Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Old Lang Syne

by Martha Reed

I’m happy to report that I finished up a new short story yesterday, one that I’ve been working on for yes, five years. I can remember the day I first came up with the idea, walking on the beach in Sanibel with my sister and deciding I’d like to try writing a story set in southwestern Florida because it was so different from my life in southwestern Pennsylvania. For one thing, I have no experience with alligators and I’m okay with that but I took a look around at the Florida retirement lifestyle and thought: what would it be like to live in an older environment (even though our population in Pittsburgh is aging)? There would be advantages like larger parking spaces and well lit street signs but I’ve got enough East Coast in me to want to hurry things along in the check out aisle every once in awhile, and that's rude. So it was a dilemma.

But in those five years since I started the story idea, time has carried me over the 50-year-old yard line, and I think I can bring a better perspective to the story now. My friends and I have started to experience some health issues. It’s been interesting to watch how everyone reacts to them. Some are in flat denial, swallowing ibuprofen or vodka martinis to kill the aches and pains. Others (like me) have gone all Zen, practicing Yoga in an attempt to resurrect our hips, knees, and flexor tendons. But the best part is that I’ve come to appreciate using humor to deflect age because, after all, the joke is on us. We may have gotten older but the definition of mortality hasn't changed.

Which brings me back to my new story, STRANGLER FIG. I have a character in it, 87 years old, who confronts an armed intruder in her home. Scottie is confined to a wheelchair, and at first I was worried that she would sound helpless but when I started noodling around with her character, she turned out to be feisty. A retired Navy nurse, Scottie is tough as nails. She absolutely resisted every attempt I made to tone her down and, in the end, I capitulated. She wanted to confront the intruder and once I stepped out of the way (as the author) she did. It makes for a wonderful story which I believe rings true. I’m sending it out tomorrow to look for a new home. Wish me luck!

PS. In the interest of disclosure I did mean to write old in the headline, not auld. Did you catch that?


Joyce Tremel said...

Good luck with the story! It sounds like a great one.

I'm one of those in denial. I keep telling myself I'm not getting old. I actually had to subtract my birth year from 2012 to figure out my true age. I'd lost track of how ancient I really am!

C.L. Phillips said...

Viva la Alligator! Congratulations on writing in an unfamiliar setting.

The best thing about growing older? It beats the alternatives. :)

Good luck with the short story!

Annette said...

Joyce, I've started having to do the math, too. Scary.

And I'm also battling the aging thing tooth and nail. With a little denial thrown in for good measure.

The story sounds great, Martha. I can't wait to see it in print.

Jenna said...

I have no idea what you're talking about. None at all.

Congrats on the story and good luck finding it a home. Sounds interesting!

Ramona said...

You should have asked me, Martha! My dad was an official alligator hit man. You need a permit to be able to shoot alligators in certain places. It's like being deputized.

Your story sounds great, and I'm sure Scottie is feisty because she's got some Martha in her.

Now excuse me while I go and have the g word colored out of my hair.

Martha Reed said...

I ran across the aging tooth thing last year when I broke a tooth a month for awhile. Caps and all at $500 a pop. Ouch! But hey, I guess it beats replacing a knee!

Patg said...

Your character reminds me of a local 100-year-old that beat off an attack in her home that lead to all kinds of training programs for police. She was award an honorary membership in the police recently, and showing great humor informed people she was a cougar. Yep, had a younger boyfriend.
My kind of hero.
Aches and pains may go with the age group, but so does experience. Always keep yourself out there.
Good luck with your story.

Gina said...

All the best for the story. I can't help remembering a bumper sticker I saw years ago: Bitter old age will aways overcome youthful innocence. [Or something like that - can't remember the exact words.

Joyce Tremel said...

Gina, I saw one once that said, "Old age and treachery trumps youth and beauty."

Annette said...

Scroll back to my post last Wednesday and rewatch the video. Older and more insurance beats younger and faster.

Jenna said...

Kathy Bates said that. In, I think, "Fried Green Tomatoes."