A long time ago in a galaxy far away (Well, it was in this galaxy, but the Ozark Hills be be a world of their own), I was around six or seven years old when I wrote a story that somehow involved a chest of drawers. With pencil poised above the paper (remember those days?), I asked my mom “Do you spell chester in chester drawers as one word, or is it actually two?”
According to the dialect around me, that was how you pronounced chest of drawers. The use of dialect in fictional conversations used to be fairly common. When Harold Bell Wright wrote The Shepherd of the Hills, it became a bestseller despite dialogue that would mystify readers today.
Thanks to modern technology, regional peculiarities in speech are fading (to our loss, I believe). Likewise modern writing tries to avoid dialect when characters speak. Trying to decipher “She tuck tuther road outen town to see the jedge’s arse” can bring the reading process to a halt.
(Note: The translation is “She took the other road out of town to see the judge’s iris.”)
But dialect doesn’t have to be avoided like the plague. If you have a character that’s a good ol’ country boy, it won’t hurt to have him say “That feller is no more than a possum-farmer.” It alludes to his way of speaking without confusing the reader.
(Note: A possum-farmer is someone who lives on a farm, but is more devoted to hunting than agriculture.)
While we’re on the subject of hillbilly dialect, don’t assume our forebears were just butchering English. Folks who have devoted a part of their lives to studying this stuff have discovered what appear to be survivals of early English. Again, these usages are passing into history, but you might be interested to know:
Et, the pronunciation for ate, has also been common among educated Englishmen. Our proclivity for droppin’ the G in gerunds was well known to Elizabethans. And some peculiar past tense forms, such as rid for rode or riz for rose, are found in many English writings from the eighteenth century and earlier.
Although that prolific writer Anonymous penned the following poem, one has to wonder if his hillbilly roots are showing:
A new monk entered a monastery where manuscripts were copied. He watched the scribes at work and noticed they were transcribing from editions that were copies themselves. So he went to the Father Abbot’s office and expressed his concern that mistakes could become established in all the manuscripts they produced.
“I suppose that is possible,” Father Abbot replied. “We keep the originals in the basement. I’ll take a copy down there and compare them.”
He was gone for hours. After night fell, some of the monks began to worry about him. They went down the stairs and discovered him slumped over the table, with hands on top of his head.
“Father Abbot!” they cried as they rushed over to him. “Are you okay?”
He slowly sat up and stared at them. “The word,” he said, “is Celebrate!”
There are some misspellings that even modern technology won’t be able to catch. All it takes is one or two added, dropped, switched or substituted letters, and not only do you have a whole new word, it can entirely change the meaning of your message.
While the above passage is just an opening joke, the following examples are actual incidents involving family and friends. Their names are withheld to protect their innocence:
During production of a fishing episode about striped bass (nickname: stripers), the editor informed a manager in an email that “the video you requested on the strippers will be available soon.”
(Let’s see him explain that to his supervisor.)
A coworker once informed another employee that he needed to “deliver the plague to the winner.”
(Geez, I hate to think what they did to the loser.)
While reviewing notices that were going to be posted in the church bulletin, a secretary caught the announcement that “the choir will be sinning Friday night.”
(At least they’re honest about it.)
And then there’s the poor guy who sent out the memo on parking lots, pointing out there was “the need to improve pubic access.”
(I’m not touching that one….)
So the lesson here is don’t trust technology. When it comes to reviewing what you’ve written, you’re probably your own best fiend!
Two old women were visiting. “Do you believe in the Hereafter?” one asked.
“You bet I do,” the other replied. “Usually when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I think Now what did I come down here after?”
My memory isn’t what it used to be, and Hubby says it’s because I spend more time thinking about characters and plots than reality. And he’s probably right (shh, don’t tell him I said that). Often when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I run back up because: A) I just figured out the perfect wording for a sentence and must get it down before it slips away, or B) I hope returning to my point of origin will remind me why I left the office in the first place.
At least a bad memory gives me an aerobic workout.
Back when I was in high school and taking every English class they had to offer, the teacher was aware of my writing aspirations. During our study of various authors, we noticed a trend: It seemed they were all alcoholics, adulterers, or wound up committing suicide. She wryly observed, “It’s looking like writers have mental problems!”
(Or she said something to that effect. I don’t remember the exact words….)
So while you don’t have to be a boozehound skipping out on your spouse and contemplating how to end it all, a little mental irregularity probably does help with being a writer. If I’m forgetful because I’m trying to wrap my head around how magnetoplasmadynamic (that’s a real word, folks) thrusters work, so be it.
So now that I’ve posted this blog I’ve almost forgot about, it’s time to go downstairs and … do something….
“Where are you going?” Rejali spoke in a hushed voice as she sat up in bed.
