These are the notes and scribbles I had written for the beginning of a potential New Adult series four PLUS years ago when I started grad school and haven’t looked at it since (notice a strategically placed reference to AIM Instant Messenger…remember when that was a thing?) I just found it in my files and thought it might be worth getting some feedback on. I don’t know what I have here, but the character Phoebe Lizard (who doesn’t actually make an appearance in this) is such a great one that I’d love to explore at some point. She’s a free-spirited hippie musician with yellow eyes.
I absolutely LOVE going through my old files and unearthing pieces like these. It’s amazing to see how much I’ve progressed as a writer from 2009 until now. There are familiar aspects, but I’m above and beyond where I was back then. I had completely forgotten that this existed until I was sorting through my Active YA folder and spotted this. I remember falling in love with the character idea, but not really being sure how to execute it. I may take her and use her in something else that I’m developing…(which is something I often do with characters I really love that don’t exactly warrant their own stories: take them and find a place for them elsewhere.)
Anyway, reading this over, it’s SO. Flawed. But, for the sake of progression and creativity, I thought I’d post it for y’all! Remember: it’s TOTES a jumble of notes and ideas and not a coherent story…
Is this worth pursuing? I’m on the fence. It’s not something I’m dying to write, but it’s file in the vault for someday, I guess. What do you think? Leave thoughts about it in the comments below!
how the hell did i get here?
“When can I see her?” I asked, nibbling a loose hangnail. It burned when it ripped it off with my teeth. I chewed on it until it was safe to spit it out.
“I’m sorry, sir, but she’s on seventy two hour watch, no visitors. Unless you’re family. Are you?” He looked me up and down, using his tongue to suck last night’s steak out of his teeth. It was a long night, he clearly forgot to brush. MeatTeeth’s eyes lingered on the bandages around my wrist and the gauze on my forehead.
“Uh, well,” I sputtered. He made me nervous. “Not…exactly, but I, uh –”
“Boyfriend?” His forehead crinkled as he furrowed his brow. His stare lingered on me, and I felt a droplet of sweat snake its way down my spine.
I didn’t know how to answer.
“I understand kid, it’s complicated?”
Sure. “Complicated.” I tried to look past him, but the beast at the threshold kept me from seeing anything.
He cleared his voice and gave a slight wink, which made my intestines squirm. Seriously. I felt them and it made my breathing unsteady.
“Listen, sir, she’s only been in there for the about ten hours now, and I know the doctors had strict orders for visitation. I’ll have to check with –”
“Excuse me, are you Archer?” A deep, husky voice cut Nurse MeatTeeth off. When I turned around I half expected to be bombarded by the Hulk. “Archer Lockwood?” He was beanstalk tall and his muscles tested the seams of his perfectly fit white doctor’s coat, like one of those pristine, oxy-cleaned coats you see on TV doctors. He wasn’t smiling, but he didn’t strike me as one of those guys who ever really did.
“Depends,” I said, attempting a smirk, hoping he’d buy it.
He extended a hand, “I’m Doctor Gene Short.” He was like an oxymoron, a walking contradiction. Brad Pitt with Chandler Bing’s name.
I crossed over my left hand and shook his timidly.
“Do you have a few minutes? We’d like to talk to you.”
“We?” I looked down at my shoes, caked with mud. A gash slit the side of the right one, making it look like a hundred year old cowboy leather.
“There’s an officer down the hall, he has a few questions for you. As does her mother.”
Her mother came?
“Oh.” I sighed.
“Yes, and I’m your friends doctor, but I don’t know how to treat her until I know what happened. And she’s not talking. Her mother said she hasn’t been in contact since she started school last fall. The only thing she mentioned was you. Said you were her only friend.”
That wasn’t true. I gnawed on my upper lip until I felt a small trickle of blood. The familiar taste of rust was soothing. I nodded my head and followed Dr. Contradiction into a stark white room. If I squint, he would blend into the wall, that’s how dang white they were. I felt like I was in some Hollywood version of Heaven, where the fluorescent lights are so bright the police officer at the long white table looked like Jesus at the last supper.
“Hi son, I’m Officer Christian.”
He made it too easy.
“This is Mrs. Lizard,” he said, following up.
“Hi,” I nodded to both of them. I don’t know what to say. I never know what to say.
“I’ve heard so much about you, you know, through e-mails, the grapevine, and a police report,” she smiled. It was one of those shifty smiles where you don’t know if it means she’s kidding and she likes you, or she secretly wants to let her inner succubus out and she’s being polite by refraining. “Not like my daughter has returned any of my calls in the past year. It makes sense that the first time I see her is in a Psych ward.” Her long blonde hair looked professionally curled and coifed, styled like an old Hollywood Starlet. She even had a mole on her upper lip. She made me extremely uncomfortable. “Don’t squirm, you’re not in trouble. This is who my daughter is; she’s a free spirit, going where ever the wind carries her.” I could tell by her voice that she was mocking, and in the dead silence of the room I could swear I heard a hippie, somewhere, die.
