Drunk Armadillos

Bear with me for a minute. I’m going somewhere with this. However, it was a broken night’s sleep and there’s no coffee yet, but the post is late so I’m getting started without it.

I’m currently living in an apartment in a city. I’m a country girl, and this has required a lot of adjusting. So much. Why, Cedar, did you rent in the city? Several variables played into it – one, I was trying to make it easier for my son to get a job and do his unconventional homeschooling, and two, it was at the time two miles from my job. That job didn’t work, but I’m still only nine miles from work. The Kid got a job, quit, and is still schooling online so all of this might not have been necessary… only I didn’t know that at the time I made the decision. When we got down here, the teenager, his cat, and I, we were living in a hotel room. I had booked it for two weeks but the AC didn’t work well, my work shift meant sleeping was an issue, so during my last couple of days before work started, we looked at a dozen apartments, and leased one.

If you have all the time in the world to make a decision, you will still inevitably make mistakes. There are always things you just can’t foresee. When we moved in here, the upstairs and downstairs neighbors were both relatively quiet and we barely knew they were there. Being at the end of a semi-detached building, we at least don’t share walls with anyone. But the new upstairs neighbors are evidently night owls. Dawn owls? Anyway, the music started up about 3 am, at 3:30 I gave up, got up and got breakfast. Tried to read, or write, failed at both due to exhaustion, and when the music mercifully went away at 5:30 am, I feel back asleep. Hence today’s late post.

As a writer, I don’t always think about everything in my life and how it relates to writing. Only when I need to write posts like this. In this case, though? It was the drunk armadillos that did it. It’s not that your character is in a tolerable place where they are feeling stupid for having backed themselves into a potentially bad place by their own rushed decisions. It’s that they need to have a vision of what lies ahead if they can grit their teeth long enough, endure the crisis and drama of the plot you’ve woven for them, and come out on the end. And then you, the writer, need to give them their drunk armadillos.

Bleary-eyed and semi-conscious, I’d been whining a little at my friends in our chat about the loud neighbors. Better that than dressing and going to knock on the neighbors’ door in this day and age. One of my friends decided that to cheer me up, she’d build a little word picture of what I’m working towards. Remind me that there is hope. I’m imagining you, she wrote, with a long commute from your nice little house out in a small town. Grumbling about gardening in a new climate. There’s too much rain, too little rain, the peaches all fell in the yard ripe and now there are drunk armadillos…

I started laughing. She’s absolutely right. One of my ‘house goals’ was a place with a mature pecan tree. Now? I kind of also want a peach, because the idea of drunk armadillos in my garden just amuses the heck out of me. And I’m over my snit at the idea of living in this damn apartment for two more years. I’m looking forward to those backyard shenanigans. They will someday happen in real life, not just castles in the air. But I need those little visions to keep me plugging away at this period where I’m cranky. Not deeply unhappy, just… a little sleep deprived.

We usually put our characters in much worse situations than having to live in a place they don’t like for a season. Still, the concept holds. Not only do we need to give them the hope that if they hold on, things will get better, at the end of the story arc we need to show the reader that yes, there were intoxicated small creatures making everyone lose their cares for a moment in laughter. It’s a gift of perspective. It’s a gift of the promise of joy, even if you can’t give the character joy in the dire moment of the plot. Winding up a story without any resolution but a bleak endless horizon of sameness is… well, you could write that. I probably won’t want to read it. I like happy endings, and by that I don’t mean that everything is perfect for our Hero.

I’m perfectly aware that the armadillos probably dug a hole under the fence to get into that mythical garden, and they carry leprosy and although they look cute, approach with extreme caution. That peach dropped fruit I wanted to make into jams… but you know what? It’s still a warm glow of promise beckoning me onward. Fairy tales end with happy ever after. Good stories end with standing in the french doors leading out onto the patio, leaning on your loved one helpless with laughter. Life goes on. Leave the tale on a high note.

11 comments

  1. The fun thing is that this kind of randomness has to be handled carefully in a story, especially one with a strong plot, because it easily looks like the writer becoming obvious.

    1. Real life is full of just that kind of randomness. How many times has something happened to make you stop, and ask, “WTF, O?”

      Like yesterday. Halfway to work my van’s front end shivered, started pulling to the right, and after another mile or so I started to smell smoking brakes. Fortunately, I was on a regular road going about 40 MPH. I took it easy for the remaining mile to work, parked and checked. The right front wheel was HOT — the whole rim was too hot to touch. Obviously, something wrong with the brake, right?

      It got better. After work, everything seemed OK. Had three stops to make on the way home and at each stop the right front wheel was fine.

      Pulled the wheel off this morning and found nothing wrong. Caliper, pads, rotor, everything just as you’d expect on a cargo van with 120,000 miles on it.

      WTF, O?

      I have an idea. Something kicked up from the road and got itself jammed in between the brake pad and rotor. When I backed out of the parking space after work, it fell out. Will probably never know for sure, but it’s a theory that fits all the observed facts.

      Who would expect such a thing to happen? I sure didn’t.

      So it would seem that a good, realistic story should have a certain amount of random crazy shit that just happens for no reason at all. Like life.

      The characters didn’t cause it, it’s not some karmic payback for their misdeeds, it’s just…shit happens. They have to deal with it.
      ———————————
      G’Kar: “Isn’t the universe a wonderful place? I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

      1. Ah, but how many good stories can you think of that use it?

        You can do something like that in a bildungsroman (though those, on analysis, often turn out to be more tightly plotted than they look at first glance), but that’s because the story is held together by the maturation of the main character, and events that don’t help or at least showcase his maturation aren’t good.

        You can use it as a Chekhov’s Gun, but then it has to mean something.

  2. My brother remembers the drunk crows, flying into trees….my father would put cheap beer out in plastic dishes for the slugs to find, crawl in, and die. Then the crows would eat the slugs, get drunk, and, voila, fly into trees!

  3. We have drunk cows and drunk deer around here. They eat the apples. I would guess that a drunk armadillo is less of a potential threat than a half-ton cow blasted out of her gourd on applejack. ~:D

  4. Not entirely random life stuff, but I heard sandhill cranes an hour or so before dawn. I think the cold front is chasing them south. The weather guessers are calling for snow in the mountains west of us, and a hard freeze up there . . . Get your peaches in, and cover tender plants. Grab the tomatoes and get ready to make green-tomato preserves and pie of any that are left! 🙂

  5. Over fifty years ago…
    “Daddy, Daddy!” she hollered, “Come quick, Aries is dying, laying in the yard, on her back, her tongue hanging out, in the yard, doesn’t move!”

    The daddy, daddy hollerer, my daughter, Aries, considering her name, oddly enough a goat, one of her three at the time.

    Setting the scene early morning of the the day after a party the night before. Minor details; goats are curious and can open about anything, their fenced area gate, a beer tap…

    Yep. Had a keg out in the yard in a tub of ice for the party the night before. Yep. Aries opened it with her nose. why yes, of course, once she woke and sobered up, all lived happily ever after.

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