If you’ve enjoyed my book, or are interested in my writing, this page is for you!
The contents of this page will change regularly. If you have any questions, comments, or curiosities – please email me! If you do write, let me know if it’s okay to post quotes from your email (anonymously) or paraphrase what you’ve written on this web page. If so inclined, please do write whether you want your voice to be heard privately or publicly. I’m of the generation that loves correspondence, so who knows? You may receive a reply! (Wish I had the time to write them by hand and send them by post!)
Most writers have a favorite drink. I have always been such a lightweight with alcohol (People still tell me things like,”You can’t be buzzed! You’ve only had half a beer!”) that if I do imbibe while writing, it is in small quantities only. I never truly liked whiskey until I tried American Honey. Like Fiona Angeli, this spirit is a blend of bold and sweet, and not for someone who isn’t looking for a kick…
December 10, 2017
Here’s the chapter one rough draft for my new book in progress, The Weightlessness of Dreams. It is set in 1998 San Francisco and features four interesting characters caught in two different complex love stories. In chapter one, we meet Grace:
The Weightlessness of Dreams
© Medella Kingston
PART ONE: LOST
Chapter One: Grace
When Detective Swan spied two minuscule drops of blood on the edge of the clawfoot bathtub, she knew Jennifer Van Holtz was dead. She also knew it was her duty to consider only that which she had sufficient evidence to believe, and to suspend her judgment in the absence of evidence. Her partner, Yuri, insisted the missing party was alive, but she felt a familiar fist in her gut.
Grace removed her glasses and rubbed her tired eyes. The rest of this chapter would have to wait until tomorrow. She liked the manuscript, but it was 5:15, and she was more than ready to leave work and head home. The office of Bay Press was only a mile and a half from her apartment, so she walked to and from work every day, except when the San Francisco weather was inclement. She had been an editor there for five years and although she liked her job, she dreamed of starting her own publishing company.
The crisp March air felt so delicious that she inhaled deeply. Instantly reinvigorated, she walked briskly up the crowded sidewalk toward The Mission. The days had been gradually getting longer and she was grateful to have her commute illuminated by the soft twilight. The fog was particularly impressive this evening, taking on the shape of a giant bouffant in the sky. Grace zipped her leather jacket all the way up and scanned the faces of the people she saw, many of which looked like tires in need of inflation. She speculated that some portion of this army of pedestrians must definitely be marching toward an after work cocktail. It was a Monday after all; for most people this was the longest day of the week. She noticed a tall man in an olive green trench coat and recalled his red and white vintage Pan Am flight bag that he usually wore before she saw its strap on his shoulder.
As she passed the gourmet market on the corner, Grace looked through its large window for the portly grocer who always had a stumpy red pencil behind his left ear. He was the only right-handed person she’d ever observed who kept his pencil stored between the back of his ear and the left side of his head. Since this grocer had worked there for three of the five years Grace had taken this route to and from her workplace, she’d had ample opportunity to not only see him remove the pencil with his right hand and write with it, but also to develop theories as to why. She unfolded them in her mind to amuse herself as she strode over the fifteen hundred and seven dirty grey sidewalk squares of her commute. Grace had been a counter ever since she could remember, guarding this habit from her mother after she’d seen her little girl mouth numbers as they walked from their house to a park. Since Grace couldn’t provide her mother with a satisfying answer, and loathed the interrogation, she counted things in secret for the duration of her childhood.
Her current theory about the grocer was that he was born with one ear that stuck out too far to reliably hold a writing implement against his head, and while this wasn’t a tragedy in itself, it was somewhat comical since that wayward ear was not the one that lived on his dominant side.
