannika arrived. Kannika waved as she approached the door. Juana unlocked it and peeked out.
“Want to go for a walk for some air? I had to get out of the house; I can barely breathe with Edith constantly sucking on her cigarettes.” Kannika said as she entered the store.
“Sure, let me tell mom and Niran. I’ll meet you out front” Juana replied as she let Kannika back outside.
They strolled along and the early spring warmth creeped in on the evening breeze. They chatted about their days; Juana telling jokes about American customers looking for ingredients that they had no idea about; Kannika complaining about Edith.
They made it to the fishing hole where there was clear and crisp view of the sky and flopped on the grass both finally able to relax.
“My younger sister is probably boiling the morning rice right now.” Kannika said lost in thought.
“Ha, I have five younger brothers; I doubt any of them are doing that. They probably rely on their wives now the way they relied on me when we were young.” Juana replied.
“Oh, I know, my younger brothers and sisters would do their work but the load always fell to me, the oldest child. It got very tiresome, but it had to be done.” Kannika remembered.
“It’s true; the work always has to be done. I remember when…” Juana lazily began
“Oh!” said Kannika looking at her watch. “I didn’t realize I’ve been gone so long. I really need to go; I was only supposed to be grabbing a few things. I’ll come by tomorrow.”
Juana stood and waved goodbye as Kannika briskly walked the three blocks back home.
Henry pretended to be asleep when Kannika had gotten home the night before. He was not the most trusting man. After all, he took after his mother. He was suspicious of Juana and the friendship they were building. His insecurities could be toxic and his jealously of Kannika finding her way so easily, on her own, unnerved him.
Henry woke the morning after Kannika arrived home late in the evening wondering what kept her away. Henry continued to live within his own routines but he still noticed the absence of Kannika. Even when she was home she seemed to be elsewhere.
“What took you so long last night?” Henry asked while brewing coffee in the small kitchen.
“Oh, I couldn’t find the spice I was looking for but Juana found it pushed behind the curry.” Kannika replied.
“What spice is that?” Henry asked.
“Oh, um, just some powdered hot pepper. And then I lost track of time talking about foods from home with Juana.” Kannika said nonchalantly as she fumbled around in the pantry.
Edith awoke and walked in on their conversation. Reaching bleary-eyed for her coffee cup from the dish rack, she looked up and said, “I can’t eat anything hot. Gives me gas.” Then she poured a cup of freshly brewed coffee, grabbed her cigarettes, and went to the front step. Henry and Kannika looked at eachother with wide eyes and could barely hold in their laughter.
He wrapped his arm around her and said, “Well, I hope you make me something like that curry dish from that street vendor near base in Thailand. That was delicious, but I’ll admit, a bit hot for my American tongue.”
“Well, as long as it doesn’t give you gas too” Kannika said in between giggles.
They smiled as Edith yelled through the door, “I heard that!”
Henry and Kannika couldn’t contain it anymore and both burst into a fit of laughter as he pulled her close kissing her forehead, allowing their moment of closeness to wash away his concerns.
A few days later as Kannika was sweeping Edith’s cigarette butts off the front steps of the trailer, she heard Henry approach from the closing screen door.
“You need to be careful walking around by yourself, you know. People are different here.” He said abruptly without greeting.
Kannika well knew, probably more so than Henry, how different the people were, hustling around town in their cars, purchasing anything they needed at any time, staring at her, and judging her.
But she calmly replied, “Are they? Everyone is very pleasing. I enjoy the walk and learning the culture. It is important for our child that I learn the language.”
Henry again was unnerved by her quick learn of the English language and her confidence and in an instant wanted to tame it, “You can learn English talking to Mother. From home. I don’t want you walking around town anymore, it isn’t safe.”
Kannika knew she would suffocate within the small confines of her home with Edith watching her every move. She nodded her head and went back to her sweeping. Kannika stayed in for a few nights after Henry scolded her for being “unsafe” walking in town. But as she predicted, she could feel the suffocation slowly choke her as if Edith’s smoke tendrils were tightening around her neck.
Henry had never had any real romantic relationship before he met Kannika. While he would never admit that bringing a foreign woman to the United States made him feel superior, he did enjoy the dominance he felt he had over her; the feeling of respect he thought he deserved from her. And though he loved her, their relationship was difficult. The differences in their culture brought problems with his mother and whispers in his community. For someone who had always been taken care of, he knew little of how to handle the disparagement and unintentionally pulled away, as did Kannika.
© Kerry Whiteley and Winding Road, 2012-present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kerry Whiteley and Winding Road with appropriate and specific direction to the original content