A NaNoWriMo Excerpt

Today is day 6 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so it is time for an update.

1. Weaned from Facebook successfully (my only two exceptions: checking in with a private NaNo support group that a friend set up and using my phone’s Messenger app to check inbox messages). Feel free to steal the graphic below for your own November profile photo. You can use Paint or another drawing program to add your buddy name, if you wish.

Facebook Hiatus2. Fought off my inner perfectionist when I had a “zero words” day. Monday was “one of those days” that we all have: dentist appointment in the morning, back-to-back department meetings at noon, three classes to teach from 2 p.m. through 8:15 p.m. My tendency would be to think either “Well, so much for NaNo this year” or “I have to write double tomorrow.” Instead, I did my usual word count on Tuesday, shared below, and will make up the difference slowly over the next few days (thank you, Wenda, for the wise advice!).

3. And the best part: Word count as of last night … 6772.

I am so excited about this novel that I can hardly stand it! It’s a new genre for me, YA/adult science fiction, with some historical fiction thrown in for good measure. Working title: Minuteman.

The feeling of having a story come alive before one’s very eyes is like nothing else in the world.

To celebrate, and to offer a sneak peek because I do plan to publish this work eventually, here is yesterday’s scene (of course, details may change later in the editing phase).

My NaNoWriMo Excerpt, Day 5


Something is not right.

The first part of the drive is ordinary enough, although he is taking a different road from the one that Myra used on our tour of the farm. This gravel road looks freshly made, with many wide, deeply grooved tire tracks. Not until we pass the mailbox do I see that not just the road, but other things are different, too. High mounds of stacked hay are where the large round bales used to be. The grid of Christmas pines is gone, replaced by larger, round, leafy trees, the leaves of which shimmer in the Plains wind. I bite my lip, feeling more uneasy by the moment. Soon we take the familiar but now oddly unfamiliar right turn into The Place. It is impossible, but the house is smaller than it was when I left this morning, cut off in the back where the bedroom and living room are — used to be. The wood is freshly painted, a bright white with green trim.

The Jeep comes to a stop in front of the house.

“I guess everyone else is at the parade?” He says this as a question that he already knows the answer to.

I swallow and nod. He helps me slowly to the front door and knocks in three sharp raps. He is a man used to being able to go where he wants and get the answers he needs. I lean on a railing that I don’t remember ever seeing before.

All of my survival instincts are on high alert. I do not know what is happening. All I do know is that I need to be very, very careful.

This door must still lead to the entry way, with the kitchen to the right and the stairway past that. I try to sound as calm and nonchalant as possible.

“I will be fine here. If you want, you can come in,” as if the house is mine to offer invitations into. “You can leave a note for—” Myra? I no longer know what to think, what to expect. “For when they get back.”

He eyes me intently for several seconds. “You know that I can’t leave you here with an injured ankle.” He rubs his short hair again, a tell for when he doesn’t know what to do. “But it might be a good idea for you to rest while I use your phone.”

I reach for the door knob and hold my breath. Please let it be unlocked. It opens, and soon I am hobbling toward the kitchen table, which is surprisingly the same. It is even in the same place, only shinier, the chairs bright apple red rather than faded and ripped. He lowers me to a chair and opens several cabinet doors until he finds some drinking glasses. He fills two of them with tap water, handing one to me. Then he walks to the avocado colored phone that is attached to the wall next to the sink. The phone has a thick cord twisted around itself and long enough to touch the floor.

Footsteps coming down the stairs interrupt his dialing. We both look up, and a boy about my age emerges from the hallway.

My rescuer or captor or whomever he is returns the phone to its cradle. “Hello, Robbie,” he says, obviously relaxing a bit. “So you decided to skip the holiday festivities, too? Alice here says she belongs to you, or at least to your family.”

Robbie! It couldn’t be.

From under brown hair that hangs low on his forehead, the boy looks at me with more curiosity than surprise. I raise my eyebrows and open my eyes wider, hoping to send a silent message that I need his help. Please. Just this once.

He suddenly grins. “Good afternoon, Mr. Higgs.” He turns to me. “Hi, Alice! I was wondering where you went.”

Mr. Higgs — so that’s his name — responds with seriousness. “She was at the site, Robbie. Not only that, but one of the tunnel entrances was open. She said it was that way when she got there, but I don’t know… Something doesn’t feel right. In fact, I really should be getting back. I didn’t tell the others where I was going. I would have thought that your folks would have cautioned her about going over there. I am trying to decide if I should write up a report.”

The curiosity I saw earlier in Robbie’s eyes now threatens to overtake his entire face. I can almost see his mind working, weighing options.

