Evolution of "Patricia Thirdday Gets To the Point"

What I have here are the three major drafts that resulted in the story, "Patricia Thirdday Gets To the Point." It would be better if you read "Patricia Thirdday Gets To the Point" first.

This is the second Patricia Thirdday story I wrote. It's a follow-up to "Patricia Thirdday and the Citris Sorrow."

There were minor drafts in between each of the major drafts. Pruning, word changes, smoothing of flow. Including those would be getting a little ridiculous, however.

I had the idea for the cure, first. It came from a story I wrote probably 15 years ago, back in college. That story didn't hang well as a story, but it had some good bits. The distillation was one of them. So I needed a malady that would require distillation as a cure. This was my first cut at it, "Patricia Thirdday and the Great Distillation."

Patricia Thirdday and the Great Distillation

Patricia Thirdday winces as her new client starts to sit on the loveseat across from her.

“Wait,” she barks. The woman freezes mid-sit, then stands up straight while Patricia rumages through a closet behind a screen in the corner of the office. When Patricia spreads a threadbare, dingy sheet over the furniture, the woman smiles faintly, though it is hard to make out through the grime smeared on her face.

Patricia settles back into her leather armchair and watches the client sit and primly cross shapely legs that stick out from uner a burlap sack dress. Shelby Sinclair iss colored the many shades of grime. Those long legs are nicatine yellow with streaks of food grease. Burlap and face caked in dirt and covered with a gray urban film. Her hair ... Patricia begins calculating how much she will need to add to the bill for professional cleaning and fumigation. She meets Shelby's eyes, and waits.

“I'm unclean, Ms. Thirdday.”

“I can see, smell, “ Patricia licks her lips, “and perhaps taste that fact.”

Patricia waits.

“My family sent me.”

“Go home and take a bath, Shelby.”

Shelby smiles slightly.

“Not that easy.”

Patricia holds Shelby's gaze, and waits. The small smile turns into a small frown.

“I couldn't take the hypocrisy anymore, Ms. Thirdday. I was all scrubbed and shiny on the outside, but so filthy on the inside.”

Patricia stands up, idly picking up her stainless steel thermos off the table beside her. Shelby watches, beginning to wring her hands in her lap.

“I decided to let the outside mirror the inside.” She is having trouble following Patricia as she circles around behind the love seat. “I can't live a lie, I ...”

Patricia hits Shelby on the back of the head with the thermos.

Shelby reluctantly returns to consciousness and struggles to sit up without moving her head more than she has to. She's not in the office. She seems to be in a transparent tent. Outside the tent she sees Patricia directing two men as they shift around what looks like a very large metal bowl. She reaches out to touch the walls of the tent, but is suddenly blinded.

“Ms. Thirdday! What are you doing?” Shelby turns her face to the opposite direction and opens her eyes. She can't see Patricia, but she can hear her from nearby.

“We're distilling you.”

“You're what?”

“Distilling you, to seperate out all the impurities that make you so unhappy. Little droplets of you are collecting on the walls.”

Shelby sees this is true. She also realizes how much she is sweating.

“Soon a puddle will start to form in the downhill corner, a puddle of pure Shelby. We'll, I don't know, freeze you into ice cubes and give you to your family. What's left behind we'll through out.”

Shelby finds it hard to focus, to think. Hovering over the growing puddle, she wonders how much pure Shelby there will be, and what would happen to the rest.

“We should recycle, I suppose, “ Patricia amends.

Shelby is feeling woozy. For the first time, she remembers a dream she had two years ago in which she ws re-purposed to make the ears of a man who test smelled perfumes, the scalp of a fashion model, and the right leg of a brillant writer. Then the bright contents of the bowl melt a hole in the plastic tent and let in a rush of cool air and Patricia's curses.

Shelby rolls over onto her back, and soon feels someone raise her head and pour something warm into her mouth. She coughs and splutters.

“You've got to swallow this, Shelby. It's the purest part of you.”

“Stop. Stop. I want a bath.”

Shelby looks up into Patricia Thirdday's face. Patricia is smiling, and its oddly like looking into that bright, metallic bowl.

“There's a limo downstairs that will take you to a spa. They'll scrub you, steam you, wrap you in herb infused towels, give you a facial, feed you and put you to bed. Your husband will pick you up in the morning.”

She doesn't thank Patricia Thirdday, Problem Solver, but her husband adds a sizable tip when he pays the already substantial bill. Patricia buys a new loveseat.

So that was the first draft. I showed it to my first critic, my wife. Her overall take was that it was OK, but didn't live up to Citris Sorrow. She liked the cure, but not the malady. It was almost too believable, too serious.

There was something that bothered me about it that took me a day or two to figure out. I realized that I had written Great Distillation in the third person omnicient, while Citris Sorrow was written in third person objective. Didn't match, and didn't work as well.

I tried again.

Patricia Thirdday Eschews Obfuscation

“Apocalyptic turds, “ blared from the intercom. Then Denise's voice:

“Verbosicus Giganteum is here.”

“Appointment or emergency?” Patricia asked.

“...weird cairns...”

“Emergency.”

Patricia put down her book and looked first at her stainless steel thermos, and then at the coffee bar.

