welcome SMFS member Margaret Mendel to our blog today…
ME AND MY SHADOW WITH A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WRITING
Jenny had been
sitting at the computer for hours. The story was not flowing. There was an
ending and the introduction started the short story off with a bang. It was the
danged middle that was giving Jenny trouble. That section was dull, rambling
and Jenny was nowhere near figuring out what to do with it.
Shadow, a scruffy rescue
dog, sat patiently on the floor next to Jenny with his nose under the desk. The
writing had been going so badly these days that Jenny no longer felt
comfortable taking the time out to walk poor old Shadow. So Jenny paid a dog
walker to scuttle the dog up and down the city streets making sure he did his
thing at least twice a day while Jenny’s battle raged on with the middle of the
The sun had been
down for hours. The couple that lived in the adjoining apartment had come home from
work. The smells from their dinner usually drifted under Jenny’s door late in
the evening and lingered until she went to bed. Tonight they had fish, not
Jenny’s most favorite odor.
Jenny reached for
her cigarettes. The cellophane pack made a crinkling sound as she lifted it.
Jenny knew it was nearly empty earlier in the evening. Hopefully one cigarette remained.
She was wrong. The pack was empty. Angry with herself, angry at her story,
angry at the smell of fried fish, Jenny quickly stood up. Most of the day had
been spent sitting at the desk staring at the computer screen. Until then she
felt nothing but the cushion of the chair against her bottom. Now standing, her
body ached all over. Her knees were stiff. Her neck had a crook in it. Stretching
backward to loosen her hips, Jenny looked down at Shadow. “And this is all in
the name of writing,” she said.
Grabbing her keys,
slipping on a pair of shoes, Jenny put a leash on Shadow and they walked down
the four flights of stairs. Opening the front door a cool damp breeze gently
brushed against Jenny’s face. She took a deep breath, turned left and headed
toward the all-night deli several blocks away. The streetlights gave an
illusion of security as yellowish neon puddles of light dotted the sidewalk.
Once inside the
deli, still a bit dazed from lack of companionship, the absense of fresh air
and of being locked in the squishy middle of her short story for who knows how
many days, Jenny paid no attention to what was going on in the store. Then
slightly recovering from her self induced isolation, she saw three young men
gathered near the counter. Jenny looked at the clerk. He glanced back and forth
between Jenny and the men. The clerk’s hands trembled. Then Jenny saw that one
of the men was holding a gun. It was nearly covered over by the man’s jacket,
but the guns shiny muzzle poked out just enough to be seen.
Holding tightly to
Shadow’s leash, Jenny had no idea what to do next.
“What you looking
at lady?” one of the men said to Jenny.
The guy with the
gun eased closer to the counter and said, “Good, cause nosey people usually get
into trouble.” He looked at the clerk, “Now where were we? Oh, yes, our
Jenny had never seen her dog behave this way. The dog pulled at his leash,
crouching as he eased toward the three men. The dog bared his teeth. His bark,
usually within the range of a normal dog barking, now sounded mean and dangerous,
as though the dog had somehow been transformed into a wild beast. The dog lunged
and sank his teeth into one of the men, ripping into the pant leg. Shadow
grabbed at the man again, his sharp teeth tore into the guy’s flesh. The man
cried out. The other thief kicked at Shadow. The dog attacked him and with a
fierce growl he clamped his strong jaws onto the flailing hand of the confused
The once confident
thieves dripped large puddles of blood on the tile floor. The man with the gun
took aim at the barking dog. But before he could manage a shot, the clerk
cracked the robber over the head with a baseball bat. The thief fell to the floor
and the clerk wasted no time in dialing 911.
With a baseball
bat in one hand and a cell phone in the other, the clerk said to the robbers, “You
make a move for the door, and I’ll send your heads out into left field.”
thieves cowered while Shadow continued to bark.
It didn’t take
long for a patrol car to arrive and the thieves were taken away.
her cigarettes and a candy bar, but the clerk refused to take any money and
gave her a bag of dog treats.
Jenny and Shadow
wasted no time walking home. Jenny’s heart beat faster than she ever
remembered. Her breathing was deep and labored as she quickly ascended the
stairs to her fourth floor apartment.
Unlocking the door
she wasted no time closing and bolting it behind her. Collapsing onto an easy
chair in her living room, Jenny tried to calm her body. The pulse beat wildly
in her neck. Slowly as the minutes ticked by, Jenny could feel herself relax.
Shadow lay next to her on the floor. A few dribbles of dried blood dotted the
top of the dog’s head. Jenny reached down and petted Shadow gently on the rump.
In all the
excitement Jenny forgot about the squishy middle of her short story and instead
wondered what had prompted Shadow to behave as he did. After about a half hour
or more of calming herself, it came to her. Not why Shadow had acted as he did,
but how that troublesome middle of the story could be fixed.
“I got it,” Jenny
Shadow jerked up
his head. He yawned widely.
Jenny rushed over
to the computer, “I got it, Shadow! I know how to fix the middle.”
The dog slowly got
up, positioned himself at Jenny’s feet with his nose in a favorite spot just
under the desk.
Here are some tips
for when you are ‘stuck’.
something physical to increase your heart rate.
a dog, your dog or a neighbor’s dog.
Watch a really scary movie.
something to distract your self from the every-day mundane loop in the thinking
Then relax and open up to new possibilities.
Mendel lives in New York City and is a past board member of Mystery Writers of
America and Sisters in Crime, NYC. Margaret is an award- winning author who has
an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She has published two
novels, Fish Kicker and Pushing Water and her most recent publication, Patches,
is a collection of short stories. For more than twenty years Margaret worked in
the mental health field, though now she is a full time author. Photography is also
an import part of her life and Margaret not only drags a laptop, but a Nikon
D7000 camera wherever she goes. Lean more about Margaret on her website at: http://www.pushingtime.com/home/