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[personal profile] namaste
I hit a writing spurt late Saturday/Sunday and broke through something. It's coming a little easier now, even if I do end up with huge gaps in the narrative I know I'll have to fill in later. I view this less as a "first draft" of the novel and more as a really, really extensive outline, since I know the vast majority of it will be rewritten and reworked, if I still like it at the end of this.

I managed to pass 20,000 words today, so nearly to the halfway point, in terms of the required number of words. I still worry that I'll be able to sustain the plot as I go, but each time I worry that I'm about to run out of steam, I find something else that I really hadn't expected, but really like.

Anyway, here's another excerpt, if anyone's interested.


Basic setup:
Nick, our protaganist, hunkered down at a campground in the Rockies for a couple of days, and found himself enjoying the people and the setting after so many days alone. This is the morning he leaves the place behind, for the early morning push across the last major mountain pass of the Rockies.

Nick woke well before dawn. He checked the time. Still early, but he knew he wouldn't fall asleep again. It had been a cold night, the temperature on the mountain dipping well into the 30s, even though it was nearly July according to the calendar. He fished his clothes out of the bottom of the sleeping bag where he'd stashed them to keep them warm. Shorts, a t-shirt, a pair of lightweight tights to keep his muscles warm through the first miles, then a long sleeve shirt over the t-shirt. Finally his socks.

He'd fallen into a routine over the last days and stuck with it.

He gathered up the sleeping bag, then pushed it, inch by inch, down into a compression bag, its light weight hiding the warmth it held most nights. He rolled up his sleeping bag, and cinched that down into a smaller roll.

He sat on the hard surface of the tent, his head lamp lighting the corners as he rounded up every loose item from the floor. He took his towel, soap and toothbrush with him up the hill to the bathhouse and washed the sleep out of his eyes.

Nick saw the first hints of dawn over the mountain as he returned to the tent. He pulled the stakes out from the ground, still following the routine he'd set up so he didn't forget anything. Beyond the pass, the towns weren't as frequent as they had been. He didn't want to lose anything now and have to go without.

The tent poles clicked against each other when he let the dome of the tent collapse in on itself. He had them packed into their bag with a few flicks of the wrist, then folded the tent over from the left, then from the right so it doubled over on itself. He kneeled on the ground and began to roll up the nylon, moving slowly to give air a chance to escape and the tent would be a smaller bundle.

On to the trailer then. The bag with the tent, poles and stakes on the bottom, then his cooking gear. A waterproof bag with his clothes, his iPod, his notebook and his pages of notes went next. He didn't bother pulling out the map for today's route. He already knew it -- twenty miles to the top of the pass. Be there by 11 a.m., or the park rangers would make you stop. Then the quick gliding ride down, over the great divide, into St. Mary's.

Al told him he could keep the Lewis and Clark book. It would add a couple of pounds to the weight of his trailer, but Nick didn't care.

The ground tarp went on top, held secure by a pair of bungee cords criss crossing over the surface

The sky was a light gray when he finished. Too early to get on the road. Nick didn't trust the tourists with their oversized trailers and RVs, and he'd rather wait until it was light enough to know they'd see him.

Ralph wasn't supposed to start serving breakfast for an hour yet, but Nick saw him near the grill, lit up by the sodium light hanging over the front entrance by the picnic tables.


"Coffee's on," Ralph said, as if he'd been expecting Nick, "and I can make you up a burrito, if you'll help me start the fire."
Nick leaned the bike against one of the tables and loaded his arms up with logs from the pile next to the store. The work helped him warm up, until Ralph told him after the third trip that he had enough.

"You're going to make me look bad in front of the boss if he sees you doing my work," he said.

Nick took one of the ceramic muggs from the tray near the griddle and filled it. He stood next to the first, both to keep warm and watch Ralph work. The fresh logs added heat and light to the coals still banked from last night's fire, and Ralph flicked some water off his fingertips to test the heat. When it sizzled, he tossed some sausage into one of the pans and the morning began to smell of oil and sage.

"Long as you're here, cut some of these up for me." Ralph handed him a tray of baked potatoes left over from last night. Nick sliced them up into chunks.

"Why so early today?" Nick asked.

"Couldn't sleep," Ralph said.

Nick didn't believe him, but didn't ask again. Ralph put some butter into one of the other frying pans on top of the fire and waited as it melted. He took some of the potatoes Nick had already sliced, then added some green peppers and onion. He paused for a moment before he added some jalapenos. "Not afraid of a little heat, are you?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer.

Nick kept slicing, with one eye on Ralph. Ralph seemed to know exactly when the time was right to turn the sausage so it browned with just a crisp edge to it, and flipped the potatoes from one side of the pan to the other until they were coated a light brown.

Another slab of butter into another cast iron skillet, then the eggs. Ralph cracked each one open with one hand, one after another. "Three OK?" he asked, and Nick nodded.

"That's enough," Ralph said, and took the knife out of Nick's hand. "Wouldn't want to tire you out before you even start."

Ralph reached into the cooler and took out a plastic bag filled with oversized flour tortillas. He took one out and placed it on the griddle to warm. He scrambled the eggs, and added a little cheese to the pan. When he was satisfied, he started building the burrito -- potatoes on the bottom, then sausage, eggs and a little more cheese. "Hot or mild?" he asked, and Nick pointed to the jar of hot sauce. Ralph poured salsa over the top, then folded the tortilla in on itself. He turned it over and the bottom was a crispy brown. After a minute, he took it off the heat and flipped it onto a plate.

"If you want any toast, make it your own damn self," Ralph said. "I'm done." He moved all the pans off the heat and poured himself a cup of coffee. He sat at the end of one of the tables, and waited for Nick to join him. "If that don't fill you up, nothing will."

The sun had finally reached the campground by the time Nick finished. He poured himself another half cup of coffee, though, and lingered a few minutes longer.

"I'd like to come back here someday," he said. "Maybe stay a little longer."

"I'll make you cook for me next time," Ralph said. He stubbed out his cigarette on the dirt and headed back to his grill. He stoked the fire so it would be ready when the rest of the campground started moving. Nick had already seen a few lights blink on up the hill, in the collection of RVs and trailers scattered under the trees.

He'd hoped to see Al one more time, but the owner hadn't shown his face yet, and Nick couldn't wait any longer. He rinsed out his mug and put it in the sink.

"Well," he said, "I guess I'd better go." He held out his hand, and Ralph took it.

"Don't get into any trouble out there," he said, then turned back to his fire.

Nick took hold of the bike and led it out to the driveway, riding slowly down to the road. There was a light on in Al's house, and he waved as he passed by, just in case, then headed east.

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namaste

October 2011

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