I don’t usually talk to Buck about the specifics of the manuscript I’ve been working on for what feels like forever. For two reasons: I haven’t wanted to interrupt the flow of his own thoughts at a time when he was hurtling through legal pads and stacking them up like steps to the sky; and because I fear his crusty old newspaper editor’s red pen and his inclination to fix things. I’m as self-protective as a teenage girl wearing eye shadow for the first time facing her mother under fluorescent lights at the breakfast table. I don’t have that thick skin it’s said a writer must develop. I fret about fixing something until it breaks. The parts are delicate. The whole must be resilient. He is editing a complete first draft. I am perhaps 40% done, and I write with fear and trembling.
Something happened last night. Buck and I sat in our usual spots, talking through supper. We’re thinking about a short road trip, and we talked about that. My mind was on the new writing I had done yesterday, and it just slipped out of my mouth, the scene between the old man, Tom Harper, and the young woman, Grace Ringer. There were no plot suggestions from Buck. There were tears. His and mine. Maybe for the first time I understood what I am really writing about and why I have been dragging it around like a burden. I won’t say anymore about our conversation. It’s too tender — delicate flowers on a slender stalk.
I’ve tried to keep my plot and characters at emotional arm’s length, protecting my vulnerable hot lava core with a chilly titanium sleeve. If there was no “there” there, the whole thing would have long since shriveled from my casual treatment and dilettante pen. When Tom spoke through me last night and made my husband cry, that was it. There’s something powerful going on here, and I just have to lay the words down as fast or as slow as they come, weave a swaying bridge over the chasm, cling to the ropes for dear life, and cross to the other side.