I had a phone call with Editor O’ My Dreams this week and we talked about what she wants from the beginning of my fictionalised-memoir-of-dying-in-a-car-accident. What she’s asked is going to be quite challenging. She wanted the fiction to show more than the memoir about my life before the accident, about what I lost when I lost my voice. But now that she has that, she misses the immediate sympathy and hook of the original beginning, which took you just to the moment when I was struggling to stay alive. Somehow, I now have to weave both into the beginning.
I tried to work on it yesterday, but my imagination wouldn’t come when I called.
It’s like that.
And I really wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of my first jobs was as a cowgirl. Well, I could ride and we’d all had to leave the ski hill where I was working early because the snow just…stopped. In Montana. In January. It wasn’t like there were tons of jobs waiting for us. I could string fence and I could ride and I knew how to move cows around. I have no idea how I knew how to move cows around. I’d never done it before. But on my trial, I motivated them through a gate as if I’d been born doing it. The rancher ‘s wife was impressed and I was hired.
I also got involved with training horses (and, later, mules, but that’s another story). I was working as a waitress in an all-night diner on the graveyard shift and feeding cattle and riding fence in the early mornings. I slept from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, but then I had some free time. I was also usually still wearing my jeans and boots, having collapsed on top of the quilt. I thought I might as well make some extra money, so I took on the training.
Some of the horses were just-broke. You could get them to come to you, eventually, and you could get the saddle on, usually. What happened when you got into the saddle was not predictable. There was only one thing about them of which I was certain. They loved to run.
They were still young. They could still remember the freedom of the big fields and ranging the mare/foal pastures. They couldn’t wait to shake the fidgets out of their legs. I stopped riding not long after that time, after a bad fall which dislocated both arms and my nerve. But back then, I was still totally fearless with ten or twelve years of riding under my belt. I’d raise up a bit in the stirrups (I’ve always liked them a bit short), lay down on their necks and just fly.
The mountains were high and snowcapped. The air was angel-pure and burned your lungs with cold. It was, I suppose, about as close to heaven as we mortals get.
And that’s just what it’s like when the writing comes. I lose track of my fingers and what they’re doing. I forget that I’m making a world with pixels on a screen. I just fly.
But first, I have to catch the horse. It will come to me, eventually. And I’ll be able to get the saddle on, usually. But sometimes I can’t and sometimes it won’t come when I call.
It’s like that.