“Um.” It was all I could muster.
“You’re great with the monosyllabic grunts,” Mrs.
Lizard Hollywood said, and flashed me a very brief smile that let me know I was free to laugh, or grunt again.
“Good, that’s better,” she said. “Now, to my daughter.”
Officer Good Christian twiddled his pencil in his hands, fiddling it nervously. She must’ve made him nervous, because he kept stealing glances in the most obvious ways, swinging his head violently in the opposite direction whenever she looked his way. “Yeah, there are a few, uh, questions I’d like to ask, about the concert and the missing –”
“In due time, Officer. I’d like to first find out what the hell my daughter’s been doing this year. Maybe then I can figure out why, for the life of me, she’s been committed.”
He looked as if she grabbed him by the balls and led him into her corner. They both turned to me and waited. I looked behind me toward Dr. Contradiction, whose arms were folded in the doorway.
“I have to do rounds. You all take as much time as you need. She’ll be ready for visitors in two hours, after the first twelve hours are over.” He backed out of the room, leaving me.
It felt like hours flew by, but when I checked my watch it was only a few minutes. They’re staring at me, waiting.
“You’re going to have to talk eventually,” she said.
I sucked in a lung full of air and tilted my head to the ceiling. “I don’t know how I got here,” I said, finally.
Neither of them said anything.
“It’s funny,” I said, biting my cuticles, “of all the places I would’ve thought I could be at the end of my freshman year, the one place I never thought of is a California hospital. Let alone a psych ward.”
Mrs. Hollywood flipped her blonde coils over her shoulder and tucked a loose strand behind her ear. She rested her elbow on the table and leaned her chin on her delicate fist, signaling her intent on listening.
“But, then again, I’ve never met anyone like Pheobe.”
* * *
It was the first day of classes and I was already visibly falling asleep in front of my professors. As my eyelids flickers, I thought back to my last night at “home.” Everyone had said their goodbyes already; those tearful, earth-shattering, universe-moving, life-changing-in-a-cosmic-way goodbyes. I only knew that through sad-face-emoticon-ed away messages and gut-wrenching status updates on Facebook. They all seemed to think that the end of high school and the beginning of college is this Sophie’s Choice event; do we stay friends? How is this possible? You’ll be so far away, and this is, of course, the end of everything! The last week of August was riddled with Mayan calendar Doomsdays, at least that’s how it was in my town. I had no one to say goodbye to. I was glad to leave.
Professor Silverfox was droning on about the importance of censorship in the media and how we must take a stand, one way or the other. I could almost imagine the old fox in the ‘60s, a young twentysomething, going buck wild at Woodstock, having wild sex and tripping on acid to make a statement. I kept catching myself drifting. It’s not that I didn’t care, I just wasn’t used to 8AM classes. My eyes fluttered and his booming voice faded to soft echoes and sleep overtook me, in that way where nothing else concerned me; I was unaware, oblivious. I felt my head bob lowly until my chin rested on my chest. I was powerless to stop it. A paralysis of the brain. Anyway, I must’ve started to snore because I heard Silverfox grunting and clearing his throat and my head bolted up like reverse lightning to find him standing at my desk.
“Uh,” I sputtered, “sorry.”
“See me after class, Mr., uh…”
“Archer,” I said, realizing my mistake. “Lockwood, Archer Lockwood.”
The entire class was staring at me. It could’ve been worse. I could’ve farted.
“So, Mr. Lockwood,” he said, disdain poured out from between his teeth like toxic sludge. “What areas of censorship are you interested in?”
“You’re a man of many words, I see.”
“I talk when it counts.”
“Alright then, make it count. Next week you’ll be giving the first class presentation on censorship in music. You can use any medium to present it, any way you want. It has to be a minimum of fifteen minutes, no more than twenty. I hope the rest of the class is writing this down, because each of you will also have to do one as part of your overall grade. I want a concise, written summation, no more than five pages. Here is the syllabus, it’ll explain what I want in greater detail.” He began passing out papers, and I felt like snapping my pen in half.
I felt the heat of embarrassment in my cheeks; I looked around the room for the exit. I considered climbing out the window, but we were on the third floor and I didn’t feel like appearing in the school paper as the kid who, on top of being the punk kid who fell asleep snoring in class, almost offed himself while trying to escape.
The exit was two rows away from me, and as I waited for Silverfox to turn his back, I saw something in the door’s glass window. Someone was on their tippy toes, peering in from the hallway. All that was visible was frizzy blonde hair and a pair of bright yellow eyes, looking directly at me.