“I am very sorry, Mr. Higgs. It is entirely my fault. I was supposed to fill her in, but I forgot. She arrived only—” He looks at me, and I shrug my shoulders ever so slightly. “She arrived only yesterday, and Mom was busy with the American Legion doings in town today.” He smiles, walks right up to me, puts his hand on my shoulder and gives it a little squeeze. “I will tell her all about it, I promise.”

Mr. Higgs does not look entirely convinced. He glances at his watch and sighs.

“Okay, but do it right away, Robbie. Also, she twisted her ankle and will need to put some ice on it. Tell your mom to take her into Dr. Nichols tomorrow to have it looked at. In the meantime, do you have some first aid tape to wrap it tightly after you ice it?”

Robbie tells him that there is some in their first aid kit. They then talk a little about the best way to tape an injured ankle and the importance of keeping it elevated.

Mr. Higgs turns his attention to me. “Young lady, I trust that I will not find you in places where you do not belong.”

I nod.

He looks at his watch again. “Well, I should really be getting back. I would feel much more comfortable if your parents were here, Robbie.”

“You can count on me, Mr. Higgs.” Robbie flashes him a smile that I am beginning to see has probably saved him from many tricky situations.

“You two have a good Fourth of July. I can let myself out.”

I am too relieved to remember to ask for my cell phone back, not to mention that it is becoming increasingly clear that it won’t be of much use to me where — or when — I am now.

The Jeep rumbles to life outside. Robbie has already put ice cubes in a clean dish cloth. He slides a chair in front of me, gently lifts my foot to rest on the red vinyl seat cushion, and wraps the ice-filled towel around my ankle. I wince.

“Too tight?” he asks.

“Too cold,” I say.

“Good. That’s what it needs to be.”

Pulling another chair next to where my foot is propped, he sits down, both feet flat on the floor, and stares straight at me.

“So, who are you, really?”

I swallow hard. At some point I will need to trust someone. Robbie waits patiently as I gather my thoughts.

“My name really is Alice. I told Mr. Higgs that it is Alice Brooks, but it is Alice Anderson.”

He continues to look at me, knowing there is more.

“I just finished my freshman year in high school and am spending the summer with my Aunt Myra.” I pause and look around me. Everything is in the same place I remember — the stove, the refrigerator, the sink. But only the sink is the same. The cabinets are shiny white, the stove gas instead of electric, the refrigerator rounded at the corners instead of square. “In this house, in fact, but not exactly this house.” I shake my head. It’s now or never. “I think that I traveled backward in time.”

Robbie jumps from his chair, bumping my foot. “Hey!” I cry out instinctively.

“I’m sorry!” he says, quickly but softly patting the bump of ice on the towel. “But I knew it! I knew it!” He seems very pleased with himself. “When I overheard them talking the other day, when I was behind the fence, I knew that it was something like this!”

“Knew what? This is crazy. Maybe I am just dreaming. Or maybe I am knocked out after falling down in the hole the first time. Or the second time.” I frown, trying to remember what actually happened. The pain in my foot is clouding my thinking. “Maybe I’m dead, and this is what dead feels like.” Now I am rambling.

Robbie doesn’t seem to notice. He is nearly jumping up and down with excitement. “You aren’t dead! In fact—” And here he yelps as the idea enters his mind. “In fact, you might not even be born yet! You are from the future!”

I begin to wonder if this boy has all of his wits about him, even as I also know at the same time that it is true.

“What year is this?” I ask, more softly.

“Nineteen sixty-three.” He races out of the room and returns with a copy of Time magazine dated June 21, 1963. On the cover are paintings of Robert Kennedy in the foreground, and Robert and John Kennedy sitting on chairs in the background, facing each other.

“We always get these issues a couple of weeks late,” he say apologetically, “so this is the most recent one we have. See?” He taps it with his fingers five times in rhythm to his words. “Nine. Teen. Six. Tee. Three.”

I stare at the cover. My father collects old issues of magazines, but none of them looks like this, unbent, brightly colored, freshly delivered in the mail.

“What year did you come from?” he asks.

Will he believe me? “Twenty thirteen.”

He seems to need a minute for that to sink in. His eyes open wide.

“Two thousand and thirteen?”

“Uh huh.”

He squeals. I have never seen a boy this happy over anything.

“What is life like in — how did you say it? In twenty thirteen? Do you still have cars? Or are you using space ships? Did we ever get to the moon?” He then does an almost perfect imitation of John Kennedy: “’We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.’ I memorized almost the entire speech that he gave last year. Some day I am going to leave this boring farm and do something important, something adventurous.”

Robbie continues to talk, but all I can think of is the phrase “last year”.

This is real. I am now fifty years from home.

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