From the Past: Part 2

Sorry this took as long as it did. I was dissatisfied with a few things in this post. I still am. Unfortunately, if I waited until everything was perfect, I’d never post at all.

When I was in college, one of my profs would often quote the line, “Poetry is never finished, only abandoned.” I try to remember this when I have the temptation to fiddle with things (and not just poetry) past the point when fiddling would be useful.

Haley hung her legs over the edge of the roof. I stood a couple feet away from the ledge. Despite being able to fly when I’m wearing the Rocket suit, I still hadn’t gotten over the fact that eight stories is a long way to fall.

We were looking over downtown.

Downtown is a mixture of modern, glassy buildings like you see in any big city and 19th century architecture. The 19th century stuff includes buildings that must have been intended to be beautiful—marble pillars in front and ornate sculptured cherubs holding up the roof—and brick factories that existed only to pump out as much furniture as possible.

Grand Lake was nationally known for furniture production back then.

The building we were on used to be a movie theater back in the era of silent films. Now the bottom story was “The Black Crow Tavern.” The other stories held offices.

According to Daniel and Cassie’s list, Haley and I were on patrol tonight.

The evening so far had all the awkwardness of a first date and none of the excitement. Just like the time I’d gone on patrol with Daniel, we hadn’t found any crimes that I felt comfortable interrupting. I’d been listening to police and fire departments over the suit’s radio, but they seemed to have everything well in hand. After half an hour of running across rooftops Matrix-style, Haley had suggested we find someplace to sit down.

“Not what you expected?” I stepped a little closer to the ledge where she sat. The street still looked a long way down.

“Oh,” she said. “I’m not expecting anything. I’m just along for the ride.”

“Along for the ride?”

“Travis loves the idea of bringing back the Heroes League,” she said. “He was so excited he called me at one in the morning from his dorm to tell me about the meeting. And I thought it sounded fun, so I came.”

“I think we’ve got different definitions of fun,” I said.

“I didn’t mean the meeting. I mean Travis. Having him be excited about something is fun. Don’t tell him I told you,” she said, “but I don’t think he’s been this into anything since before the Air Force Academy rejected him…”

She paused, then said, “What about you? What got you into it?”

“Me?” I asked. “I don’t know. I think Cassie and Daniel nagged me into it.”

We talked for a few minutes after that about classes and then just watched the city. It was around nine at night and we could see solitary cars moving down the streets. Once the tourist season ends, Grand Lake doesn’t have much nightlife.

Just below us someone crossed an intersection diagonally, ignoring the stoplight.

“Hey,” I said, “we could go down and tell off the jaywalker. I think that’s the only illegal action we’re going to see tonight.”

She laughed. “That’s okay,” she said, “It sounds like we’re both just out here for the exercise anyway.”

Just as I was about to ask her if she wanted to go home, I saw a beam of bright red light strike something and then realized that the pole in front of Channel 10’s studios was burning.

“Did someone shoot Willy?” Haley asked.

Willy the Weather Worm is a metal earthworm covered with lights. It glows different colors for different forecasts. The local NBC affiliate, News 10 came up with it in the 1960’s, took it down in the late 70’s and pulled it out of a junkyard in the late 90’s—though it briefly had to compete with the Weather Worm remnant Channel 6 pulled out of a different junkyard for being the real Weather Worm.

I wish I were joking about that.

“Are you up for checking it out?” I said, running through a systems check on my suit. Glowing readouts appeared on the inside of my helmet.

Over the radio, I could hear the police and the fire department being dispatched… “We’ve got a 10-80 downtown…”

A 10-80 is an explosion.

8 thoughts on “From the Past: Part 2”

  1. Having been a teacher and a writer, I’d have to say that remark applies to more than just poetry. A few years ago, Sam Sheppard (playwright) started revising all of his early plays. I think no writer is ever completely satisfied with what he/she is writing, so don’t let that discourage you. You are doing a very good job with this story.

    ~Cindy

  2. I’m not discouraged so much as caught by the realization that I can improve something, but that I may not be able to improve it as much as I want in the time I have available.

    Finding the point at which I find things acceptable can be hard.

  3. Jim,

    Sounds as if it might indeed be an instance of letting the deadline be your final editor, difficult though that might be. The longer you write, the easier that might get. However, for some writers, it never gets easier to stop “fiddling” with a poem, story, or play. (See my original reference to Sam Sheppard.)

    I enjoy your story. Keep writing!

    ~Cindy

  4. The quote you mentioned above, I first heard about movies, I think George “Star Wars” Lucas said “Movies aren’t made, they’re abandoned”.

    I know I’ll never be one of ‘those’ writers (cause I’m not that good at it), but I wonder if I’d be better if I’d just let things go and stop trying to write the *perfect* screenplay….

    By the way, I think your character Nick is having a parallel dilemma. I think he’s struggling with the fact that he’ll never be the perfect superhero, but, does that mean you let innocent people fall victim to the bad guys because you’re still ‘perfecting’ your shtick???

    …Wait a minute….Jim, did you make that parallel on purpose?! Damn, dude, you’re like Rowling good…..

  5. You know, I wish I were good enough to have thought of that…

    For me though, the writing process seems to have two parts: 1) Coming up with it and 2) Analyzing and editing it.

    Trying to do both at the same time will kill your writing because during the second part you constantly ask yourself, “is this any good?” and that’s the last thing you need to be thinking when you initially come up with the idea.

  6. Well I’m glad to know I’m not the only writer with the tendency to fiddle with the writing long after the fiddling can be done. It’s hard to sense that fine line between still needing editing and going overboard. But I’d say your work is good- it’s got me hooked anyway! 🙂

  7. Thanks. The temptation isn’t unique to writers. One of my friends does a lot of drawing and he tends to fiddle with things long after they’re done. In fact I remember hearing about some famous painter who supposedly snuck into a museum with paint and a paintbrush to change something that bothered him.

  8. Wow, these comments are almost a decade old but they definitely describe my current situation. The process of worldbuilding your setting through writing hones your craft to the point where you look back at stuff you’ve only just recently finished and go “argh, I could have done that better!”

    Knowing I’m not the only one to have done this makes me feel better going forward. I also look forward to seeing how your writing changes as I read further along.

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