Another good night’s sleep. There must be something to this stay-at-home vacation thing, don’t you think?
I didn’t get as much writing/editing done yesterday as I wanted to, but I also had to run errands and bouncing back into a creative mode after dealing with the General Public is never easy; I find that always to be all too frequently true. But as I waited for Paul to come home last night, I watched the season finale of Versailles (which I am going to miss) and the Netflix documentary Audrie and Daisy, which made me smolder with rage, and made me realize my rape culture novel, sitting collecting dust now for over a year, really needs to get out there for people to read.
Will it make a difference? I doubt it, but change is water wearing away at a rock, and maybe at some point our culture and society will finally recognize that men do not have a right to women’s bodies.
I also read a few more chapters of Falling Angel last night. It’s the Edgar Award nominated novel the film Angel Heart was based on, and while I haven’t seen the film in decades, I remember liking it a lot (it was another one of those films that heightened the connection I felt with New Orleans before I moved here); once I read the book I am going to watch the movie again, see how it holds up. The book is quite good; as I read it I remember the film more and more; the book’s quality lies in that hardboiled noir voice I mentioned the other day having trouble capturing in my own work. I think part of the problem I have with that, frankly, is the straight male machismo aspect of it. One of the reasons I stopped reading crime fiction in the late 1970s (having exhausted Christie, Queen, and Gardner) was because the current stuff was pretty much the straight male gaze and that macho bullshit. (Not everything, of course, and that was, I realize now, an over-generalization; but that was how it seemed to me.) I eventually returned to crime fiction, primarily thanks to Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky; their work led me to a greater appreciation of the genre and enabled me to read and appreciate John D. Macdonald and eventually get back into the genre over-all, and is partly why, in my own work, I tried to develop my own version and style; the gay male gaze. Whether I succeeded or not is for future generations to decide–whether I am remembered at all or not.
Probably not, is the most likely.
And I’m fine with that, really.
Yesterday I did manage to get the kitchen cleaned (not quite organized as I would have liked, but small victories), and today around editing and writing I intend to do the same with the living room and start working on the kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is truly sad how these things give me pleasure, but on the other hand, I like cleaning up my house and feel truly satisfied when it is cleaned and organized and sparkling. (If it remains sunny but chilly, I am going to do the windows in the kitchen as well.)
And that is, really, the genesis of my story “Housecleaning”, in the wonderful anthology Sunshine Noir.
The smell of bleach always reminded him of his mother.
It was, he thought as he filled the blue plastic bucket with hot water from the kitchen tap, probably one of the reasons he rarely used it. His mother had used it for practically everything. Everywhere she’d lived had always smelled slightly like bleach. She was always cleaning. He had so many memories of his mother cleaning something; steam rising from hot water pouring from the sink spigot, the sound of brush bristles as she scrubbed the floor (‘mops only move the dirt around, good in a pinch but not for real cleaning’), folding laundry scented by Downy, washing the dishes by hand before running them through the dishwasher (‘it doesn’t wash the dishes clean enough, it’s only good for sterilization’), running the vacuum cleaner over carpets and underneath the cushions on the couch. In her world, dirt and germs were everywhere and constant vigilance was the only solution. She judged other people for how slovenly they looked or how messy their yards were or how filthy their houses were. He remembered one time—when they were living in the apartment in Wichita—watching her struggle at a neighbor’s to not say anything as they sat in a living room that hadn’t been cleaned or straightened in a while, the way her fingers absently wiped away dust on the side table as she smiled and made conversation, the nerve in her cheek jumping, the veins and chords in her neck trying to burst through her olive skin, her voice strained but still polite.
When the tea was finished and the cookies just crumbs on a dirty plate with what looked like egg yolk dried onto its side, she couldn’t get the two of them out of there fast enough. Once back in the sterile safety of their own apartment, she’d taken a long, hot shower—and made him do the same. They’d never gone back there, the neighbor woman’s future friendliness rebuffed politely yet firmly, until they’d finally moved away again.
“People who keep slovenly homes are lazy and cannot be trusted,” she’d told him after refusing the woman’s invitation a second time, “a sloppy house means a sloppy soul.”
Crazy as she seemed to him at times, he had to admit she’d been right about that. In school after school, kids who didn’t keep their desks or lockers neat had never proven trustworthy or likable. It had been hard to keep his revulsion hidden behind the polite mask as he walked to his next class and someone inevitably opened a locker to a cascade of their belongings. He’d just walked faster to get away from the laughter of other kids and the comic fumbling of the sloppy student as he tried to gather the crumpled papers and broken pencils and textbooks scattered on the shiny linoleum floor.
As I said, I like to clean, and I often joke that my own mother makes Joan Crawford look like a slob. One morning, when I was filling up my blue bucket with water and bleach, the smell of bleach reminded me of my mother and voila! A story was born. I actually stopped cleaning to sit down and write the entire first draft.
Sigh. I love when that happens.
And now back to the spice mines.