She slowed her gait as she passed the same homeless man she often saw at this time and recited his speech softly word for word with him as he ranted loudly: These corporations are watching us, you’ll see! Capitalism’s myopic eyes are all seeing. It’s not just about the almighty dollar; it’s about stealing the your individuality. They just start by emptying your wallet. I’m right. It’s true. You’ll see…Some day soon you will walk into a store and your face will be scanned by devices that haven’t even been invented yet, and whoa, hey – we are not far from Silicon Valley where all of Satan’s technology is being incubated. It’s all coming. Not long after the millennium, folks. That’s right. The millennium is upon us and so too will be cyber spying super freaky big brother technology. Shit! Wrecknology! It’s all coming after the year 2000. Forget about cutting coupons, ladies, the scanners will know what coupons to send to you. And there will be advertising everywhere, all the time. On clothing and floors and giant screens. Nothing will escape the epic soul stealing machine of commercialism. No one will have privacy anymore. And that’s a thing you can’t possibly miss until it’s gone because you can’t see it when you have it; it’s an invisible form of protection. Technology will own us. Get ready, good people of San Francisco! And can anyone spare a dollar? I’m not an addict but I won’t say no to a little weed. She suspected that, like her, this man had a velcro memory, because the words and delivery of his speech were always the same. Exactly. She wondered if he was right about some of his predictions. After she was more than half a block beyond him, sixty-seven sidewalk squares, she heard him start his soliloquy all over again.
She reached her apartment on Cumberland Street in just over a half hour. It was nearly dark, so she switched on lights as she shed layers of clothing, putting each one back in its place. Grace only liked silence if she was reading, so she turned her radio to NPR and half paid attention to a story about the city school board’s proposal to mandate that more than half the books high school students are required to read be written by nonwhite authors. She thought that was great, but lamented aloud that non heterosexual authors should be included on reading lists too. She sighed as she took out the leftover lasagna she was looking forward to. Suddenly wondering if Kate Van Holtz was in fact dead, she giggled out loud at herself. An avid reader since she was a little girl, Grace collected characters in her head, storing some of them in her heart for years. She stared at the blank grey face of her computer, which lived on the kitchen table with its neighbor: a printout of her unfinished book. She’d started writing it a year ago, but only took it half-seriously, sometimes not working on it for weeks. Not wanting to abandon the project all together, she kept it where she would have to see it several times a day, even though it made the table look messy to her.
The lasagna would take about five minutes to heat up, she would have just enough time to reread the last few pages she wrote, or to tend to Earl, her bonsai tree. The diminutive tree had been a gift from her favorite aunt, who gave it to her when she went away to college. Aunt Stella was the member of her family who understood her best of all, and Grace could never figure out how her mother could be so different from her own sister. Grace’s mother loved her daughter but was not overly expressive and lacked the warmth young Grace had sought. Her Aunt Stella was one of those women who lit up a whole room just by walking into it. Her brains matched her beauty and she owned a quick wit.
When she had presented her niece with the bonsai tree, she told her, “If you can take care of this tree, I’ll know you’re taking care of yourself. Never live anywhere your bonsai can’t thrive. Make sure you’ve got sun enough for the both of you.” Earl survived her freshman roommate’s ever present cloud of pot smoke, the week the heater stopped working in the bitter cold of a Boston winter, and several encounters with a former housemate’s cat. Grace grabbed the little blue spray bottle and misted the tree lovingly. In the thirteen years she’d had the bonsai, it had grown only an inch and a half in height, but its canopy had almost doubled. She pruned it carefully and fertilized it to make sure its leaves were always a healthy dark green. Earl was diminutive in stature, but made a sizable contribution to Grace’s life; the tree allowed her to be both nurturing and meticulous. She had come to think of it as a friend, a silent guardian who had accompanied her on her journey into adulthood. Aunt Stella passed away three years ago after a valiant battle with breast cancer. This tree could never die, Grace thought as she set the bottle back on the windowsill, turning it so that the sprayer handle was parallel to the window ledge.
After dinner, she had a strong hankering for ice cream, so she went to the corner store to get a pint of her favorite flavor. On the way back she saw her neighbor, Laura, from the top floor of her building, and said hello. “Have you heard?” she asked Grace. “About Albert?”
