Excerpt from Chlora’s Book of the Month Club: June
Draft 1, copyright June 2014, Ginger Henry Geyer
Chlora’s little diary was full,
even the margins and the inside covers.
She always did her diary entries when in bed,
propped up by her pillow.
Then she hid it under the pillow and slept on it.
She pretended to be an embedded reporter,
but truth was she was more like a princess on a pea
atop multiple mattresses, writing personal ads
under a nom de plume, with a fancy feather pen.
She needed more paper, real paper,
in order to tell the whole story.
The whole story wasn’t
just about her, and now that she was getting older
she realized that someday
she would have enough life
to overfill hundreds of diaries,
and the world really did not need
any more big fat globby confessionals.
Furthermore, she would need a typewriter.
After all, stories could get long
and how many words a minute could a person write,
even if using shorthand?
Chlora imagined herself happily typing
one hundred words a minute
It would take such speed to extract the truth out of
all this, along with an ample eraser to
apologize for mistakes so they wouldn’t be repeated.
Yes, one of those Claus Oldenburg type erasers would
be handy, as all others would get worn down to the nub.
And then, she needed a writing place,
a room of her own, as recommended by Virginia Woolf.
It could be a room with or without a view,
as long as it had enough space for her mind to expand.
Sharing room, taking up room, making room.
She toyed with the idea of writing a letter to Pygmalion:
“All I want is a room somewhere,
far away from the cold night air
with one enormous chair
oh wouldn’t that be loverly”
love, Eliza Dolittle
Chlora would love to paint her room of her own
like Van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles
with a green floor and periwinkle walls
with sunflowers hanging on them.
Van Gogh had a such an acrobatic use of color,
she wondered if he used his bed for a trampoline.
He was good at taking the obvious
and turning it on its ear.
Chlora yearned to have Van Gogh’s room,
or to even be Van Gogh, famous only after he died.
Then she was reminded of his instability
by the sloping floor in his room
and by the leaning pictures on his walls,
the upheaval of the whole place even though
it felt open and waiting for a visitor to arrive.
There were two chairs in conversation
and other things in pairs, showing his hopes
for a friend. But the writing was on the wall,
and having a roommate didn’t work out too well.
One of them probably had to rearrange all the furniture,
as writers and artists tend to do.
One day her dad brought her a surprise from his office.
It was an entire box of typing paper—James Bond paper,
no less, thick and blank with no lines.
Plus there were several brand new pencils in the box.
Daddy told her if she’d use it all,
he’d get her some legal size paper next
and some carbon paper for copies.
Then he winked and said she might even
earn a typewriter someday.
The creamy white paper was textured
and it smelled fresh, and if held up to the light
you could see a watermark on it,
like you got when you were baptized.
Now she could write outside the diary.
But about what?
Experts said to write about what you know,
what’s right under your nose
So Chlora looked under the bed for inspiration.
Nothing but dust bunnies and stubby pencils
were under there and they were not inspirational.
She aspired to rewriting the grand meta-narrative,
that is, the Big Story of how the world came to be,
what it is for, and how we should live in it.
That would surely use up the entire box of paper,
and then she’d get the typewriter.
Inspiration was still hiding, however.
She gathered up other necessary tools of the trade —
an eraser, a bottle of ink, and a calligraphy pen.
She had a funny looking pencil sharpener
shaped like an ear.
Lend me your ear, she thought,
but never, never stick a pencil in your ear.
It was rather subversive to do just that,
stick a pencil in the ear sharpener.
She twisted a new pencil in there
until it smelled just right
and had a severely sharp point.
At least the pencil sharpener was not a nose.
The supplies could reside inside the box,
but Chlora preferred to be outside the box.
So for now, she added her new items to her pencil case,
the plaid one with a zipper that she took to school.
It was overstuffed but it held it all together and
now all her supplies were ready.
Readiness is important.
Starting is half of the battle.
She still needed inspiration,
or else she could proudly proclaim
she had writers block at an early age.
What she needed was anguish, better yet, agony.
She was already up to chewing on pencils
and had flecks of yellow paint on her teeth.
Next, she broke a few pencils.
Real agony required a garden,
preferably one with olives.
Jesus got agonized in the Olive Garden,
and it wasn’t because of the salad, that’s for sure.
He knew he was about to get betrayed
and that is one of the worst things
that can happen to a person.
Chlora sharpened her last pencil
and it reminded her of Peter whacking off
that soldier’s ear in Gethsamene.
Luckily for him,
Jesus reversed that or the soldier
would’ve looked like poor Vincent Van Gogh
with a bandage wrapped around his head.
Did Van Gogh get that bad idea
from the agony in the garden?
Maybe so, since he tried to paint it once.
But he didn’t like his version and tore it to bits
right there in his bedroom in the yellow house.
His pal Gauguin did manage to paint that scene of
Christ in the garden of olives.
That made Van Gogh mad too,
because Gauguin made it a self-portrait
with Christ having his red hair and big nose.
Gauguin also painted the local ladies in the public garden
next door. They were right out the little window
of the bedroom, behind a red striped fence.
It just goes to show that when God
opens a window he shuts a door.
Van Gogh was also very good at letter writing,
which was a visual art as far as he was concerned.
because he and Gauguin illustrated their letters to each other.
Maybe it was to taunt him that Gauguin sketched
his Agony in the Garden painting on a letter.
Or could be it was his idea of an impossible situation,
like that shared room was, where the bed was too short
and the blanket too narrow, like in the book of Isaiah.
Now, Isaiah had some stories.
Chlora wasn’t sure just what hers was.
It was supposed to have an arc.
Did it really need one?
Once she figured out the world’s problems
and tried to write it all down.
She even wrote a treatise denying hell.
That might end up being the next-to-the-greatest
story ever told, but it would remain non-linear
so do-gooders couldn’t straighten it out.
The next thing she would need
would be a wastebasket
for the paper chase that was sure to follow.
She trusted that she would get lots of raw material
straight from the Holy Ghost
but that didn’t mean it should not be edited.
Chlora finally picked up a pencil
and made marks on the paper.
It gave an entirely satisfying sound.
And it looked rough and right.
This pencil and sheet of paper were made for each other.
That was all the inspiration she needed.
She began to write.