This week’s assignment was a challenge for me. I’m glad, as that’s why I signed up for a class – if I’m not challenged, I’m not improving or learning. The homework was to show the class a character, and to use dialogue to help paint a better picture. I hate dialogue. It’s hard. Making story people sound like real people has always been the weakest area in my writing. Either they sound stiff and artificial, or everyone sounds like me, and neither of those makes for a particularly compelling bit of writing.
I decided to use a bit of my recent tribute to my grandmother, and convert it into a short scene with dialogue. This way, I also took on the challenge of rewriting a piece in a new way. My teacher recommended that exercise last week after the class heard my piece about the elephants. My classmates thought it seemed too calm and detached for its subject matter, and that the story was emotionless. I’m disappointed, because my goal was to express how surreal the moment was, and I liked the end result. What did you think of it? I’d really appreciate more feedback, if anyone wants to speak up, for good or for bad. Eventually, I will rewrite the elephant story with more excitement and expression, just for the practice, but this class is short and I don’t want to present the same story two weeks in a row.
Here’s what I’ll be sharing with my class this week.
A Cuppa Tea with Momo
I settled in at the kitchen table, nudging the cat from her nap on the seat cushion. Momo stood by the stove, whistling teakettle in hand, and turned to me as I tucked my purse under the chair.
“Shall I make us a cuppa?”
I opened my mouth to decline the offer, but thought better of it. To decline a cup of tea from Momo was to invite an offer of half a cup.
“Sure,” I answered her in what I hoped was an enthusiastic voice, “I’d love some tea.”
She turned back to the stove and poured the boiling water over the tea bags in her old Corningware teapot and hummed to herself about what one ought to do with a drunken sailor early in the morning. She lined up two mugs on the counter and very carefully poured the hot tea into them, using a bent finger to guide the teapot’s spout. Her tea was always served in sturdy, sensible coffee mugs – never a dainty China teacup for my Momo.
She placed my full mug of tea on one of the woven placemats as she eased herself into the chair across from me, sighing with a smile as the weight came off her tired feet.
“One lump or two, my dear?” She took the sugar bowl in one hand as she lowered the spoon into it, and then shifted her hand to hold her mug as she brought the spoon full of sugar towards it. She clinked the spoon around to mix it in, then reached towards my cup.
“I got it, Momo,” I said, gently taking the spoon from her hand and adding my own sugar.
The radio by the window was tuned to the CJAD talk station, and she reached over to turn the volume low so we could enjoy our tea. The calendar on the wall nearby was turned to the right month, I noticed. My aunt was doing a good job keeping Momo organized. Some of the large-print dates were circled in bright red marker. Doctor’s appointments? Birthdays? There wasn’t room in the boxes on the calendar for all her notes, which found their way onto Post-its and scratch paper stuck to the wall and countertop, everything in bold black marker so her eyes could make sense of the letters later.
“Have you had lunch yet?” She raised a fluffy white eyebrow in inquiry and placed her hands on the edge of the table to help push herself up.
“Oh, Momo, don’t worry about me. Please, just tea is fine.” I held up my cup with a smile to prove it.
She ignored me, standing with a quiet “oof” and walking towards the fridge to have a look inside. She pulled the door open decisively, rustling the scribbled reminders held onto the surface by round rainbow magnets.
“I’ve got some yogurt,” she said, holding out the cup to show me. I could make out a blueberry on the label, peeking out from between her fingers. When I made no response, she turned back, burying her head in the fridge, and called out “Carrots! I’ve got some carrots and there’s got to be some dip in here somewhere! What do you like, ranch? Or how about a nice toasted tomato sandwich?”
“Momo, really,” I protested. “I’m okay. I’m not hungry. Come drink your tea!”
Unconvinced, she moved to the pantry and moved things around on the shelves until she pulled her hand back out clutching a yellow box.
“May Wests!” She shook the box and the snack cakes rustled inside. I sighed.
“Okay, I’ll take one.”
Triumphant, she tore open the box, pulled out a cake, and plunked it down in front of me with a grin. She waited as I ripped open the cellophane and took my first bite.
“So,” she began, cradling her tea in both hands and leaning her rough elbows on the table, “How’s work these days?”