This post is a part of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We meet the first Wednesday of every month to share our doubts and fears, or words of encouragement on obstacles conquered. For more information, follow the link to Alex’s site. Hope to see you next month.
The following story took place last month after the group met, and as I experienced it, thought how appropriate it would be for an IWSG post:
It’s early September, around midday, as I drive my sister to an interview in the southern part of the county. Seeing as though I rarely make it down here, the place is closer than I remember and seems to have stepped out from behind the trees. I make a last-minute skid into the gravel lot while a mild oath slips my lips and is lost to the crunch of the rocks below.
“Dang it! There’s no <CRUNCHING> spaces left in the <CRUNCH, CRUNCHING> shade.” Crunch, crunch, crunch.
It’s as if the rocks were censoring what was truly on my mind. Although autumn nears, September in Florida still has days that swelter—even in the northern panhandle, my home.
Today is one of them.
Sis enters the cool, air-conditioned restaurant while I wilt in the car, the voices on the radio melting in the background. I give in to the demands of the heat. “I gotta open these doors and get some air crossing through here.”
My Silver Chevy Cobalt has become a Giant Baked Potato hot enough to fry an egg, bacon, toast, and cook a pot of grits on the dashboard. I realize how hungry I am. How I long for the days of the Cold War, when pots and pans, groceries, and gas masks were common in the trunk. I make a mental note.
While waiting, crisp hints of sea spray and smoky mesquite waft through the car—a welcome pleasure to my nose—and I take full advantage, leaning the seat back and closing my eyes to enjoy the free aromatherapy. The Doppler hum of a passing car mimics the sound of ocean waves, and if I weren’t broiling, I’d probably fall asleep. My mind wanders.
The errant cry of a grey heron rouses me and my eyes flip open like Susie Wake-up Doll, darting around the marsh to spot him.
But my random thoughts fight back and take lead. I do a great deal of musing when left in the sun to die, and—as long as my strength holds up and I have a pen—usually jot down some notes. Since it’s only a few hundred feet from the beach and the place smells like smoked ribs, perhaps I’ll wither with a smile on my face.
Sis’s interview consists of a group meeting first, then personal interviews afterward. In other words, it’s going to take forever. Liters of sweat puddle in the bucket seats. You could skip rocks.
No worries. By now I’m in full zonage, entranced by a yellow paint blemish on the side of the diner. It’s only a smidgen of yellow, except a canary-hair brighter, which clashes with the mustard of the older paint. It becomes my focal point, or should I say “unfocal” point.
The unfocal point is not something I look at but through—where the world around me fades and a new one appears. My eyes grow fuzzy as they stare the blotch down and punch through to the world of the imagination and beyond. I guess this is my mind’s eye. I’m focusing with my mind’s eye. Focus…focus…
They fly away and two more immediately take their place and crawl across my deviated septum to commit their deviant acts. Blatant fornicators! They’re humping in mid-air and on the dash where the grits would be—they’re all over the place. Yes, it’s love bug season in Florida, and the mating flights are in full fury.
Peering down my schnoz at the newlyweds, the remaining swarm disappears with the next wind and my mind’s eye unfocuses on the couple, who seem to have bedded down for the night.
I drift into the world of the love bug.
In many ways, our works-in-progress are similar to the lifespan of the love bug.
Did you know that a love bug’s life, from egg to adult, only spans about six months in the winter and four in the summer? It’s true. However, as long as there is adequate heat and humidity, new generations can propagate all year.
The eggs hatch in about three days, followed by the larva stage—the longest in the fly’s life. It’s around 120 days in the summer and 240 days in the winter. Then the pupa stage, a week or so, and the adult stage runs the course of three to four days (source). In Florida and along the Gulf into the southern states, we have two mating seasons: April/May and August/September—every year, like clockwork.
Once adults, the flies feed on nectar and follow the winds to find each other and mate. They remain coupled for several days, even after mating, then disengage, allowing the female time to deposit her eggs before she dies. The male dies soon after, either from heartache or a college girl’s license plate.
So what I’m saying is: they get drunk off nectar, let their passions run amok, go hog-wild on Labor Day Weekend and screw themselves to death. But in the thrill of it all, they leave behind their legacies.
How’s that like our WIPs? Look at the lifespan in its entirety. The eggs, or our ideas, incubate and hatch early in the game. While the female love bug lays approximately 350 eggs, our minds create thousands of story ideas dying to see light. If not nurtured in the larva stage, they succumb to the forgotten lands and eventually become mulch.
Notice that the larva stage is the longest, as is the development stage of your WIP. This is the time that the grub grows and gains strength. He goes through changes and revisions, toils and triumphs, gradually becoming the bug he is meant to be.
In the pupa stage, we near our time to emerge. We find an agent, editor, publisher, do marketing, etc. The book is finished, but needs an audience. This stage and the next can be the most trying on us, after all, important people are judging our work. We realize we’ll feel exposed and vulnerable. What if nobody likes it? How many rejections can one person take? Was this all a foolish lark? Years upon years down the drain.
And then a publisher accepts and releases our book.
We’re now adults. We molt our pupae skins and sun our wings, take flight on the next available wind, and get drunk on the nectar of life. Our book has been released and set free in the wild. We’re full of passion and vigor, spreading love and vitality. We celebrate, the book does well, and then, like all things in life, eventually runs its course.
BAM! Smack-dab in the middle of a license plate.
In the meantime, other eggs have been laid. Lives—and stories—begin anew.
An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and is writing a novel about his experience in caregiving.
He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.