Do you smell that? It’s my manuscript.
Dave and I went to a movie to see “Same Kind of Different as Me.” We didn’t know what the story was about, but it wasn’t rated R and I needed some R & R to stop thinking about the accident. The strange thing was how much of the story is like my manuscript of “Waiting with Elmer.” My story is also set in a Union Mission, with unusual characters, mostly homeless men. The dishes, the kitchen, the bunked beds, are all very familiar to me as I’ve been creating them, writing them, for about four years. The truth is, I’ve never been in a Union Mission. Yet, there it was on film, looking exactly how I wrote it.
The old theatre we were in was restored a few years ago. But, that was a few years ago. Now it stinks again. It smells like a truck stop bathroom. Like an old gas station off the beaten path, where so many human odors get left behind after the people leave. What is odd is, whenever I worked on my story over these past years, and my head moves into the Union Mission, I smell that smell; it seems to come right into my office. I ask Dave, “Do you smell that? It smells bad in here.” He doesn’t smell anything, and Buddy the olfactory genius, lies still under my desk, not smelling anything. When I put the work away, the smell disappears. In the theatre it’s likely mildew, old urinals, and sticky floors; in my manuscript, it’s the smell of “unwashed men and reheated coffee.” It’s all the same pungent mix of smells.
My story has been “finished” for over a year now. But, I’m always slow to let my work go. I keep polishing and shining up the rough edges, sanding the rough spots, coloring the dark places, hoping to make it better. I want readers to hear the clatter of the metal plates in the kitchen and the crinkling of the rubber mattress covers in the dark night. I want my readers to slide their bare, callused feet into Willy’s torn, smelly Converse with knotted laces. I want all my readers to smell the smells in the Union Mission.
Waiting with Elmer has been edited and critiqued and is currently with beta readers. When it comes back home I’ll give it another once over, then it will go to an editor. After that, I’ll send a query letter and, if requested, the manuscript will go to a publisher, who may or may not decide to publish it. I wonder if it will be helpful if they can hear the chaos and smell the odors? Will they, like me, wonder if they’ve ever been to a Union Mission?
It was a strange feeling to see parts of my own story mingled with another author’s work. The movie was good, and I felt strangely validated by that. But the theatre stinks.