“No. I haven’t. Did something happen to him?” Albert Hutchins was their neighbor. He was a kindly 73 year-old whom the whole neighborhood sort of looked out for because he had sustained a traumatic brain injury ten years ago when he tumbled down a staircase. Albert was self sufficient, but occasionally needed help with things, and because he was so amiable and upbeat, all of his neighbors were happy to pitch in.
“Well, I can’t say for sure, because no one has seen him since yesterday evening. His friend, that nun, Sister what’s her name-”
“Mary Louise,” Grace interjected.
“Yes, she came by this morning and talked to me, and a few other tenants who were home, and asked us to keep an eye out. She was fairly upset.” Mojo, Laura’s West Highland terrier, sniffed Grace’s pant leg as the women spoke. Grace bent to scratch him behind the ears and he wagged his proud white tail in thanks.
“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation and that he will be back soon,” Grace offered.
“Let’s hope,” Laura said. “He’s such a dear! Well, good night.”
“Bye Laura.” As Grace carried the cold pint home, she wondered where he was. As far as she knew, Sister Mary Louise was his only friend. She had heard him speak of two daughters, one in Detroit and one in Oregon, but they seldom visited.
She nearly finished her pint of chocolate chocolate chip while watching “Ally McBeal,” then got into bed with a science fiction book she was almost done reading. When she could no longer keep her eyes open, she removed her glasses and switched off the light on her night stand. A few hours later, she woke up with a start. She’d had a bizarre nightmare about Albert. In it, he was a knight with a halo tilted above his head wearing a suit of armor that had a few missing pieces. He had to face down an enormous, green scaled, fire breathing dragon with only a chipped circular shield and short sword to defend himself. The colors in this bad dream were unnaturally vivid, and Grace could hear Albert’s labored breathing as he parried bravely.
But he was no match for the evil behemoth, who charged at him, knocked him to the ground, and then stomped on his chest. The creature arched its impossibly long neck, threw its head up to the sky in triumph, and hissed a fiery war cry of conquest. The sickening crunching sounds Albert’s body made beneath his inadequate armor jolted Grace out of her dream world. She reached for the light and then put her glasses on for some reason. She shook her head and then took them off, her face slightly damp with perspiration. She felt as if she herself had been too close to the monster’s flames. Trying to shake off the nightmare, she rubbed her face with both hands. Grace switched off the light. The darkness cooled her down, but with it came more worry about her missing neighbor.
January 23, 2017 Official PeopleFish Publication Date
A deleted scene from draft one of CHAPTER ONE: THE WAITING ROOM
This accidental novel got its start from a random writing exercise I designed for myself while on vacation in late December, 2012. Since I had no intention whatsoever to write a book, I literally wrote myself there without the benefit of experience or a plot. This deleted scene was originally in the middle of a very loooooooong chapter one. My intention was to show the reader just how uniquely main character Petra Orvatch’s mind functions and does not function. I knew it had to be jettisoned (Thank you, friends and editors!) to move the action along and shorten the bloated first chapter I’d created.
“I’m telling you, I saw a fish in that fish tank that had the face of a human,” Pete said as calmly as she could to the pet store employee. He was a mouth-breather, but she thought she saw his lower lip droop a little more with incredulity. “I couldn’t make that up!” She shoved her fists in her jacket pockets, hunched a bit forwards in his direction, read his nametag, and continued. “Look Vince, I know I sound crazy, but I also know what I saw and all I’m asking you to do is check it out.”
