Sunday, October 11, 2015

Storytelling by the Seat of the Pants: Doris Speck Excerpt

It's storytime once again at The Crooked Clothesline. While preparing to take part in this year's National Novel Writing Month in November, I indulged myself by reading the results of my previous years of participation. After reading the following, written entirely on the fly, I thought, "Hey, this might actually be a good blog post for the easily amused."  I know I liked it! Please enjoy this excerpt from Doris Speck.

  Not only do the administrators of NaNoWriMo 
 challenge participants to write 50,000 words 
 in 30 days, they also encourage grown adults to 
 create covers for their yet-to-be-written novels.

Synopsis: It's 1960. Doris Speck plans to cash in on her good looks to be a Broadway actor, not for love of the craft but to prove wrong her cruel foster parents' dismal predictions concerning her future. Her plans go awry and Doris must contend with negative reviews, a mean beatnik roommate, answering phones at the funeral parlor, her employer's pet parrot, and an all-girl loanshark motorcycle gang before landing in the Australian outback as field assistant to Agatha Lovelost, an animal behaviorist living amongst the duck-billed platypuses.

     One evening, as there were no viewings on schedule, Mr. and Mrs. Ochman were preparing to head home at 6:00, leaving their nephew to finish an embalming.  Sometimes, when living customers were out of the building for the evening, Mrs. Ochman would open Motyl’s cage and let him fly around the foyer for a few minutes of freedom.  Doris found this appalling but she certainly preferred cleaning an empty cage to reaching her arm in with an agitated bird bigger than Howdy-Doody beating its horrid wings at her.  When Mrs. Ochman opened the door to the cage, Doris waited tensely until Motyl flapped off into a viewing room before she began her job.  When her heart stopped palpitating, she was able to perform her task with less displeasure.
    The phone on the desk rang.  Doris was loathe to touch the receiver while her hands were contaminated with Motyl germs but she found she was the only person in the room.  Thank goodness that by 1960 the Kimberly-clark Corporation had already introduced the Kleenex pop-up tissue carton!  Doris frantically whipped out a half dozen tissues which she wrapped around the heavy black handset before lifting the receiver to her ear.  A few minutes later, she was back in the embalming room delivering a message for the younger Mr. Ochman.  She leaned in through the doorway, hanging on to the door frame.
    “Mr. Ochman, your mother just called.  She wants you to come to dinner this Sunday.  She said to wear a tie; she’s invited...I think she said Sylvia Latham?  She said that Miss Latham attends Memorial Methodist Church,” Doris recited faithfully, “that she has just earned a bachelor’s degree in child development, her father owns a dry cleaning store in Manhattan and that she’s a great prospect.”
    Viktor’s face turned red and he almost dropped the scalpel he was holding.  Fortunately, he retained his grip and the Berenstein family’s beloved grandfather sported both ears at his viewing two nights later.  Viktor smiled more than a little sheepishly.
    “Uh...thank you, Miss Speck, for delivering that message so efficiently...and in such great detail.”  He cleared his throat. “Heh-heh!  Another Sunday dinner with Mother...dear old Mother.  Well, you know how mothers can be!”
    Doris came all the way into the room now and stood at the opposite side of the embalming slab.  Grandfather Berenstein was covered only up to the waist in a white sheet but Doris didn’t really notice him.
    “No, how can mothers be?” she asked, genuinely wanting to hear.
    Viktor mistook her curiosity as interest in himself and blushed again.  
    “Well, you know...”
    Doris shook her head.
    “Um...they can be demanding.  Case in point, my mother just called and told me to come to dinner on Sunday.” He laughed.  “They can be controlling and far too involved in one’s life as proven by the fact that my mother has taken it upon herself to scout out young ladies suitable for marriage and invite them to dinner in order to see how we might look together in the wedding photos.”
    The picture was becoming clearer.  Doris nodded her head and took a step or two closer.  Waiting to hear more, she leaned with one hand upon the surface of the embalming slab.  Viktor continued.
    “Of course, they can be manipulative,” he began to look at Doris strangely, “For example, whenever my Miss Speck.”  He gave a slight nod that seemed to indicate her hand.  She looked down to find that she was leaning with her palm on Grandfather Berenstein’s upper thigh.
    “Oops.  Sorry...”
    “No, that’s fine...I just thought it might bother you.”
    “Oh, not at all.  Why would it bother me?”  Doris gave Grandfather Berenstein a friendly pat to show that it didn’t bother her at all.
    Suddenly, an unpleasant flapping filled the air. A low-flying, rainbow-colored rat had flown into the room, swooping too close for comfort.  Wildly flailing wings beat above Doris’ head.  Caught off guard, her instincts took over and she ducked, throwing her arms over her face.
    “EEW!” she screamed, “EEW! EEEEWWW!! I hate that thing!  I hate that thing!  Get it away from me!”  Motyl had perched calmly high atop a freestanding instrument storage cabinet.  But Doris was still jogging frantically in place, paddling her hands madly in front of her face to keep beating wings from touching her.  She looked like what a television viewer might expect to see on American Bandstand after Dick Clark had just introduced a guest singing something about, “Everybody, do the Drowning Victim!”
    “Miss Speck!  Miss Speck!  You’re okay!”  Viktor called to her.  He stayed put at the other end of the embalming table since it would be impossible for him to approach her without receiving a black eye at the very least.
    “Miss Speck!  It’s okay!”
    Doris froze, her mouth still hanging open in horror, her eyes still large and frightened, her forehead furrowed.  She was embarrassed and ashamed.  More than anything, she was afraid of what would happen when Mrs. Ochman found out that Doris secretly harbored disdain for the beloved pet. Victor knew what the look on her face meant.
    “It’s okay,” Viktor said once more, “Your secret is safe with me.  I’ll get Motyl out of here.”
    Viktor was about to turn around and coax Motyl onto his arm when his aunt breezed into the room. 
    “Motyl! Zlatino! Time to go to bed, my sweetheart!”
    Doris and Viktor remained frozen staring at each other in silence.  Mrs. Ochman carried her baby out of the room, offering treats.  Motyl squawked, “My sweetheart!” before taking an orange slice from her.
    When they were alone again, Viktor smiled at Doris. 
    “That was a close call.  Now I know a little bit more about you than I did before.  I should be finished up here shortly.  When I am, may I offer you a ride home, Miss Speck?”