Wednesday, May 27, 2009


So I just glanced sideways and these words caught my eye:
the hours dissolve.
Somewhere in the junkmail on my bookshelf.
And therefore, here I am.
It’s been so long!
I feel overwhelmed and shy. I feel like a cold day practising piano: everything stilted and uncertain.


Beside me on the desk is a bowl that once contained: a mandarin, an apple, and some chocolate. But now it’s just peels and a core.
It’s been so long, but I remember this: I’m always going on about the bowl of fruit and chocolate on my desk.


About that bowl of no-longer-fruit-and-chocolate on my desk.
There’s a used teabag in there. I didn’t mention that, did I, but yes. There it is.
It once made a fine cup of peppermint tea, but now it droops and sulks, the string stretched carelessly across the fruit remains.
Oh, apple core, so ravaged and forlorn!
Oh, sad and desperate tumble of mandarin peels! Still such a proud and vibrant orange!
But to what end, that proud and vibrant orange? Now that the mandarin is eaten?


Well, I seem to have warmed up.


The other day I wrote the words ‘the end’on my ghost story.
Sent it to my publishers.
I danced with Charlie to celebrate. After a while, he said, “Shall we stop dancing?”


He wanted to play dentist instead.
In his game of dentist, I have to sit on the couch and hold out my hands. He picks up a wooden spoon and very studiously sets to work running the spoon over each of my fingernails. He makes a low, droning sound as he does. Pausing in the drone between fingernails. Frowns with concentration, then gives me back my hands.
He’s never been to the dentist, Charlie.


Just got an e-mail from Air Canada. Turns out they’re having A World Wide Sale for Travel Into December.
Return flights, I hope. I wouldn’t mind a trip into December, just to see how things turn out. But then I’d want to come back here to May.


About my ghost story.
It’s another Ashbury book. There are two new characters, mysterious strangers named Amelia and Riley. It also features Lydia and Emily (from The Year of Secret Assignments/Finding Cassie Crazy), and Toby (from Bindy Mackenzie).
I’ve been working on this book for almost three years, and I’ll tell you a secret: all I want now is praise. One year of chocolate and praise.


The other day, Charlie and I made a carrot-pie-with-pecan-nut-crust.
“Let’s take a photo,” I said, and I put the pie on the table. “You stand behind it—okay, perfect—smile,” and he stood calmly, and I went click and look what he did.


About that teabag in the bowl of fruit peelings on my desk.
Its plump body, its long and sinuous tail—it puts me in mind of a blue bottle. A Portuguese Man-of-War.


The other night, Charlie pretended that the netted bag—the bag that holds the bath toys and hangs between the duck’s faces that are suctioned to the bathroom tiles—he pretended that this netted bag was a blue bottle.
He chased himself around the bath with it, shouting, “Be careful of the tail! The tail is going to sting you!”
Eventually, he believed himself. His shouts became panicked, and then he was sobbing, “Get me out of here! There’s a blue bottle! Get me out of here!”, reaching up with both arms, scrambling into the big, white towel.


To be honest, his imagination seems a bit fierce sometimes.
Baking muffins in the park, he said to his friend: “Be careful, they’re hot.”
She ignored him, reached for a muffin anyway, at which he grabbed at her hands, shrieked, fell to the ground, shouting in anguish: “THEY’RE HOT! PUT THEM DOWN! THEY’RE GOING TO BURN YOU!!’ .
“Charlie,” I said, “they’re not hot, you know. They’re just leaves and pieces of bark.”


The other day, I burned my finger on a pot of lemongrass tea.
I don’t like lemongrass tea, but I like its name. So I sometimes forget and order it.
Anyway, as I poured the lemongrass tea (sadly), this time pulling my sleeve over my hand so I could hold down the lid without burning my finger—as I did this, I remembered a windy day.


The windy day was a few months back.
We were in a park by the harbour.
A windswept family was hurrying along.
The father carried a little girl; the mother hoisted a stroller; the boy clutched a football underneath his arm.
They tumbled down a flight of steps.
“This way!” the father called. They half-jogged toward me along the path – panting, breathless—“This way!” he called again, more urgently – and they turned a sharp left, ran along the wharf, paused, and leapt aboard a yacht.
A white yacht.
I watched them through the windows of the yacht.
They sat down in four separate seats—their shoulders puffed for a while, then all four calmed and were still.
The yacht was tethered to the wharf.
The boy tossed his football gently up and down.
The father put his elbow on the side of the boat, and rested his chin on his hand.
The mother and the little girl gazed straight ahead.

