Sunday, January 17, 2010

The novel

I pretty much finished writing my non-fiction book and I've been trying to find an agent. Meanwhile I've started another book--this one completely different. It's fiction, but like all fiction, I suppose, much of it is based on real life. My real life. The title of the book (tentatively) is Believe. If I explained the title, I'd give away too much of the story line. Here's a sneak preview--the first couple of paragraphs. What do you think?

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Ralphie. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” That was my mother talking. It was sometime in the spring, 1959, I was 12 years old, and I had just been hit by a bread truck. I was innocently riding my bike home from my hula lesson when the Strosneider’s bread truck came barreling around the corner, hit my bike, and sent me flying about 10 feet through the air, clear over the prickle bush hedge, and onto the lawn. The guy driving the bread truck didn’t even stop. My bike was a mangled pretzel by the side of the road. I was stunned, scraped and bruised, but I managed to get up in one piece. Mama just stood there by the front door, holding two bags of groceries from the A&P, shaking her head, saying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Ralphie.”

I suppose that little story could give you the wrong impression about a couple of things. First of all, my mama was never a mean person—she just believed in self-reliance. I never would have expected her to drop those groceries and come running to see if the bread truck had killed me. She had faith in my powers of resilience; she just knew that I’d bounce back, that I was stronger than any bread truck.

The second wrong impression you might get from the story of my collision with the bread truck is that my name is Ralph. Not so. My name is Marie Antoinette Zimmerman, but my mama rarely called me by my given name. I often wondered whether it was a bad omen to have been named after a woman who was beheaded. Perhaps, because when my mama called me Marie Antoinette I knew it meant trouble. Actually she never called me by any girl’s name and she rarely called me the same name twice. But somehow I always knew she was talking to me when she called me Wilbur, or Thurgood, or Gus, or any of the thousands of boy names she used. There was just something in the tone of her voice that I knew she meant me.

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