"That's when I knew that this chapter of my life had ended. And now I was free to.."
That's the first writing prompt for the marvelous 2015 April Moon series from wild wonderful writing woman Kat McNally, she of Reverb and August Moon.
It's a little different this year, she explains. It's a story-starter, really. I'm a bit late in beginning this one, but it'll work no matter when I begin or end!
While I can think of several chapter endings, at least a few of them are not appropriate for a public forum such as this (although they're great stories). But let me tell you about the end of my freelance career....
It was January 2010 and we'd been to see one of the traveling Broadway-style shows that Redding regularly featured at their Civic Center -- "The Wedding Singer." Actually, we hadn't subscribed to the series for a few years since Tony was working in Chico at that time, and the plays were always on week nights, which made for a very long day of driving for him. These were gifted to us by friends who couldn't go.
After the performance, we headed, hand-in-hand, back to the truck in the parking lot. It was dark and the lot was dimly lit. As we got to the back of the truck, we parted -- Tony to the driver's side, me to the passenger's. There was not a light near the truck, so I was walking mostly in the dark. I came past the tailgate and headed down the side of the truck.
"AHHHHHHHHH," I yelled as my toe struck the concrete parking curb stop which was partially hidden under the truck bed. There was nothing to grab. I flew sideways and landed on my outstretched right hand, then my hip and body followed.
I crashed onto the blacktop and just lay there for a minute. A couple of people from nearby cars came hurrying up to help; Tony came around the end of the truck, and they tried to help me sit up.
I knew my wrist was broken. It was in an unnatural s-curve, although it didn't hurt. "It's broken," I said, holding it close to my chest. "Maybe not," said Tony, as he helped me stand, along with two other men, and then together they boosted me into the truck since there was no way I could grab onto the strap to pull myself in.
I thanked the others and we headed for the Mercy Hospital ER. I had the presence of mind to take off my rings since my hand hadn't begun to swell yet, and also directed Tony to the hospital.
They took me back immediately and it wasn't long before they shot me up with painkillers and an anti-nausea drug. X-rays showed several pieces of shattered bone. Long story short: It was splinted that night; a week later I had surgery and the wonderful orthopedist put it back together with many screws and a plate.
But even that night I knew I wasn't going to be writing stories anytime soon. It was my right hand. My note-taking hand. And there's no way I'm typing stories with just my left hand.It hurt, and I had no idea how long I'd be in a cast. Certainly I wasn't going to meet deadlines any time soon.
It was over, those freelance gigs. And I wasn't too upset about it, actually. I loved the interviewing, the getting to meet new people and find out their stories and how they got to where they are. But the deadlines? Meh. The stress of trying to tell their story accurately and yet still making it enticing in a mere 500-700 words? Very hard. I would sweat blood over the story and always ended up paring it down, hopefully not losing the essence as I chopped words. I would not miss that part.
The next day I called my editor to tell her I was out, but that I had a replacement in mind, a local friend who had no freelance experience but whose writing was clean, interesting, and sharp. They both agreed -- and my friend Melissa is still writing for them, five years later.
I was ready to be done, apparently, and the Universe took a rather drastic way of letting me know that. I needed to get out of the way to allow Melissa her opportunity.
While I know I could have resumed freelancing once I'd healed, it never felt right again.