It happened again. A call from three thousand miles away seeking assistance. It started something like this; “Hey Poppa! It’s Hunter. Do you know how to get a locked door open?”
I heard the snort of pure exasperation. “C’mon, Pop! We don’t have a key.”
Pop knows to ask the important questions first. “Where’s you mom?” G-son: “She’s at work.” Pop: “Guess you’re locked out until she gets home then.” G-son: “No, Pop! We have to get in!”
An uh-oh pause. Pop’s “Why?” was a bit suspicious. G-son: “Because Noah’s locked himself in Mom’s bedroom.”
Did you just experienced the same metal-on-metal screech of thought processes locking up that we did? When it happened to us it didn’t quite drown out the all too audible fight for possession of the phone. The other g-son won. Not like they needed to take turns or anything. They were loud enough to negate any need for a conference call.
“Noah’s locked inside. (*Noah’s four.) You two are locked outside,” Poppa reiterated to g-son number two. At an affirmative answer he asked “Why can’t Noah come unlock the door and let you in?”
“Noah doesn’t know how to un-lock Mom’s door. He’s asleep, but he’s stuck in the room even if he does wake up.” Pop had just suggested they try all the windows to see if one was open when g-son number two said, “Uhhhh, Pop? Gotta go! Call you back in a minute.”
They didn’t call back. But neither did we get a hysterical call from their mother, so we knew they were alright. I did manage to get hold of g-son number two the day after.
“How’d you get inside?” I started our conversation. Indistinct mumbling and a quick change of subject attempt came from the other end of the line. That just made me dig my heels in. I asked again. Louder, balancing on the back two legs of my chair to wait him out.
An irritated burst of breath sounded in the phone with his admission. “Fire department,” came out like one word, low and begrudging. The bang of my chair dropping back the floor almost drowned out, “And the police.”
“Sheesh, Maw! Do you have to screech like that? I’m gonna be deaf in my old age now!”
“Tell me.” The boy recognizes a command when he hears one.
“We got locked out of the house while Noah was locked in Mom’s room. Asleep. When he woke up we were going to tell him to unlock the window because he knows how to do that, crawl in and unlock the door. ” He hesitated. I was confused. It didn’t make a bit of sense, and then he got mad all over again. “I went out on the porch to see if Mom’s window was unlocked and Hunter followed me out. I told Hunter not to close the door! But noooo. What does Hunter do? Makes his eyes real big, puffs up and slams it just because I said not to! (*Older brother, younger brother issues. It’s a male dominance thing.) Told him it was locked and he said No it isn’t! Yeah, it is. Tried to prove me wrong. Twisted the handle while he stepped to go inside. Bounced into the locked,” he stressed the word, “door with enough force I thought he broke his nose. Knotted his head up pretty good.” Was that admiration?
“Is he okay?” Hey, I worry. Tyler pooh-poohed things. “He was flopping around on the porch but could still hear me.”
My fingers probe my temples in a massage. “But how did the Fire Department and police get involved?”
“I was walking around trying all the windows to find a way in. I kept thinking it was getting kind of dark inside. Then when I got to the back porch, I got a whiff of smoke and the smell of food cooking. Told Hunter there must be an old hobo in the woods cooking his dinner and burning it. That’s when Hunter got this really weird look on his face.”
“I had a pizza in the oven,” Hunter remembered. Forty-five minutes too late.
“It was getting dark inside because the house was filling up with smoke! We called the Fire Department, but while we waited for them Hunter watched the kitchen while I stood by the bedroom window. I kept knocking and yelling, trying to get Noah to wake up and unlock the window. But he only stuck his head under the pillow and rolled up tighter in the blanket. Hunter was going to yell if he saw flames and I was going to break the window to get Noah out. I’d already thought it through, Maw,” he assured me, so I must have been sputtering pretty badly. “With the door closed there was very little smoke in Mom’s room, so I knew I didn’t have to worry about a flash fire coming up the hall getting in there.”
I’m hyperventilating by now. He just keeps talking. “The firemen tried to kick in the back door but it wouldn’t give. So the police kept at that one while the firemen ran to kick in the front door. Took a fireman and another cop about seven good kicks together to get it open. The cop at the back door kicked his in about the same time. The fireman already knew which room Noah was in and he ran and grabbed him. I kept hearing this banging noise, and when the fireman ran outside, Noah was beating him all up in the helmet. The fireman set him down and he ran and grabbed me around the leg. I asked him why he was hitting the fireman, and he said “I was scared, Tyler! I never saw anybody dressed like that before!”
Tyler’s a good big brother. He squatted down and told Noah, “If you see somebody dressed like that don’t ever be scared of him. If he’s dressed like that, he’s there to help you.”
“What did Noah say?” I asked. What else could I do? My new headache made viable thought impossible. Probably from breathing so hard. “He said, ‘Okay’,” Tyler replied. Hunter started talking in the background. I heard, “Mom says we can’t cook any more pizzas unless she’s home. Steven (*their soon to be step-dad, poor man. I feed him very well when he visits; he deserves that at the very least.) says that two dollar pizza just cost him six hundred in doors. Not including the entrance locks and deadbolts.”
Okay. It could have been worse. Nothing burned but the pizza, the firemen used huge fans to remove the smoke, and Noah has a new hero. I’m grateful. But do you see why I’m phone shy?
This is a writing blog, even if I digress most weeks. So I’m including a question I had in a recent interview. What is the hardest thing you’ve found about writing? Didn’t even have to think about it.
Finding a good critique partner. If you’ve found a good match, you are blessed! It’s hard to find someone who writes in your genre, yet their style is different enough from yours to maintain the integrity of each other’s stories. I’ve tried several. And all too often it wasn’t a two-way street. You critique their work in detail, pages and pages, looking for plot holes, grammar, tense, timeline and POV problems; dropping things to be a sounding board when they get stuck. But all too often an inequity develops.That same dedication isn’t applied to your work. I know what I’m talking about there. One partner had to have 240 pages critiqued for a contest. I put my writing on hold to make sure she met the deadline. I later asked her to read five double-spaced pages to see if I’d achieved the imagery I wanted. Just read them. Her response let me know she hadn’t even bothered. She yammered a few words about Werewolves, my usual subject matter, and how I write them so well. How she loved this particular description. The story was about angels. THAT partnership was dissolved, gracefully, but dissolved. A word of warning: Handle things carefully. You never want to hurt feelings or make enemies.
While it’s best not to use friends as crit partners, crit partners can become some of the fastest friends you’ll ever make. A good example of why a good critique partner is so important was posted by Sarah Ballance yesterday, a Guest Fox of Jeff Salter’s at http://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com. I laughed, I nodded, said a couple Amens and added her to my To Be Read list on the power of that post alone.
So here’s to critique partners! Especially those good ones! Good writing!