“Miss,” he returned slowly, an excess of saliva making his large lower lip shine beneath the florescent lights, “I can assure you, we do not have any unusual, exotic, or illegal fish for sale here at Petworld. Ivan, the tropical fish department manager, is on his lunch break. He’s due back in -” He paused to look at his watch, which was a large, garish Mickey Mouse watch. “–fourteen minutes. When he is back, maybe he can help you. I can’t because –”
“You can’t? But you’re right here next to the tank.” Pete’s posture was taking on the shape of anger and even the tips of her short, dark, spiky hair seemed furious as she spoke. Interestingly, she did not raise her voice. Vince opened his mouth but couldn’t find words, instead he tugged nervously at his blue and yellow Petworld vest and scanned the store as if looking for help with this bizarre customer. Pete took a few steps towards the massive tank and put her face close to the glass. She tracked different fish and followed them silently with both index fingers at the same time. Vince stayed where he was, closed his mouth for the first time in a while, and watched. It occurred to him that perhaps a friend put her up to this, that a joke was being played on him. One of his friends was a bit of a trickster and knew he was nervous about his new job. He started laughing, which didn’t amuse Pete. She glared at him until no more noises came out of his throat.
He backed up. She advanced towards him. “No, miss, I– well… I know I was laughing, but not actually at you.” Two tiny beads of sweat appeared on his forehead as he searched for the words. There was nothing in his employee orientation that could have prepared him for this. ‘The customer is always right’ flashed in his mind, but that was what his mother always said when she dragged him around to the superstores. This credo was not in his recent training, but maybe it could serve him somehow. Where was Ivan? Was this woman on drugs? He fiddled with his watch nervously, looked to the side and found some words. “I laugh when I’m nervous so -”
“I make you nervous?” she cut him off, her words short and overly enunciated. “Well–” She touched her pointed index finger ever so lightly to his chest, barely making contact with his vest. “–that goddamned fish with a face should make you nervous, Vince, not me. Don’t you know fish with human faces are bad omens? In Japan, they are known to cause tsunamis! That fish is a disaster just waiting to happen. Now are you going to take a look or what?”
“Miss, there’s no need to get upset.” He looked at Mickey Mouse. “Ivan will be back in ten minutes or so. He’s our tropical fish person and–”
“Fish person!” she hissed. “That’s exactly the problem. There is a fish in that tank that looks like a person and it’s only a matter of time before it disturbs other people and this should be your fucking concern, not Ivan’s, because you’re here and he’s not!”
The customer is always right, he repeated in his mind. He needed to make a decision. He tugged the bottom of his vest down with both hands as if to bolster himself, straightened his back, and responded with the best he had. “Well, uh – let’s take a look.”
“Finally! Are you going to get in there with a net so we can grab the fucker for a close inspection?”
“Excuse me, what aisle are the poopy bags in?” came from an elderly customer
who appeared around the corner. “I know this is the fishy section but you must know where the poopy bags are in the doggie section, right?”
Poopy, fishy, doggie, Pete’s head was going to explode. This was absurd. If the woman hadn’t reminded her of Grandma Sweets before her stroke, she might have told her to go to the fucky section.
“Aisle eleven, ma’am,” Vince answered with a forced smile.
“Thank you, son.”
“No problem, Ma’am. Thanks for shopping at Petworld.” Right after this last bit came out of his mouth, he regretted it.
“Real dedicated, huh Vince?”
He retrieved a long-handled net from behind the counter, rolled up his sleeves, and prayed this would end soon. Pete’s eyes brightened at the sight of the net and she began scanning all the fish in the tank. She moved systematically, almost robotically from left to right, top to bottom. “How far back does this thing go? Two feet? I can’t tell, it’s kind of distorted.”
“Not sure. I’m just going to open the top and get ready to get that fish.” He pulled a green formica panel open from the wall above the immense aquarium, revealing the bubbly surface of the water. He was looking into it when he heard her.
“There it is!” She sounded like a delighted child who just proved a grown up wrong about something. Vince saw her on her knees in front of the bottom left corner of the tank and knew he couldn’t reach in that far down, so he crouched next to her. Then he saw what she saw. On one of the larger black fish, he couldn’t remember what this type of fish was called, he saw the face of a customer standing about fifteen feet down the aisle reflected in the glass and had his ‘a-ha’ moment. “Do you see it? Get that fish! Right there! That fish is not right!”