How to Install a Water Heater

A cat in a Superman costumeThe yappity-yap-yap group is here at the cafe this morning. The topic of the moment is whether to go look at some chain saws. Male bonding. Any topic that involves refined petroleum products is open for discussion.

And I’m a crank. I know. I don’t care either. I could claim that it’s because I’m a writer, and writers look at the world with a critical eye, and… But would you buy that nonsense? Or I could claim that it’s because I’m 58 years old, because people my age remember how the world was perfect when we were young and now it’s not, and we didn’t screw it up…and…and…you kids take those iPods and get out of my yard.

But the sad fact is that it’s just my flawed quibbling personality, how I’ve always been, as anyone who has known me for years can tell you. Except my mama. She won’t say that. But you know, she’s my mama.

As a crank you get off topic easily. I was going to talk about writing here, about my work on the novel. I hate how slowly I write. It makes me feel stupid. I just started reading George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, and having barely begun the book, one of the things that most strikes me is “Holy moly this book is long!” The same thing, actually, that an insect might notice about a book, if required to eat it.

How did she write such a long book? And it’s just one of several that she authored. I bet she didn’t check her email as often as I do. Would I be wrong in assuming that Mary Ann Evans, the real name of the writer, was not going to work every day? Or spending all day long trying to figure out how to find a job?

So probably Evans spent more than two hours a day writing, or one hour if you don’t count time spent searching for photos of cats wearing Superman costumes. So Evans wrote more diligently, but still, that’s a lot of words. It would sure take me a while. Years. After months of writing, I’m only up to page 100. Double-spaced.

And the way a good writer wrote in those days, it impresses me. Should the judicious writer, imbued by Providence or by natural inclination with a proclivity to examine those questions not likely to course the common trains of daily discourse, to step however haltingly onto the paths of a more rarified intellectual inquiry, seeking those glimmers of brightening wisdom such as are allotted to our faulty capacity…then such a writer should not sit here in this cafe on Saturday mornings and listen to the babble at the next table. Jesus, how can anyone be so passionate about water heaters?

But I think I got off topic there. I wanted to comment on where I’m at with the novel. Benedict and Miramar have returned to the present, to continue their drive across Kansas, which may go for a couple of chapters more until they get to Colorado. They stopped briefly to visit a cathedral in Victoria, Kansas, called the Cathedral of the Plains.

Since they are driving, maybe I should go back and have Benedict drink a bottle of chocolate milk, because that’s what I always do when I’m on a road trip. They also meet a priest who is hitchhiking, and through him they are going to hear a children’s choir sing. In some cases the singing of children can be horrible. For some people, bad singing actually seems to be a desirable quality in children, as if the worse the little angels sing, the more adorable it is. Off key? Awwwww. I’ve never thought of adorableness has having a “please-God-make-me-deaf” quality. But I’m a crank. You already know that.

I got the idea to include a children’s choir this past Sunday in Quaker Meeting, as we were singing. I found myself in the rare situation of not having a songbook, so I just looked around, and I watched the children, seeing their mouths form the words. That vision of children singing, combined with the fact that I liked the song at the time, made me want to do something to capture the moment. Of course, I couldn’t capture the moment—every moment goes away, but I could use it for inspiration.

So I am. Some tiny tiny bit of it will go in the book.

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Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming)

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