Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Magic of Writing

Writing is one of those tools that I like to carry in my tool bag.  It's one of those tools that can easily turn the straightforward and accurate into something teeming with drama, intrigue, sabotage, and revenge.  Take for instance, just a few weeks ago when I helped my grandfather take his dog to the animal shelter for adoption.  A page in my journal without writing might sound like this:
I helped my grandfather take his dog, Roscoe, to the animal shelter for adoption. We figured it was for the best since it knocked him down several times and he didn't need a broken hip. Or a broken head.  And the dog was still a puppy, needed regular walking, and attention which were things my grandfather couldn't have provided to the dog's satisfaction.  When we entered the shelter's lobby, there were two girls, a nurse in a chair, and a cat on the counter.  We signed some papers and put the dog up for adoption and left.  One of the girls left and went outside to smoke.  Grandfather and I got into our car and drove off a little saddened.
Now, if I take my writing wrench out of my toolbag and give the paragraph above a three quarter's turn, it would transform into something like: 
My grandfather and I piled out of the car and steeled our hearts.  It was a grim task we faced, made harder by the fellow in the back not knowing we were about to abandon him; leaving him stranded.  A stranger in the strange land, surrounded by strange faces and stranger smells.  The dog loped out of the car, its thick, sable coat shining with the winter solstice sun.  When the light hit the fur at an angle, the sable hairs would turn from opal black to a golden red that darkened down to the root where it remained as black as midnight.  

The dog sniffed the green grass that was growing in clumps were it wasn't trampled by two and four-legged visitors to the shelter.  My grandfather's sun-seasoned face went taut and his dry lips pursed together as if savoring the words he were about to say...or perhaps trying to hold them back, hoping that they would come from his throat, reach the dam of his lips, and turn back, deterred.  "This looks like it might be your new home for a while, dutta" he finally drawled.  Roscoe didn't say anything, but his eyes darted to and fro. He was unsure.  

We three walked into the animal shelter.  A wizened African American nurse sat in a chair at the entrace, enjoying the sun. A brindle-coated cat sprawled across the counter, slurping up the afternoon, its eyes blurry and lazy with the rivers of Lethe.  Two young women were working at the counter, one thoughtfully chewing a pencil and gazing intently at a document hidden by the counter.  The other woman was looking at us with a tan produced by artificial lights and a hair color that was decided upon by what hair dye was on sale that week.  We sauntered over to the counter and began talking to the girl. Yes, we needed to put the dog up for adoption. Yes, it's for the best. Yes, we understand dogs are put down every day. Yes, we know it's a crying shame.

Steel bands gripped my heart, and my eyes flicked over to my grandfather's hands as he attempted to sign the documents that would give the shelter the dog.  His hands turned into claws, refusing to cooperate to sign the document.  However, his will overcame his heart, and he knew it was for the best.  The dog would have a new owner soon. An owner that would be able to withstand a fall as the dog bound onto him.  And the patience to discipline the dog.

We took the dog towards the back, crossing the threshold of a door, while the dog's eyes rolled back and forth while its nose sniffed the different smells of rejection and fear that lay pooled on the floor.  The room was fully upon us. Cages there were, jails were the bars were not just steel but also rejection.  And they were filled with the loudest inhabitants that were happy to see a new arrival.  The dog was placed into one of these cages, and it soon wore the unhappy look that was considered a uniform in that sterile yet hopeful environment.

My grandfather and I walked out, through the lobby and outside.  One of the girls from the counter had gone out into her car.  I paused and mused what she could be doing.  Suddenly A FLASH! of white, and a cancer stick dangled from her lips.  A tchik thcik tchik of the ligther, and a bone fed to her insatiable craving of Lady Nicotine.  I stared at her, sadness and practicality reflected in my eyes, and she blew out a puff of smoke.  She noticed me, and cocked one eyebrow quizzically.  Smoke tendrils blew past, causing me to gag a little, and she remained looking at me, slowly lowering her eyebrow as if to say, Yes it was for the best, Yes dogs are put down everyday, Yes it's a crying shame, but that is the way of life, and your dog is one of the younger ones and will be adopted by a home.  I lifted my head and turned to my grandfather and we both strode to the car and drove off, slightly mollified.
And there you have it.  The a slightly sad story turned into a tearjerker! That's the magic of WRITING! 
Tune in tomorrow when I write about my difficulties in choosing brands of socks at the department store, and use writing to transform it into an introspective look at the banality of life.

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