Dim light entered the room as illuminated ripples through a broad sea-view window in one wall. Respiring visitors to the ocean-covered planet of Loluloon enjoyed gazing into the fathomless depths, and the aquatic inhabitants accommodated this desire by providing ambient lighting around the perimeter of the underwater complex.
That allowed her to see Colmac hesitate in the open doorway. As he drew in a long, slow breath, she noted his tan and olive travel clothes and the knapsack over his shoulder, and her stomach clenched.
“You’re supposed to be asleep.” His voice was calm and quiet.
“After four years of marriage, you should know how lightly I sleep.” But she doubted that was what awakened her. Colmac’s very life depended on a lifetime of avoiding detection, and she knew he wouldn’t have made any noise to betray his intended departure.
But why would he leave like this? For the past five days since they’d fled here, he’d never left her side while she recovered from the trajector wound on her upper left chest. The body armor she wore absorbed the worst of its effects, but at the point of impact her flesh had still been ripped and charred.
“I thought the medication would help.” He remained in the doorway, which only stoked her agitation.
“I skipped the medication tonight.” Rejali swung her feet over so she could sit on the side of the bed. “Come in here and close that door.”
This time she watched his long, slow exhalation as Colmac stepped back and the portal barrier slipped into place as silently as its earlier retreat. He slid the knapsack off his shoulder and held it clasped before him. But he didn’t turn toward her, and she continued to gaze at his profile while her insides writhed.
“Now answer my question.”
His attention remained on the satchel. “I’m trying to keep you alive.”
“By doing what?” Her sensation switched to a tightening in her chest. “You’ve already helped me heal through the worst of my injury. How does leaving me alone in the middle of the night benefit me at all?”
“Because then you’d be away from me.” His gaze rose to the shut doorway. “You’d no longer need to act like a shield between me and the Voratene, taking the shots aimed at me. The only reason you’re alive now is because you were wearing your breastplate.”
“That’s why we wear out breastplates.”
“Exactly.” He turned to face her. “I had mine on, too, but you still decided to take the shot. This isn’t how a marriage is supposed to work. Four years ago I thought it sounded like a grand idea, but now that I’m older and wiser … the body count surrounding me is already too high. I don’t want you added to that number.”
The tightness rose to her jaw. “You weren’t about to go do something stupid, were you?”
She recognized that flash of a smirk before he replied, “That depends on what level of stupidity you want to assign to me this time.”
His words settled on her chest with a weight that pressed an ache from her wound. Yes, she had to admit that had been the pattern of their relationship. Although she didn’t entirely dismiss his lifetime of experience, she did place more value on her near-lifetime of formal tactical training. She was the warrior. He was just hunted because of some asinine prophecy that he threatened the continuation of the Voratene Dominion.
But when the blast from the trajector compromised both her physical and mental capabilities, she still managed to notice how effectively Colmac took charge. He got them to Loluloon and nursed her through recovery without her contribution. Except now that she was healed enough to take care of herself, he seemed to decide that was too much responsibility.
Her muscles tensed as Rejali growled, “Your solution was to slip away into the night.”
“It’s my only choice. Your sense of duty will never allow you to agree with this.”
“And it was my choice to be at your side. You’re bound to the same duty. But you’re ready to break it because you got shaken up over my injury?”
“No.” Colmac held his gaze steady with hers. “I just want to keep you alive.”
She stared back at him, his undaunted composure throwing her response off track. They had been warned that marital bliss would not spontaneously emerge, especially if their pattern of interaction was focused on avoiding or evading the Voratene. She barked orders and he obeyed. Their system worked.
Yes, she had a duty to fulfill … but it wasn’t sense of duty that swept over her now.
She had misread his action. Colmac hadn’t tried to leave because of their shortcomings or reality becoming too tough. He wasn’t trying to spare himself of whatever anguish or inconvenience her demise could bring.
Even though walking away from her meant losing companionship and security, even though striking out alone placed his life at greater risk, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make if it kept her alive. The hunted was becoming a warrior.
His action was still wrong, but Rejali also realized that it could only have been grace that awakened her to stop his leaving. Normally she would point out his mistakes in order for him to not repeat them. But this wasn’t time for instruction. This was an opportunity to allow that grace to cover them now.
All tension evaporated as she got to her feet and stepped over to him to place her hands on his shoulders and gaze into his face. Their system might have worked before, but it had become apparent how much it needed improvement.
“Please, let’s sit down together.” The tremulous rays appeared to dance in defiance of the surrounding darkness. “I’d like for us to talk.”
So here is this month’s submission to #BlogBattle, and this time the prompt word is Shield. Ooh … great word! All kinds of possibilities with playing around with some deeper (pun somewhat intended) symbolism. Be sure to check out the other Blog Battler stories!
If you’re wondering, this story is a long-afterwards sequel to Delivered, which you can check into if you haven’t read it already.