It was Thursday night, 01 May 2014, and I had to get up at 4 the next morning and drive 500 miles. I slept surprisingly well until about 2 a.m. when I had the most bizarre, vivid, touching dream. It was about childhood, about wonder, about exploration, about science, and about escaping. And when I woke up, I immediately knew that this story would form the basis for my next novel.
I ventured into into novel writing only once before and it took about 14 years to finish The Stone Apocalypse, my first (and supposedly last) novel. But in a few minutes of intensely wonderful dreaming, that all changed.
The new novel is tentatively titled The Kite Moon, which will all make perfect sense eventually. But until then, here is my first rough draft of the introduction, which sets to mood for the journey. And for those of you interested in the process, this is the first book I’m writing entirely within OneNote.
A lone morning dove sings it’s foreboding melody just outside the open, unscreened window.
Flies buzz around the mouth of a near-empty wine bottle.
Mom is lying back in her chair, passed out drunk again, her mouth agape, her body prostrate, as I lie on the ragged, soiled carpet at her feet, crayon in hand, executing crudely imagined drawings of escapes far, far away from this island of despair.
And dad is nowhere to be seen.
I was probably about two and a half, maybe three years old.
This is my earliest memory of childhood.
Dad showed up one blustery fall day. It wasn’t the first time I saw my dad, but this time it was different. I was about six years old. And three things happened that day.
In our suburban purgatory, there were a lot of single parents. Several of my friends had dads they had never met, or rarely saw. I was seemingly firmly entrenched in that later camp, with a father who would show up occasionally, with a gruff greeting and an uncomfortable disposition, and leave again quickly. But that day, he stayed the night, and I realized that my parents were not divorced after all; rather, my dad had a job that kept him away from home for long periods of time.
The second thing that happened that day was that dad brought me a present.
It’s was a cheap kite consisting of three dowels and a black plastic cover, in the shape of a bat. And it came with a small roll of thin string.
That afternoon, after a long and heated discussion with my mom that featured both of them consuming much wine, my dad stumbled outside and showed my how to fly my new kite. There was a nice breeze, and we set about getting the flying machine airborne in the large weed-covered gap between our house and the neighbors, where one massive, ancient oak tree had watched over the neighborhood majestically until a wicked storm had blown in to town the previous winter and slapped it to the ground, barely missing our house.
He held the kite in his cigarette-free hand and walked backwards with his back against the wind while I let out string. When he was about 15 feet away from me, he stopped.
“On the count of three, you run as fast as you can until the kite is up there,” he said, pointing to the blue sky. “Got it?”
“OK then. One. Two. Three! Run!”
With that, he launched the kite vertically and I started running away from him. The kite ascended quickly, and soon he yelled “Stop!” And then I just stood there, the line taught, the black plastic bat dancing far above my head, twisting and turning in the autumn breeze.
“What happens if the string breaks?” I asked the old man.
“You’re probably fucked,” he replied.
“You mean it will just fly away?”
“No, listen kid, that thing isn’t really flying, by itself, it’s just being held up there by the wind. Jesus. If the string breaks, you’ll probably lose the damn thing in a tree.”
Dad puffed on his cigarette as my eyes and every sense of being remained fixated on the flying plastic. After a few minutes of this joyous new escape from my earthly bounds, the wind shifted about 30 degrees and suddenly my kite was dancing playfully close to the face of the pale moon.
It was so close.
It fascinated me.
I let out some more string, hoping to eventually reach the moon with my kite, but no such luck. Soon there was no string left, just an empty cardboard tube, with the tail end of the bat’s leash tied firmly around the center.
“Dad,” I asked, “how much more string would we need to reach the moon?”
“What?” he replied, flabbergasted at my question. “No, no, no, listen you dumb little shit, you can’t fly a fucking kite to the moon! It’s, like millions of miles away! And there’s no fucking atmosphere! You need atmosphere to have wind, otherwise you can’t fly your fucking kite, it won’t stay fucking airborne! Jesus H. Christ, you sound like your fucking mother. I’m surrounded by idiots. I’ve got to get the fuck out of here. See you around, kid. Shit.”
And then he walked back towards the house.
“Oh, OK,” I said.
But in my heart, I knew he was wrong. His profanity-laden diatribe had done nothing to wipe the smile from my face, nor could it drain the ocean of grand ideas racing through my tiny head.
And that’s the third thing that happened: it was the day that I realized I was a better person than my dad.
Shortly after that revelation, I died for the first time.