It’s Tuesday afternoon, again (it’s not: I’m writing this to you from far in the distant past. Like, last Wednesday, or something. Maybe Thursday. Maybe both: hard to say) which means I ramble, and you all look askance at me.
It’s the little rituals that bring stability to life, y’know?
Today, our shared journey looks an awful lot like a blank page.
It’s now been two- no, I tell a lie: three days since I had a moment to devote to my post, so we’re going to see how I can tie that in because it’s late last night (I’m doing a new thing) and I haven’t the proverbial brain the Author gave a soda cracker.
I mentioned Mrs. Dave is Elsewhere (not that one. Not the real one, I mean. Another place doing duty thereas) and the Republic of Dave is Adjusting. The capital is warranted, I think. I’ve become Mom, as well as Dad. I have to do all the housework, and raise Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave with relatively little input from their mother. We knew this going into it, so while it’s hard on everybody, no blame accrues.
But it is hard. And life happens all the while, and often forces changes. For example, Wee Dave has a habit, and it’s a delightful one. One I hope is common to children his age. He considers anyone and everyone a friend. When going to the playground or park, he’ll ask, “are my friends going to be there?” I haven’t yet teased out whether he means someone specific, or just playmates in general.
I suspect a curious admixture of the two, in which he’s willing to play with anyone remotely interested in playing with him. And sometimes not so willing. Wee Dave is four: to be frank, his concept of boundaries is a work in progress. Not unlike some adults of my acquaintance. So he’s got that going for him.
Today, however, I watched while a pair of older boys – likely brothers, from the similitude of features – sent Wee Dave on a snipe hunt through the playground. Two older kids sent a younger, more innocent kid running about to get him to stop bothering them.
I am ambivalent. In part, I can empathize. “Hey, FNG, go get me a stack of fresh India-Delta One-Zero Tangos from Supply.” And I’ve certainly wanted on any number of instances to send the littles off to find a ten-legged spider, or a seven-legged ant. The parent in me (Mr. Mom, I think) seethed as they addressed by bright-eyed boy with the worldly air of “oh, no, that pot of gold is definitely at the end of the rainbow. You just have to get there before it disappears.” Especially when they smirked as he, completely caught up in the game, ran off.
Later on, Wee Dave came back to me for some sustenance and a gentle libation, and said, “I don’t think some of my friends are really my friends.” And my heart broke, just a little. To watch a smidgen of innocence ground off my sweet son makes Hulk-Dave grind his immense molars.
And yet, he’ll have to learn it eventually. And yet, I was able to spend a moment talking about appearances, time, and perspective. “Well, Buddy, sometimes people act like our friends, but then we find out they aren’t. Not really.”
Betrayal, even small betrayal, is a knife that wounds. One of the reasons YA does well (aside from the ever-present virgin audience) is the characters start off innocent. At least a bit. And the author gets to use the world to strip the innocence from those characters. The friend who isn’t. The mentor with the ulterior motive. The wolf in sheep’s clothing.
This is going to prove useful in other genres than YA. I recall one series where the ongoing villain was a friend of the protagonist’s youth, seduced by power and then stripped of honor.
While treachery itself carries the expectation of conflict (“Stab me in the back, will you? Why, I oughtta-!” “But, but, YOU?”) what’s mightily useful to the writer is the shift in perception that Wee Dave experienced. It’s one thing to have a petty bureaucrat act pettily, or someone who looks like a thug play to stereotypes. It’s quite another when there’s no expectation of duplicity. I’m put in mind of an insurance ad from sometime back wherein someone walks up to the space in which their car should have been parked, and reality gets demonstrably weird. Like, the buildings grow eyes, kinda weird. I can’t find it, and it’s too late to dig, but the ad was getting at the surreality of such a shift in fundamental perspective.
Life won’t be right, after one character betrays another. Especially if your hero is on the receiving end. Show that. Suspicion, mistrust should abound. Much questioning of motives, and second-guessing of decisions can lead your characters off into wilderness. Who knows what they could find? Maybe even wisdom, such as it seems Wee Dave dug up a nugget of, I hope. For his sake.