Paula’s Post #52 – Life has been pretty tumultuous these past few months. We sold our principal residence in Canada in late May, blithely confident we’d have no problem finding a new home by the time the transaction closed at the end of summer.
We did not.
In mid-September, we made an offer on a little 1980’s house in the little coastal village of Gibsons, B.C.
But that deal doesn’t close until December 1st.
After it closes, before we even move in, we’re going to do renos, (oh joy), during which time we’ll split our time between the ‘postage stamp’ apartment we’ve rented in Vancouver and our winter retreat in the desert city of La Quinta.
Haven’t a clue when the reno on our new home will be done, Gibsons runs on ‘Island Time”.
It doesn’t really matter, since we’re already committed to several trips both within and outside Canada in the next few months: a lovely new grand-daughter to visit in Ottawa in mid-December; a trip of a lifetime to Africa for much of February and March.
Throughout, the year I’ll also be working hard to establish a name for myself in desert real estate, conducting buyer’s tours and scouring the landscape for listings.
In other words, the handwriting is on the wall. My very tumultuous life is, inevitably, destined to remain, tumultuous.
I don’t know why it’s taken so long for the penny to drop, but this week, it suddenly hit me: I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting. Holding my breath. Biding my time.
Waiting for things to get back to normal.
Earth to Paula?
Welcome to the new normal.
So, like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, it is time to once again mix up some metaphors: Time for this Tigger to rise from this perpetual ‘state of chaos’ and start writing again. Period, full stop.
So, to celebrate my return to the writing life, I’ve excerpted below the prologue to a novel in progress. A prologue that needs reworking, a novel I need to get back to. So, to get rolling, I’m putting up the prologue. I need to resubmerge myself into the lives of my characters, fall in love with my setting all over again. I know the prologue needs work. It’s capital ‘L’ long, and even though I deliberately wrote it that way, wanted it to sound as deliberate as Detective Winston Kee, I know I still need to sharpen my pencil.
So, deep breath. If you wish, why not feel free to turn the tables on this 5writer. Critque the critiqueers. For all are writing, we rarely let you see our ‘writing’ so hear’s your chance.
Let me know what you think.
Honolulu, Christmas Day, 1937
Detective Winston Kee squashed down his wilted Panama hat and stepped from the Ford sedan into a cold grey dawn and a torrent of needle-like raindrops.
The droplets splattered against his neck, the chill, unfamiliar bite catching him by surprise. He flinched, the gesture almost imperceptible, yet Kee felt a stab of irritation nevertheless. Annoyed at his weakness. Annoyed, though no one stood near to bear witness.
No one except Patrolman Oliver Tanaka.
And 22-year-old Ollie, Kee knew, had other thoughts on his mind.
Kee took his time, not hurrying, his eyes alert as he scanned the short expanse of ground that separated him from Tanaka. Headlights illuminated the rivulets of debris and filth, the jumbled flotsam that swirled over the rough cobblestones. Kee kept his eyes focused on the ground. In the almost twenty years since he’d attended his first crime scene, Detective Winston Kee had discovered that the journey often proved as important as the destination.The rain, he knew, would make his task harder and today, nothing in particular attracted his attention.
As he drew nearer, he was pleased to see that his instructions had been followed, that Ollie Tanaka stood alone by the body, that no gaggle of excited, booted officers had arrived to trample his crime scene.
The young patrolman had blanketed the victim with his own rain slicker and now stood coatless, his white uniform blouse slicked to his pale torso, the shirt soaked through. Translucent enough for Kee to count the young patrolman’s bony ribs, the wet garment transparent as the gossamer sheers Grace had hung above the kitchen sink.
Ollie Tanaka held an umbrella in one hand, a juggled flashlight in the other. With an apologetic glance at Kee, he shifted his weight, moving like a dancer swaying to the rhythm of a swing beat as he shuffled around in a half circle, lifting the umbrella outwards, sheltering the corpse that lay at his feet.
Kee grunted in satisfaction, pleased with Tanaka’s initiative, with the young patrolman’s sense of respect.
But three days of pounding, December rains had caused Chinatown’s alleys to run like rivers. And no matter how much Ollie Tanaka danced, Kee knew that the answers he sought would not be found here. Not today.
Despite Tanaka’s fidelity, the crime scene was ruined.
He glanced again towards the young patrolman, who’d thought to extend the beam of his heavy, Bakelite flashlight and illuminate the rest of the way for Kee, assisting him to traverse the last few yards of rough cobblestones. And even though he didn’t really know the boy, Kee liked him for that, too. Could tell he was a thoughtful, courteous boy and that he’d been raised right.
Kee pushed these inappropriate thoughts from his mind and fixed a solemn expression on his face as he took the last few steps. He nodded towards Ollie but did not speak. Instead he inhaled. A series of slow, deep breaths: the spicy aroma of cooking oil, cooling in the wok; the tang of ginger and jasmine, garlic and chili; the faint, pungent aroma of opium, seeping from the windows and transoms. Scents that, despite the rain, hung heavy in the moist December air.
Long ago, Kee had learned to filter out all these ordinary scents, had even learned to screen out the more pungent smells: the stench of rotting vegetables, of human waste and vomit, the sourness of dank stone, the earthy, loamy smell of rotting vegetation. To filter through all these scents, until he was left only with that which did not belong.
But this morning Kee’s nose detected nothing unusual and he felt disappointed.
He reversed gears and shifted focus.
Clear the mind. Sharpen the senses.
Dawn was breaking, pale and tremulous, a golden incandescence that illuminated the dark ridges of the Ko’olau range. As Kee watched, the grey clouds parted and he caught a glimpse of the day’s first rainbow, sparkling and brilliant, arching across the jagged, emerald mountains, looming behind Honolulu.
Though even that sight did not lift Kee’s heart as it might have on another day. He turned back to Tanaka and closed his eyes. Kee felt calm now. Serene. Composed. Ready to tackle the puzzle that lay before him. He nodded at Ollie Tanaka. The young man seemed to understand what Kee wanted, for he shifted his flashlight again and let the beam fall on the lump that lay curled under his oilcloth slicker.
Kee stooped down and with a slow and solemn grace lifted the corner of Tanaka’s oilcloth coat. He tugged, his face expressionless as the coat fell away to reveal two legs: one bare and crumpled, twisted under the body at an awkward angle, the other stretched straight out in front, toe pointed, encased in a black nylon stocking.
Kee remained silent, impassive, as his gaze travelled further up the victim’s pale body. The top of the black stocking disappeared under the hem of a ruffled, red organza gown, the bodice slashed and torn, ripped open to reveal a lacy black brassiere. Asymmetrical, flat on one side where the stuffing had fallen out, mounded on the other.
Detective Kee’s eyes roved upward, towards the bloated, purple face and the blank, protruding eyes.
After a second or two he shifted his gaze again, to the blonde wig that had slipped from the victim’s head and now lay half-submerged, half-floating, in a large filthy puddle, like some dead furry animal, swept up and drowned.
Several seconds passed. Finally, Kee stood and turned towards Tanaka, one eyebrow raised.
Ollie Tanaka tucked the butt of the Bakelite back into his utility belt and reached into the pocket of his uniform trousers, his hand re-emerging in a tight, balled up fist. He held out his hand to Kee, arm trembling as he opened his palm to reveal a sodden mass of black nylon.
“I-I-I find ‘de udder one round dat boy’s neck.”
© Paula Third
Welcome to the new normal.