Charlie and I played on the wharf. Paint and turpentine smells. A chill in the wind. Chinking and blustering. Bright whites and blues.
An hour passed. It was time to go home.
This is a true story: the yacht was still there, still tethered to the wharf.
The family still sat quietly in their seats.


About my ghost story.
The last months of writing felt so urgent and breathless, a panicked kind of tumbling, a rush to meet the deadline.
Then I wrote 'the end', and sent it to my editors.
And now what.
Just sitting quietly in a boat.


I suppose if I am going to carry on with the analogy, what will happen next is that the editors will turn up at the wharf, and start knocking on the side of my boat, gazing in the window, frowning at my family. They’ll be climbing aboard, tapping their nose, then suggesting that I take the football away from the boy and give it to the little girl. Give the boy a pair of rollerblades instead.
They’ll be calling to me: What about some dialogue in here? Some character development! An explanation for why they were running, and why they’re still sitting here an hour later! It makes no sense! What about some insight into how the boy feels (resentful? agitated?) about this day out with his family? Could the mother have a limp—a sprained ankle perhaps? And if so, how did she sprain it?
Also, does this have to be a yacht? What about a rowboat?
Or couldn’t they be sitting on a bus?




Then, a few days later, I’ll say, well. All right. Some of those suggestions are not so bad. Thanks.
But the boat is not a bus. It stays a boat.


There’s some combination of keys that I accidentally press here on my keyboard, and suddenly I find that I’m typing in Chinese.
It makes me feel uneasy, as if I’m spilling lemongrass tea.
Wait, and I’ll go back to English.


Look. Here are some photos of Charlie with his cousin George.
George is the son of my sister, Liane Moriarty. She’s a writer too, and her latest book, What Alice Forgot, is perfect, rich, funny, complex, engaging, smart, breathtaking and heartbreaking. You’ll stay up half the night reading it.
Here’s the first review I can find:

“[Liane Moriarty] writes acute social comedies of the feminine, where the domestic is more political than cosy. In this, Moriaty’s third novel, Alice is a housewife who loses 10 years of her memory in a gym accident. She thinks she is 29, in love and pregnant, when actually she is a divorcing mother of three. Technically this premise is a challenge, which Moriarty makes appear effortless. The humour arises partly from fear of change, whether of age, or new technology. Alice battles three challenging children, a hostile husband, a boyfriend she simply can’t recall. … bravura depiction. Great stuff,"

So, like I said, here are some pictures of Charlie and George.


Just got an e-mail from Amazon. As someone who once bought a book about poisons, I might now want to buy a book called Application of Solution Protein Chemistry to Biotechnology.
I bought the book about poisons for research for Bindy Mackenzie. Not because I wanted to poison anybody.


Well, I have a lot more to say but the hours dissolve so I should stop.


Here’s something funny. I just dissolved some more hours looking through the junkmail on my bookshelf. Trying to find where those words came from - the hours dissolve, the words that caught my eye. And they’re not there.
I must have imagined them.
Sometimes I think I should wear my glasses around the house more often than I do.


Just the other day Charlie held up a toy from across the room and said to me, “What’s this?”
“It’s a pterodactyl,” I said.
Charlie looked at the toy.
“No,” he said. “I think it’s a puppy.”
He was right, too.


About that bowl of mandarin peels, apple core, old tea bag on my desk. It reminds me of a construction site. Or Montreal after the snow has melted.


Just went downstairs to empty the bowl, throw it all away, make another cup of tea, and there was Charlie at the kitchen sink. Standing on a small table, wearing his pyjamas, sleeves pushed up to the elbows, gumboots on his feet, washing up in soapy water. Something warm and delicious about the kitchen, something glowing dimly from inside the oven. I said, “Have you been baking?”
And Charlie’s lovely babysitter said, “Yes, we made scones; they’re almost ready.”
In the bowl on my desk now: a warm and golden scone with raspberry jam, some chocolate, and a mandarin. Beside it, a cup of peppermint tea.
The hours are beautiful.