Hello everyone — and welcome. I’m delighted to have you here, and I’m happy to be here too. You see, a week ago I had a resignation blog ready to post — leaving this blog and the serials, and maybe writing all together. Why? Something troubled me greatly when I concluded Three Ingredients Cookbook-2, a Ghost in the Kitchen. I keep trying to let it go, but a swarm of thoughts like buzzing little bees, kept stinging me.
The most important of those buzzing thoughts is Sanctuary. Not long ago I wrote an episode introduction describing this blog as my sanctuary, my safe place, my refuge. I said that I mean for it to be a safe place for you as well. Yet some of my favorite people complained about how I wrote the end of Cookbook-2 — and my sanctuary no longer felt safe. I know no one said anything with malice in their heart, and I know everyone meant well. I’m honored whenever anyone takes the time to leave a comment. So I guess they meant to criticize nicely, but first one complaint and then others had to jump right onto that critical bandwagon. Buzz-swarm-sting-sting-sting! Can you imagine that stole my thunder? And then some.
Throughout the serials I make a point of staying true to the spirit and mood of the story, wherever the things or ingredients may lead. That includes endings.
I write for the same reason that I read — pleasure. I don’t go into detail about my “9 to 5” job. It has evolved such that I wear several hats, but chiefly I am a technical editor with executive-level experience. (Yes you will find plenty of mistakes in my work despite that — my purpose is to entertain with the tiny amount of time I have to write this blog, not to be a perfect example.) So I turn off my editor-brain and simply enjoy what others produce. Can you imagine what I see when I look at books, products, and posts with a critical eye?
All I’m saying is remember, this blog is a sanctuary.
Enough said. No apologies necessary — don’t even think about it. Moving on.
I had suggested a repeat of the original serial Three Things, to allow me some time to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is November. I’ll try to give you a peek into my thought process with these interactive serials as I rewind them.
It’s hard to believe that Granny Fanny, Maestro Martino, and Cracker the Parrot all have their roots in the images the words “oscillating fan” brought to my mind. That was the first reader-contributed “thing.” Using a writing challenge for Episode-2 resulted in some characters who have gone the distance with us.
You’ll see that I hadn’t even “met” Pip in Episode-1. I didn’t know anything about the narrator, except that it was a woman — I was letting the “things” guide every part of the story. Neither did I know the era of the story’s setting. Horsefeathers, it might have been on another planet for all I knew!
As I rewind Three Things, I will include the original episode introductions as well. I feel the things I share about you readers who contribute things and/or ingredients are an equal part of the storytelling. So hang onto your hats Sheiks and Shebas — rewind commencing!
Three Things Serial Story
With “things” sent from readers everywhere
Here begins the “Three Things Serial Story.” Mary kicked things off with Oscillating Fan, but to keep things consistent right from the start, I needed to use three things. So I took two more “things” from Mary’s last two blog posts: Scent and Cowboy.
Oscillating Fan, Scent, Cowboy
Tic, tic, tic, grunt. Tic, tic, tic, grunt. The noise chipped away at her preoccupied mind while she absently gazed at the quiet street below. It was Sunday, so hardly anyone was out. A little boy in a cowboy costume came around the corner. He pushed himself against the brick wall of the building across the street and peeped back around its edge at his unseen playmate. Then he jumped out with arms spread like a bear to startle his friend, and quickly disappeared out of sight.
Tic, tic, tic, grunt. Tic, tic, tic, grunt. The sound of the fan drew her attention away from the window. Some would find the low repetitive noise hypnotic, perhaps even relaxing. To her, however, the sound was becoming downright annoying. A dust bunny skittered out from a corner, propelled by the breeze of the oscillating fan. The stirring air brought a familiar scent to her nostrils and she looked toward the door.
Come on now everyone — don’t let me down about sending “three things.” Words, phrases, that’s all it is; whatever pops into your head. As an example, I’m taking “things” from The Daily Prompt. Today’s was a thought provoking post. They asked what you wanted to grow up to be when you were ten years old, and how it compares to what you’re doing now. At ten I wanted to be a psychologist. Can you imagine how well off I’d be by now if I’d had any encouragement? Ha! But you can’t change the past, so you move forward.
