Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Don't Chew Your Fingernails

The Writing Circle met last Friday and will meet again this Friday. (Oh, boy...Can I keep up?)

In last Friday's meeting, the group made some notes about place and character, took Mindy inside the building, left her wandering outside on the sidewalk, sent her back to the office, had her find a dead body, a ghost, a homeless person who chewed his fingernails and some German books. Rita Simas who helped Mindy find the homeless person won the lottery for the next two pages. I'm pasting her pages below. Her pages are followed by the group's character and place notes. If you'd like to join us this Friday(6/30), call Miss Prothero's Books to let us know you're coming. To help the story continue, write as little or as much as you please. You must, however, have something happen at the burger joint or on the way to the burger joint. Also, when Mindy returns to the house, Wiley is gone.

Rita's Installment

Mindy stared at the door and looked at the key in her hand. Now, how much good would the key do with no doorknob. There was a key hole in the original brass plate, but it looked like the type of key hole that needed a skeleton key, most likely an antique skeleton key; not a Schlage key like the one she presently held in her hand. Not one to give up so easy, Mindy pushed on the door, but it would not give. She pushed with her whole shoulder against the heavy, solid door, but it still did not move. She did not want to kick on the brass kickplate even though it was old and damaged, it was still showed evidence of being an antique and worthy of restoration. She stepped back and gave the portico an all encompassing look to see if there was another possible way to gain access. She then noticed the small, but classically framed front window. She walked over to it and peered down and to the left and looked back to the front door. That’s when she saw the rather decrepit, but solid looking couch wedged in front of the door.

Mindy stood back up, and thought about the situation. It appears that there may indeed be a transient camping out inside. What to do, what to do? Should she turn tail, go back to the office and admit defeat or continue the inspection of the rest of the house and see if there is another way to enter the house. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Mindy walked back across the portico and walked into the front yard and around the side of the building taking more pictures as she went. On the south side of the house she noticed more evidence of deterioration, but she also noticed a number of high quality, well constructed features that only occur in homes of this age. Mindy figured the home was built in the early 1900’s during the early boom period in Denver’s history. She made a mental note to research the home’s original construction date.

Mindy arrived at the back door, and there she saw that the door was slightly ajar. Obviously, the transient had left the building and left a means to re-enter. Mindy pushed open the door and entered the house. She immediately stopped dead in her tracks. She was in the original kitchen; it was dirty and smelly, but it was just beautiful at the same time. The cabinets were vintage Victorian with layers and layers of intricate molding that seemed to jump out at you even with the obvious dirt and decay. Her mouth started to feel very, very dry; and she realized that during this visual inspection her mouth was wide open in stunned disbelief.

Mindy decided to inspect the rest of the house. She walked into hallway and towards the front of the house. She passed a small, but comfortable looking dining alcove with handsome, built-in cabinets. First impressions from the curb would led you to think that the only hope was to tear the house down and re-build, but with each room that Mindy traversed she felt that the house had such wonderful bones that a thorough cleaning and repair of the broken elements would turn this ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. Why the whole house is an remembrance of years past with all of the intricate architecture that was common in the early 1900’s. What she wouldn’t give to have the funds to buy this house and make it her own. She would absolutely love cleaning, sanding, staining, and repairing, and in general applying a year or two (maybe three) of sweat equity to make this home an historic artifact of early American architecture in the old west.

She got to the front living room and observed the missing doorknob on the floor next to the decrepit, but solid looking couch. Mindy thought to herself, ‘Now, if I put that doorknob back on, I bet it will be functional, and I can use the key that the property owner provided. I can also, lock up the door in the back. This house, even with its outward homely demeanor, is a diamond in the rough.”

So, Mindy lifted and moved the couch away from the front door, and then she pulled out her handy-dandy, ten-in-one tool, and proceeded to re-install the doorknob. Just as she was finishing up testing the newly installed doorknob, she heard and felt movement in the back of the house by the kitchen. Oh shit, she thought, the transient must be back. Mindy opened her purse and looked for her mace canister. As she pulled her mace canister out, in walked a dirty, ill-kempt and decidedly mal-nourished middle-aged man and his equally lean dog. The dog reacted first and a small but decided fierce guttural growl began. The transient noticed the canister and quickly quieted his dog, and began walking backwards with his hand on the dog’s collar. Mindy was torn. The best solution was to stay quiet and let the transient leave the building and find new digs; however, he looked safe enough and he appeared to have his dog well in control. She was such softy at heart, and she felt such empathy for their plight. Besides, she had never met an animal that she didn’t like. Well, maybe one or two. But this dog melted her heart; it looked so sweet, and it really looked like it could use a meal. Matter of fact, both of them looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, and a meal would be greatly appreciated.

Mindy made a decision. She was not responsible for the house; she was only responsible for inspecting it and documenting its condition in terms of city housing regulations. She said, “Hello, my name is Mindy, and I am here to inspect this house for Denver Code Enforcement regulation purposes. Who are you?” The transient looked at Mindy and you could see indecision and confusion flash across his face. He stopped his retreat, and finally said, “Name’s Wiley P. Downing”. Mindy walked over and shook his hand, and extended her hand, palm up, to the dog, “And who is your friend?” Wiley smiled and simply said, “His names Wiley, too. It keeps it simple and easy to remember.” Mindy started laughing and gave Wiley II as pat on the head. Mindy realized that she had not eaten lunch yet, so she asked, “I need to grab some lunch, would both of you like a couple of burgers and maybe a vanilla shake?” “For sure, we would” the human Wiley responded. “You guys stay here, and I will be back before you know it with the grub”, Mindy replied. Just as Mindy was leaving, she cast another look at the two Wiley’s and she noticed that Wiley I had nubs for fingernails, and it brought back a flashback to 20 years ago. Why did she just think of Ralph, Alexis’s long ago, old live-in boyfriend? She quickly dismissed the thought and gathered up her purse and began to leave. She told Wiley I, “I put the doorknob back on and I have a key, so I will let myself back in when I have the burgers and shakes. Okay?”

Character and Place Notes
Mindy Hulsted
Is 39-years old
• Has short, mousey brown hair
• Is an underachiever
• Wears glasses and has hazel eyes
• She was born November 2
• She is in a rut.
• Likes to ride her bike furiously around and around Washington Park.
• Her mother is a social-climber and disappointed by most everything – including herself and her children.
• The father is absent and has been absent for many years. He is a “quitter” who bailed out on law school, student loans, and joined “Mother Jones”.
• She has an unnamed brother who is a carpenter
• She is 5’8” and size 8.
• She took some time to finish her degree (6 years). Unlike her father, she is not a quitter.
• She did witness an assault while working in a middle school and decided teaching wasn’t for her. Okay, she has quit a few things.
• She has an unnamed cat.
• She is a code enforcement officer.
Mindy works with
Sam, her boss
• Annie, a receptionist
• Chester Slade, a co-worker with a great work ethic. He has lived on the edge and had some brushes with the law.
The Neighborhood where the action takes place
Much like the current Santa Fe District
• There are architects and gentrifiers in the neighborhood.
• The Vallenzuelas are an influential family in the area.
• There are signs of entrenched poverty – a convenience store, a liquor store, a seedy luncheonette.
• There are at least two church buildings in the area. One has been turned into residential property. The other is St. Elizabeth’s.
The Building
• A two story Victorian without a porch
• The front yard is dusty, weedy, and has a preponderance of wind-driven trash.
• The building was once owned by a Vallenzuela

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