Work-in-Progress Week

Thank you, Beth Kephart, for instituting this Work-in-Progress week that began as Work-in-Progress DAY but got hijacked by the rest of us latecomers who wanted to join in.

First, a disclaimer (that I expressly forbid my students from ever making): I know I have neglected my blog.  I hereby affirm that I am back for good.  I will write here regularly, both about teaching writing and the training that I am doing for the Pan-Mass Challenge.  But for now, to get started, here is my contribution to Work-in-Progress Week.

MillThis excerpt is from my novel-in-progress, The Year of Needy Girls.  It is a work that has LONG been “in-progress” but soon, I hope, to be done.  I’m posting here an excerpt from a recent chapter which comes towards the end of the book:

Fear still permeated the air in Bradley.  Worse now that the bright sunshine seemed to be permanently gone, replaced instead by grey skies and that cold, piercing wind.  Mickey Gilberto still had not been brought to trial, but he had been formally charged at least.  That fact might have been enough to put people’s minds at ease but still somehow an uneasy tension lingered. You could feel it woven through conversations, an invisible string linking everyone together. SJ thought of it like an old house–a stately Victorian, nicely painted and detailed but on closer inspection, in desperate need of updating, peeled ceilings and drafty windows, leaky with terrible plumbing.  It was hard to tell whether folks felt scared for their children still–it wasn’t as if fewer children appeared out of doors, not that SJ noticed. And it wasn’t as if the after-school kids stopped coming to the library, though SJ did feel a kind of distance from a few of the parents who picked them up, real or imagined she couldn’t say.  There was no way to determine what they knew, if, for example, they knew that SJ had been teaching Mickey Gilberto to read and so therefore was contaminated by close proximity, or whether they knew that Deirdre Murphy-the-child-molester-teacher was her partner, a fact that would make SJ suspect in their minds also.

SJ felt marked, branded with an expiration date, past due.  “I think we need to move,” she had said to Deirdre and then realized what that meant, that she was suggesting to Deirdre that they stay together.  She watched the hope on Deirdre’s face, heard the careful monitoring of that hope in her voice when she answered: “But I love this house don’t you?” and then, “I’m open to it. Let’s see.”

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