Having a few more “things” helped me see how the story might grow, so I’ve revised yesterday’s post telling it in first person. Now continuing our serial with “things” from The Daily Prompt. (Even though these things are related, all being careers, I encourage you to send unrelated things if you can.)
Ballerina, Fireman, Astronaut, Movie Star
Burned toast. That’s what the scent was. I sniffed the air and stood up behind my desk as the odor was suddenly much stronger. My new pink cloche hat fell to the floor and I quickly scooped it up and dusted off the nonexistent dirt. “Oh, applesauce!” The hat was brand new.
I wrinkled my nose at the growing odor. Really burned toast. A heavy knock at the door made the newly painted glass shake. I cringed thinking about how much it had cost to get the frosted glass with my name stenciled on it put in that door. It was nearly as much as I’d spend on food for a week, but the expensive glass inset proudly bore the sign, P. I. Peabody, Palmistry.
Right behind the knock was a fireman. And right behind the fireman was a lot of smoke. He didn’t have say a word. I swept papers from my desk into a satchel and followed him down the stairs.
“Don’t tell me,” I said over my shoulder in a dry tone. “The ‘movie star’ in 2-C burned her toast again.”
“That and half her kitchenette too,” the fireman said with a lopsided smile. “But don’t worry. It wasn’t too bad. We just want to check and make sure everything is okay before we let folks back into the building. Procedures the chief always says. It’s a decent building,” he added with a thoughtful expression. “You think there’s a vacancy? I’m Frankie Fabro, by the way.” He took off a heavy glove and offered his hand.
“Paisley Peabody,” I introduced myself and shook his hand. “Call me Pip.”
Nope, with a moniker like that I didn’t have any business giggling about anybody else’s name, but I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of Frankie Fabro, Fireman. Besides, Frankie really was the cat’s pajamas, a real cutie.
I explained that the building was meant to be for offices, but times were tough, so as long as occupants at least put up the pretense of having a business and paid the rent on time, the management let them live there.
Because of the pseudo businesses, I had come to think of my fellow tenants as if they were children playing the roles of what they wanted to be when they grew up. There was the toast-burning Mona the Movie Star, so a fireman might be good to balance that. There was also the Boris the Ballerina, a graceful but aloof man with a Slavic accent who gave dance lessons about twice a week. Then there was Andy the Astronaut, or rather Astronaute, as he would correct me. He was really a writer, but he wrote stuff like Edgar Rice Burroughs – wild imaginative stuff.
As if on cue, Andy came running out of the building. His glasses were askew and he clutched his screenplay to his chest and chased a few loose sheets of paper down the street when they escaped.
Surprise — a mid-week post! Here’s another short installment of the Three Things Serial. This time the “things” are courtesy of Sharon in Virginia. You can view the entire story (so far) as it develops on the Three Things Serial Story page.
Popcorn, Painting, Movies
A sheet of Andy’s carefully typed screenplay drifted to my feet. I picked it up, thinking how he must love his work. He had gathered up all his writing when he thought the building was on fire. Andy really was a sweet guy, but he was head over heels for Mona. I looked at the sheet of paper. His typewriter had a broken “M” so the letter had a blank streak across it. However, it was easy enough to read the title, “A Princess of Mars, A Reimagining.”
Andy looked pensively back at me. “I really don’t have time for movies. I need to repaint my apartment — I mean my office.” He walked over to where I stood with Frankie, muttering to himself. “I think I got ‘em all…”
I grinned and handed him the piece of paper that had floated to me. He gave me a sheepish thank you and straightened his glasses.
“So’d you write this?” Frankie asked him, looking over my shoulder at the page.
“Yes and no. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the story awhile back. I’ve turned it into a screenplay. I know there would be all sorts of legal issues, but Mona would just make such a perfect Dejah Thoris, I just had to write it.”
Frankie seemed to be familiar with that stuff, so I let the two guys talk for a minute. “Andy, there’s no point in painting your place ‘til all that smoke settles. No more lame excuses. Come on to the Nickelodeon with the rest of us. Mona’s going too,” I added the deal maker. “So you want to go, Astronaute-man?”
