Lot’s Wife Ch 1: a Nanowrimo Novel

by Hugh

I’ve started to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month, aka nanowrimo (wherenin mad people try to write a 50,000-word novel in a month). I’m asking for help proofreading it, using Bite-Size Edits. Could you, would you cast your grammarian’s eye on a sentence or two?

I’ll post the proofread stuff here once in a while I guess. Note: proofread is no guarantee of any kind of quality!

Lot’s Wife: Chapter 1

“Do you want a lift?”

I’m not sure what inspired me to ask. It wasn’t something I’d ever done before, but it was something my dad used to do on rainy days once in a while, when he saw women walking up the hill, especially if they were carrying grocery bags. It never occurred to me till now that there might have been something flirtatious about it – which would have seemed preposterous to me at the time, and still is, sort of, though now that I’m older I’ve come to realize that old people feel much the same the young do, as impossible as that seems when you’re just working out what it means to be an adult. But no, I don’t think he offered for any other reason than that it’s the gentlemanly, friendly thing to do. He was from a small town, grew up on a farm, and probably it was the kind of thing you did back when he was a young man, if you saw someone walking in the rain. I’m sure his father, a man I never met, would have thought it crazy not to offer a lift to someone walking in the rain. Most of the time the puzzled women just shook their heads and smiled, No thanks. Though I remember some of them getting in. This was before full-bore hysteria about sex and strangers seeped through everything, staining our world with mistrust. And anyway, I was sitting there in the car, an angelic little blonde-headed boy with a father who could have been a grandfather smiling at the wheel. Maybe it only happened a couple of times, but it made enough of an impression on me that it’s stuck in this brain of mine. I never asked my father about it, never got the chance to ask him, and I guess I was thinking about him in that vague way sons of long-dead men do sometimes, just wondering what sort of man he would have wanted me to be, and thinking maybe of the kind of son I would want to have one day, the sort of gentlemanly lessons I’d give to him, the importance of politeness, and the value of considering the people around you, of doing kind things for strangers. And so I pulled over – it was just pouring, really belting down, there were flood warnings in some of the expressways around the city – and said:

“Do you want a lift? It’s pouring.”

I didn’t expect her to say yes; I expected that slightly surprised/confused smile that I just faintly recalled from those years long ago. I also half-expected her to just ignore me, or even start running from this sicko madman offering to help a stranger out of the rain. I should say here, by way of context, that I am a nice-looking man. I don’t look like a rapist or jerk, whatever that looks like. I’m disarming, I think, certainly in this kind of situation with strangers. I have an open sort of face and kind eyes and I’m pretty sensitive to what others around me are feeling. I was thirty-one at the time—if any of these details are important to set the scene. So: Nice-looking, average kind of early-thirties man with kind eyes stops car in the rain to ask harried-looking woman hiking up a hill in what the radio says is one of the great rains of the century. So, I rolled down the passenger window (what’s the word for “rolling down a window” now that they are all electric?) I wondered to myself, recalling my family’s big red & wood-paneled station wagon, our first with electric windows, that likely was the scene of those childhood offers of rides that started this whole escapade), and leaned over to her.

“The radio says it’s going to keep raining like this all day,” I shouted. “And it’s a big hill – can I give you a lift to the top at least?”

We couldn’t really hear each other, what with the rain pounding on the roof of the car, and other vehicles spraying loudly past us, but I communicated the invitation, and she, after some hesitation, and after pointing down the hill and shouting soundless explanations, got in and shut the door.

It was probably when she first got in that I wondered what sort of sexual intentions my father might have had for being so gentlemanly. I don’t mean that he would have had any intention intentions, but I’m willing to bet that any man in the universe who invites a strange attractive woman into his car will consider the possibility that it all might end in sex.

I don’t know why I keep dragging my father into this, he has nothing to do with it, and I shouldn’t sully his name – or any man’s, for that matter – with my own particular convictions. Let me get away from the abstract, and tell you exactly what I thought, or at least do the best I can of recreating those thoughts, in the sequence that they came to my mind: 1. She is attractive. 2. It would be nice to end up having sex with her.

Of course I didn’t actually expect that we would have sex, but I was certain as soon as I rolled down the window, or, rather, as soon as I slowed the car, or rather, as soon as I saw her struggling up the hill without an umbrella, that if we did end up having sex I would be more happy with the outcome than sad. Now that I’ve painted myself as a bit of a perv (if, in my defense, the most common garden-variety perv, an affliction of 48% of the world’s population over the age of 13 – or, what do I know, probably 94%), I should probably get a few other things out of the way: I was single, mostly, though there was a girl I was in the process of falling out of love with, who had moved to London, England for a job selling metal futures or hedging contracts or something. We still talked regularly, still exchanged electronic missives with xo at the bottom. But you know how it goes, when you realize the person on the other end of the phone, on the other side of the world, is having more fun without you than you’re having without her. So that was all finished but for the final phone call, or painful meeting, or God help us, the parting email. And for the past few months I’d effectively been a single man trying to figure out how to have all the fun that I was supposed to have as a single man.

I’m sorry about all this: this whole story is about this drenched woman walking up a hill, and not about me, but I can’t help myself.

So, let’s get back to the specifics: kind-looking man, with sex not wholly absent from his mind, invites harried, soaked woman into his car. She gets in.

“It’s pouring out there,” I said.

It was the third, maybe fourth time I said it, and I should mention another thing about myself: when I first meet someone – especially an attractive woman – it’s very often as if every interesting thought I’ve ever had gets temporarily removed from my brain, and I am stuck making stupid comments, and frantically searching my mind for any question other than, “What do you do?” After waiting for a stream of cars to pass us, I pulled out into the road, as always, struggling to think of something to say. I began with an easy one, though I was already using lots of processing power to come up with my next conversational piece: “So where are you going? I can probably drive you there – if it’s not too far away. “It’s really pouring out.” (Time number five).

“Thank you, I’m …” She trailed off, then asked me: “Where are you headed?”

I told her, and she said that would be perfect, mentioned an intersection nearby where she wanted to be left off.

Now, let me tell you a bit about her.

She was not what you would call a striking beauty, but she had that aura about her that it didn’t matter … dark hair, dark skin, Eurasian? Middle Eastern? North African? Not fair in any case. I could go on and on about what she looked like, I suppose, but I think you understand what I’m trying to get at. She was dressed in the international attire of artisticy types–late twenties, or early thirties–and she sat in my car. She was pretty, and I was happy, happy to be charming and flirtatious with a woman I had rescued gallantly from the rain.

I mentioned that it was pouring, but the rain was really extraordinary, and after about five minutes it got so bad that I had to pull over.

“Wow,” she said.

“I haven’t ever seen anything like this.” It’s been that kind of day.”

“I know what you mean,” I said.

“No,” she said, not unkindly. “I’ll bet you don’t know what I mean.”

“Oh?”

“My husband left me standing on that corner,” she said. “He left me, he’s gone.”

“Do you mean left left?” I asked.

“I’m not really sure, but yep, that was the impression I got,” she said. “Would you like a fig? These are really good figs.” She pulled a bag of fresh figs out of her knapsack, and handed me one.

I accepted and popped the whole thing in my mouth. She bit into the fig and sucked the contents, making smacking sounds.

“God, these are good figs.”

“You don’t sound very upset about your husband.”

“My husband?” Or, ex-husband I guess. Soon-to-be ex-husband. Yeah, well. If you knew him, you’d understand. God these figs are amazing.”

They were, I agreed, tasty figs.