Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wasn't it John Lennon who said, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans?"

Nanowrimo 2011 Day One

Word Count for the day (so far - I'm not done!): 979
Expected Total so far: 1667
Current Progress: 979

This year's project for me is tentatively titled The Rude Awakening of Marlon Grunt, and is a pseudo re-telling of the amazing Frank Capra movie, It's A Wonderful Life.  I've done quite a bit more prep work for this story than I have in years past.  It looks like I'll need it since this year my "free" time is quite a bit less available than in years past.  The idea coalesced from a series of ideas that sort of wound up fitting together like a puzzle.

The first part of the idea was from a true story that a colleague told about a strange boy who she found on her couch one morning.  The boy had obviously come in and crashed on her couch by mistake, making for a very interesting morning for her and her family.

The second part of the idea was born from a story that a different friend told me about someone who had, regrettably, tried to take her own life when still a teenager and the subsequent events (or lack thereof) that had changed her life for the better.  Sort of a gift about how pointless suicide is, doing nothing to solve the problems you have, just creating pain for others.  And I began to wonder what had motivated that person to find a purpose beyond their pain.

Both of these ideas dovetailed into the great story that I simply MUST watch every year - the evergreen tale of George Bailey who dreamt of great things, but kept getting deterred from the life he expected by the life that was actually happening around him.  Wasn't it John Lennon who said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans?"  George, tired of the hand life has dealt him and looking for a way to deal with the dire mistakes of those around him, seeks to end his own life, believing that his death would leave his loved ones better off.  He is, of course, shown the error of his ways by his guardian angel, Clarence.

In my version, Marlon Grunt is the main character, and he is a sixteen year old kid without a father, living with his boozy mother and loving but crazy chain-smoking grandmother in a trailer park in Bloomington, Illinois.  Marlon has big dreams and great friends, but life keeps dealing him hard blows, and trying to do the right thing all the time is painful.  Eventually, Marlon makes the decision to try and end his own life.  Intervention comes in the form of a guardian angel - sometimes in the shape of Carrie Winthrop (a 17 year old ghost), sometimes in the form of Tre Cool - drummer for Green Day.

Excerpt from Chapter One:

November 1, This year. 

            “Look at him staggering around down there.  He’ll wander into traffic, T-Paul! He’ll be killed!”
            “I rather think that was the point, Clarence.”
The two watched with concerned eyes as Marlon Grunt’s skinny 16 year old frame lurched drunkenly from one side of the golf course pathway to the other.
            “Well, for heaven’s sake, we have to do something!” Clarence, ever the drama queen, was beginning to get that thready, panicked tone to his voice that suggested that he was about to go off his nut and attempt some sort of a miracle.            From the disheveled clothes and glassy stare the boy was exhibiting, it just might take a miracle to get him back on track.  Marlon slid down an embankment toward the road that wound through the country club’s neighborhood, losing his balance and skittering through the gravel that framed the winding road.  He surely didn’t see the pickup truck that was barreling towards him, just about to round the curve and take the senseless boy out of existence.  Clarence gasped and T-Paul rolled his eyes and waved an annoyed hand at the speeding truck.
            The driver of the pickup truck screamed and slammed on his brakes to avoid the squirrel that had leaped, kamikaze-style, onto the hood from an overhanging branch.  The squirrel clung madly to the windshield wiper, tiny body frantically tossing from side to side, as the truck tattoed the road with tire tracks and screeched, spinning, to a halt.  The clattery old truck rattled to a stop a mere fifty feet from where Marlon Grunt was picking himself up from the pavement and lurching off on his mysterious journey once more, oblivious to the violent death he’d just barely avoided.            Cory Winthrop, yet another 16 year old and the driver of the pickup truck, was trying to force some air into his lungs again.  He had collapsed, heart racing, against the steering wheel, and begun to shake.
            “OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod,” Cory whispered over and over again. The squirrel, indignant after surviving his wild ride, chattered angrily at the young driver, chastising him for his recklessness.  Cory heaved in a deep breath and sat up again, and tapped the horn, causing the squirrel to scamper off the front of his hood and dart into the darkness of some roadside bushes.  Before taking his foot off the break, Cory squinted into the darkness, trying to spot what he thought had been a human form crossing the road.  Satisfied that it had only been his imagination plus a squirrel-sized Evil Knievel, Cory slowly went on his way home.  It had been a rough night, and he was looking forward to his bed.            Marlon, on the other hand, was now sitting, practically folded in half, on the pink plastic swing of someone’s backyard playset, crying.  His head hung limp in defeat, and slobber leaked from his mouth.  It was a very unattractive pose, but Marlon was beyond caring.            “Relax, Clarence. I’ve assigned an intervention worker to his case already, she’s been waiting for an opportunity to move up in the organization, and she has just the kind of creative thinking we might need for Mr. Marlon Grunt.”
Clarence harrumphed, the elderly form he’d chosen puffing up with disbelief, like nothing so much as a wet chicken. T-Paul hid his smile and turned to greet his guest.
“Ah, here she is now.” The blurry golden shadow of a teenage girl came forward.  Her form was willowy and frail, but her eyes were bright with determination.  Hazel eyes met T-Paul’s with eagerness, unflinching and ready to face what may come.            “How can I be of service, Mr. Keeper?” asked the soul of Carrie Winthrop.

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