Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dead Darlings

For my writer friends the term "Dead Darlings" is probably familiar. We are exhorted to kill our darlings, the things that when we write them seem so clever, so cute so damn funny- but don't actual develop character or move the plot forward. In fact sometimes these "darlings" drag our prose down.

The section below is a piece that was stricken from my latest work- which will hopefully one day make it to bookshelves:) It is totally a revenge fantasy and it didn't belong in the larger story- but what the hell? Maybe you all can enjoy it! The set up here is our heroine, Mandi, is at her 10th high school reunion.

Ah, yes. I remembered why I had never taken to Judy as a good friend. One, she was too freakin' perky and two, she refused to see the inherent evil of Heidi Robieson. She led us through the crowd. As she did I nodded and smiled at the faces I recognized, but Judy was on a mission and nothing was going to dissuade her. She deposited me in front of my old nemesis like a dog retrieving a dead duck. My smile stretched and hardened. Bitch. With. Moxie
“Heidi.” From a distance she was the same as she always had been, only better. More blonde, more curvy, more more. On closer inspection, she looked less, and she probably worked extremely hard to look the way she did.
She was painfully thin. You could cut glass with the bones of her face; her collar bones were like blades. She tried to soften her looks by bloating her lips to comic proportions. I obsessed over my own oversized lips, did they look like that?
She batted her fake eyelashes at me and tossed her very blonde hair extensions over her shoulder. “Mandi!” She tried for the condescending sneer she had been famous for a decade ago, but her puffy lips, spider eyes, and crazy yellow hair conspired to make her look clownish.
I tried to hold myself together. I did. But after caring what this bitch thought of me every day for four years, and carrying the sneer around in my head for a decade; I utterly lost it. I started to giggle.
“Heidi. You look,” I tried to push my lips together to stifle my giggles, but to no avail, “great. What have you,” another attempt to stem the tide, without success, “been up to?”
“I'm on the Kumquat Diet. Keeps me incredibly energetic. My husband, Doctor Robert Keller, invented it. What does your husband do?
“The Kumquat diet?” I looked at her with blank incomprehension.
“Yes, I eat twenty-eight Kumquats every day.”
“That's it?”
“Don't be ridiculous. I eat four Brazil nuts and seven cups of water.”
“Yes, I am being ridiculous.” I mulled for a moment, “Seven, four, twenty-eight?”
“Now you are seeing the sense of it. The numbers four and seven were sacred to the Lakota people. I am carrying on a rich cultural tradition.”
“But kumquats grow in China.”
“I'm one-sixteenth Cherokee on my mother's side, so it is an important part of my heritage.”
“You know the Lakota and the Cherokee are two different tribes, right?”
I could tell she wanted to make a face, but the massive amounts of botox made it so she couldn't quite pull it off. “Your husband, what does he do?” She demanded.
“I'm not married.”
I watched pleasure flood her face. The other famous facial expression appeared, haughty self-superiority. I got control of myself.
I continued, “I graduated from Tufts with a double major in History and Western European Studies. I own my family's jewelry store, you know, Re'alta's in Center City?”
“R`ealta's? But you are a Croach. I would have thought you would have gotten married just to be rid of that awful name.” Wow, pushing thirty and still with the last name jokes.
“My mother's family.” I tried not to be annoyed by such an old, harmless joke; but my hackles rose, nonetheless. She smelled blood in the water.
“Isn't she dead, I mean, didn't she die a long time ago?” I couldn't believe she was going after the dead mother angle. Wait a minute, yes I could.
“That's how I inherited it. My aunt ran it until I graduated; then control of the company came to me.”
“Well, at least some good came out of it.”
My jaw locked shut. I had to talk through clenched teeth. “What have you been doing? Job? Kids?”
“I am the wife of a prominent physician.”
“There was talk of you studying abroad. What happened to your dream of working in politics?”
“I went to the University of Toronto. That's where I met my husband. I've yet to see an attractive woman make it in politics, so I'm waiting till I'm too old to look good to even bother.”
“Charities then? You have to be keeping your hand in somehow.” I was determined to find something redeeming about this person.
“Paying people to beg for money? I don't think so. I stay involved by having a little blog that explores the personal lives of prominent politicians. I'm writing a book about the failure of our political system. Beautiful women sell books. I already have a publisher, all I have to do is take a moment to scribble some thoughts down.”
“Thanks.” I smiled. All tension over what could possibly happen this evening melted away.
“You are welcome, but I must ask what you are thanking me for.”
“For years I envied you; it was a poison in my well. I would say I spent the last fifteen years wishing I was you. Now, thanks to this wonderful encounter, I can spend the next fifteen feeling benign pity for you.”
“Well, I'm glad I could be a role model for you when you so obviously were lacking.”
I pondered the depth of her shallowness and considered turning and leaving without another word. I, up to this point, had managed to stay classy. Screw classy. She didn't deserve classy. 
"You went to college, got an MRS. degree and since then the only thing you've done is your lips, cheekbones, your tits and I'm gonna bet your ass too. That's nice. Truth is, your best days are behind you; you aren't relevant anymore. No one, with the exception of maybe Judy here,” I looked over a Judy, who looked like a deer who expected headlights, got prepared for headlights and ended up face to face with a spaceship, “cares what you think of them anymore. You were queen of a very small kingdom, and your reign was a hideous, but thankfully short, four years. Now, you're just the bimbo with a boob job and fake hair.”
“No, Miss Croach. I'm a physician's wife, soon to be best-selling author slash political commentator. I'm going to be on television. I'm going to shape opinions, and set standards for beauty world-wide.”
Nothing she could have said would have been more frightening. I turned on my heel.
I heard her hiss as I walked away, “Crazy orphan bitch.”
Judy wrapped her arm around Heidi's bony shoulder and consoled her fiend... I mean friend. As I walked away the whole hive swarmed around their queen, and all the angry buzzing indicated I was still not winning any popularity contests.
Out of the huddle, Heidi's voice rang out. “Just so you know, Croach, you'll be able to buy my husband's book real soon. Looks like you could use a little time on the Kumquat Diet."

Sooooo...I guess it's pretty obvious that I didn't get fabulous till well after high school!

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