After the flood, I ask Rebecca, what was on the creek bottom? Tomorrow, we both leave for Minneapolis, but today, I am back at the Loyalsock. Summer. The cabin’s new wood redolent of wood and sap.
She writes: plates, mirrors, tire rims, rain spouting, footie pajamas , records, a car bumper, buckets, baskets, forks, siding, windows, tin cans, spoons, dolls, an old phone, and a pin-ball game. Not all at once and not all actually underwater, but they had been there and were muddy and amazingly twisted. And then, miraculously, there would be that delicate thing like a lightbulb, that looked completely unscathed.
Isn’t it amazing? The list itself, and the way she pulls the objects back together and leaves us with the most fragile, the least probable?
That summer, Brenda brings an underwater camera and this means she has to get near an element she’d rather gaze at from the porch, barefoot with a beer in her hand. Beside me, of course, land lovers, though I at least have been out in the rowboat. Rebecca, Sarah, and Amelie, Rebecca’s dog, paddle in water so clear, we can see bare legs kicking, Amelie’s soggy limbs.
We’ve written on the porch every morning, deep into the afternoons. My novel is revised. Sarah’s too. Rebecca’s poems like it here. Inside, Brenda rises later than we do, plans an art project. We can always do this: gather, work, and then live with each other again the way we did for eleven days at Bread Loaf when we first met.
On the last day, Rebecca finally convinces Brenda to come for a ride in the boat and we nearly tip over. This is how it goes, right? You say: you’re safe, you’re safe, you’re perfectly safe. But the world has other ideas.
Anyway, with her new camera, Brenda captures the creek bottom, a boneyard, scrapbook. This is how Rebecca spent the winter, shoveling dirt out of people’s bathtubs, tearing out sodden sheetrock, streaks of primer on her face, often deliberately. Sarah spent the winter with her twins. Sledding at the Big Hill. Costume romps and petting zoos and dancing, of course. Brenda? We never get that window opened completely. Some scenes with Nigel in them, his snout on the dashboard of her car, his stumpy legs blurring on their walks through their Pittsburgh neighborhood. The Steelers on Sunday. Gaga, Katie Perry, Alicia — the powerwomen soundtrack to her life without us.
So we have this week, by the end of which I’m searching for the next time.
AWP, someone says. It’s in Boston this year.
My agent doesn’t like the novel.
I, a fraudulent writer who mostly wants to hang out with her friends, registers for AWP. I read the catalog to see what looks good or at least not painful. They also advertise a book award.
I brood about the fact that my agent doesn’t like the novel.
Paralyzed by this most recent rejection and by winter in general, I sit on my bed and lay out all the hard copies of my stories. I have enough the required number of pages. Why not send them to the stupid contest?