“Send her in in five minutes.” She turned off the intercom, picked up the thermos and went to the coffee bar. There, she mixed 4 ounces of coffee, 1 scoop of powdered sports drink, and a vigorous dash of hot sauce. Capping the thermos, she crossed to the opposite wall and yanked aside the curtain that concealed the elevator. Verbosicus Giganteum burst through the office door, and flung out her arms.

“Fermenting Feng shui, fish sticks all akimbo.”

“Come here.”

They both entered the elevator. Patricia hit the button marked, “Roof.” She shook the thermos as they rose.

“Canine betrayal,” muttered the other woman. Patricia stared straight ahead.

“Smelly homicide, detritus of upside down grasping.” The woman panted, making fists and unmaking them.

The elevator stopped, doors opened, and Patricia walked briskly to the center of the roof. She yanked a tarp off of a glass pyramid about her height, with a six foot square base. V. G. let herself into the pyramid and lay down, while Patricia adjusted what looked like a huge metal bowl so that if focussed sunlight onto the pyramid.

“Sheaths for toes, sprouting like fevered fungus, tra la la” Spittle flying.

Patricia uncapped her thermos and held it a spout on the outside of the pyramid, behind V. G.'s head. The other woman writhed and spat.

“No longer will I queue at the protest kiosk.”

Patricia opened the spouts creaky valve, then closed it. Inside the pyramid, V. G. shifted her head and closed her mouth around a tube that ran to the outside of the pyramid. Patricia poured the contents of the thermos down the tube, and the other woman swallowed. After coughing and gagging, she said quietly, “I'm through with house cleaning.”

Patricia removed a note card from her pocket and a small, steel mechanical pencil. She copied the phrase onto the card in tiny, perfect block letters. She then slipped the card into a plastic envelope and handed it to Verbosicus Giganteum as she emerged from the pyramid. V. G. nodded curtly.

“The usual tribute to your insatiable avarice?”

“Give it to Denise on your way out.”

When her client had entered the elevator, Patricia Thirdday, Problem Solver, pulled the protective tarp back over the obfuscation eschewer.

www.patriciathirdday.com

I liked it better. I showed it to my wife again. This time she liked the malady better, but thought I had blown the cure. I had lost the "we're distilling you," and replaced it with a distracting mechanism. I let it rest for a day or two and started to agree with her.

At this point I showed it to my second critic, my sister. She liked it, but reported she wasn't "startled into surprised laughter" liked she had been by Citris Sorrow. Also, her favorite line was, "The usual tribute to your insatiable avarice?”. From this I knew that line was staying, but I need to work on the presentation and speech of V. G. to get some startled laughter.



Patricia Thirdday Gets To the Point

“Fermenting Feng Shui,” blared from the intercom on Patricia Thirdday's desk. Then Denise's voice:

“Verbosicus Giganteum is here.”

Patricia frowned. “She was here Monday.”

“. . . worms will be eating eyeballs . . .”

“I think it's an emergency, “ Denise replied.

Patricia put down her book and looked around the room. She stopped when she found her stainless steel thermos.

“Send her in in three.” Picking up the phone, she hit four buttons.

“Hello, is this maintenance? Yes, this is Patricia Thirdday. I need access to the roof. Thank you.” She hung up and crossed the room to stand next to the door, picking up her thermos on the way. Verbosicus Giganteum burst through the door, arms outstretched.

“Fetid cotton fungus sprouting in corners . ”

Patricia hit her on the back of the head.

V. G. sat up slowly, sweaty clothes sticking to her body. She was in a transparent tent. Outside the tent, Patricia was directing two men as they shifted around what looked like a very large metal bowl. V. G. reached out as if to touch the walls of the tent, but flinched and turned her head when suddenly blinded.

“Ms. Thirdday, explain these baffling circumstances.”

“We're distilling you.”

“Repeat your preposterous statement.”

“Little droplets of you are collecting on the walls. Soon a puddle will start to form in the downhill corner. What were you going on about when you arrived at my office without an appointment?”

Verbosicus Giganteum was turning red and sweat ran down her face.

“Tottering ceramic monuments to domestic servitude, swaying on the kitchen counter.”

V. G. swayed, eyes unfocused.

“No longer will I queue at the protest kiosk!”

V. G. collapsed. At the same time, the bright contents of the bowl melted a hole in the plastic tent, letting in a rush of cool air and Patricia's curses. Patricia scooped what she could of the little puddle into her thermos. She lifted Verbosicus's head and poured the liquid into V. G.'s mouth. V. G. coughed and spluttered.

“If you don't start cleaning up after yourself, I'll kill you.”

Patricia Thirdday, Problem Solver, helped Verbosicus Giganteum to her feet. She pulled a note card and a small, steel mechanical pencil from her pocket and copied down the sentence in tiny block letters. Slipping the card into a plastic sleeve, she handed it to V. G.

“The usual tribute to your insatiable avarice?”

“Give it to Denise on your way out.”

This was the draft that worked, and was promoted to completed story. As you can see, I combined the malady of the second draft with the cure of the first draft. I also worked on V. G.'s speech, on distilling the action down, and on keeping Patricia consistent with herself in Citris Sorrow.

Thanks for reading.