He brightened considerably. “And how! Okay, Flapper. It’s a date.” Then he blushed and stammered, all serious like, “My deadline is self-imposed, so I can change my schedule.”
“You know; if there’s room for one more… Well… that would be a way for me to check out my potential new neighbors,” said Frankie the Fireman as if in sudden inspiration. “I’d buy your popcorn.”
I gave him a quizzical look, just to mess with him. “OK Fireman. Put on your glad rags and come back around dark-30.”
Our “interactive” story continues with two sets of “things” from amazing friend, Provincial Lady. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook — be sure to send me your three things!
(Episode-5 was combined in the same post with Episode-4.)
Gelato, Aerobic, Thunderstorm
Clouds gathered ominously, so twilight came early. I worried that Frankie might be early too – and I wasn’t ready yet. However, the face in the mirror winked at me, or I winked at it, whichever. I smiled and applied some rose colored rouge to my cheeks, and “helped” my lips into a Cupid’s Bow with careful use of some plum colored lipstick.
I had run into Boris a few minutes earlier as he was finishing what he called his aerobic exercise. He was limping some as he came up the stairs. A bad knee injury caused him to give up his career with the Ballets Russes. Before the sky had even clouded, Boris insisted that I take an umbrella with me to the movies. He was sure there would be a thunderstorm. “The knee,” he said, “it never lies.”
Just as I put my lipstick away I heard a man’s shoes pounding up the stairs. Then came three quick knocks to my door, tap tap-tap. I practically skipped across the room, and when I opened my “office” door I saw Frankie’s smiling mug. He looked at the frosted glass inset on the door for a minute, at the new sign I was so proud of, “P.I. Peabody, Palmistry.” The only other time he’d seen my door he was there as a fireman, because of a small fire in Mona’s kitchen down the hall.
“Hey, maybe you can read my palm some time. My grandma reads tea leaves,” he said by way of a greeting.
“Hello to you too,” I said dryly.
Frankie looked abashed enough that I let him off the hook for his lack of manners. Then he held out a brown paper bag that was damp with condensation, finally looking at me. “Wow!” he said with quite a gratifying drop of his jaw. “You look swell, Pip.”
“Why, you’re dudding up pretty well yourself, Frankie. Come on in for a sec.”
When I looked at the bag he exclaimed, “Gosh, I almost forgot! I brought you some of my grandmother’s gelato, but you’ll have to eat it now. I mean if you want. Uh, I mean…”
It was good to know that I could make him stutter. I stepped into my little kitchenette and got two spoons. “Only if you help me,” I said, digging my spoon into the softly frozen treat. “Oh, holy Hannah, this stuff is delicious!”
Episode-5: Slate, Waterfall, Devious
Everybody piled into Andy’s jalopy. He deviously made a big deal of helping Boris, whose limp had become more pronounced, into the backseat. Then he made over Frankie, being as he was our newcomer, seating him as well. Naturally I’d be expected to sit with the fireman, since I’d brought him into the group. So that left Mona to share the front seat with the little Astronaute-man, as he obviously intended.
Poor Andy, he was so transparent. Mona the Movie Star rolled her eyes at me in an exaggerated way, but she was a good sport about it as he handed her up to the Studebaker’s running board and then the seat. Andy tucked a slate-blue plaid blanket carefully around Mona’s lap. She protested that the night was too warm for the blanket, but she didn’t remove it. Then he carelessly tossed a matching blanket back to the rest of us, and nearly knocked off my hat.
As the Studebaker puttered up in front of the Nickelodeon Theatre the bright lights reflected off the waterfall in the fountain. The star billing for Fatty Arbunckle was mirrored in squiggly letters in the water. Boris the Ballerina looked at the theatre entrance with a sharp intake of breath.
“You okay, Buddy?” Frankie the Fireman asked, having been told about the Russian’s bad knee.
Boris muttered that he was fine. But that little gasp didn’t sound like pain to me. It sounded more like shock laced with fear. Boris looked intently at the people going inside and murmured in his accent, “I thought I saw someone. But is not important.”