Excerpt from “The Best LAid Plans” by Anne David
Irene had arrived in Los Angeles at the Greyhound bus station shortly after her twenty-first birthday. She shed the name Elvira Klotzman in favor of Irene Ross on the long road trip from the farm in Minnesota. A substantial stash of movie magazines in her travel bag, the source of her information on how to break into the movies, reported on the many stars that had changed their names. No shame in doing that. Better John than Marion, or Marilyn than Norma Jean. Irene seemed glamorous, but dignified, and there didn’t seem to be any Irenes on the movie scene right now. Irene Dunne was the last one she knew of, so there wouldn’t be any confusion with someone else.
The seedy people wandering around the outside of the bus station and the general dinginess of the street dismayed Irene, and she realized that she had no idea where to go. She had some money saved from her waitressing job at the Prairie Café from the last few years to get her started, and her mother had pressed a twenty-dollar bill into her hand as she boarded the bus.
“Be careful.” Her mother was a woman of few words. “You can come home anytime.”
Her father just stood with his hands in his overall pockets, chewing on a toothpick. “Take it easy, girl.”
None of them was demonstrative, so no hugs or kisses. She did have a slight lump in her throat though, because as far as she was concerned she wasn’t coming home again. She would never return to the backbreaking work of a farm, with the endless chores and the smell of the place on your clothes and in your hair, and the dirt always under your fingernails. The long hours aged a person beyond their time. Look at her mother.
“I’ll write.” And then she was on her way.
The Rochelle Staub Questions
|Photo by Charles Ng – Time On Film
What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
My daughter’s dog was running off leash in the Hollywood Hills and came bounding back from the brush dragging a plastic bag that contained a severed head. Needless to say, he made the papers and late night TV. The mayor even issued him a commendation from the City of Los Angeles. That might actually be the weirdest part.
Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
I’m looking forward to the day when the L. A. highways, byways, and freeways are trash free.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
“What’s in it for you?” and “why write at all?” are two sides of the same question for me. It’s like an out of body experience in which I can relive an episode from my past, or project myself into another life altogether. It’s a chance to expand the finite experiences of a single lifetime into an ever-changing universe. As far as “why write short stories?”… not every idea merits a book, but most ideas merit the telling.
What is the biggest challenge to writing to theme?
I wasn’t so much challenged by the theme as by the word count. That makes you hone the language and boil the story down to its essence – no sidebars, flights of fancy, or unrelated facts allowed.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
I don’t think so, but then you store a lot in your sub-conscience and it probably comes out in your characters.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the area influence your story?
I got to know Silver Lake when my daughter and her family moved there several years ago. The side streets can be narrow and winding and very confusing, and I used WASE to find my way around. It never seemed to take me on the same route twice, always looking for the least traffic, so I developed a real appreciation for the quirky neighborhoods and a healthy respect for the treacherous hill streets. It can take your breath away to crest the summit of the neighborhood roller coaster ride, have the sun in your eyes, and meet a garbage truck coming at you. I also spend a lot of time driving the stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs through Silver Lake, not the posh stretch, and there is a never-ending stream of pedestrians, mostly young, and you wonder where they come from and how they live.
Are there scenes in your story based on real life – yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
The singles bar scene was a pretty standard one in the 70’s, and characters like Roy were usually lurking there, waiting for an Irene to come along.
What came first, the character or the plot?
They came together, but not as they finally played out in the story. Irene followed me around for days declaring that she was rich and famous, but had to back down from that position when her humble farm girl origins began to emerge. But as Irene evolved, so did the plot.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or… ?
I have to write first thing in the morning. I’m up at six, make a cup of coffee and retreat to my quiet corner, away from the household traffic and the distractions of email, TV, or phone calls, which can tempt me back into the real world.
Favorite writing quote – yours or from someone else…
“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Mark Twain
Your writing ritual begins with…
Reading aloud. I like to hear how the words written yesterday sound today.
Anne David retired from a lifetime spent in elementary education and now lives in Pasadena with her husband, John. She had intentions of beginning a new career writing children’s books, but somehow she deviated from that plan and turned to murder and mayhem with a novel, The Accidental Benefactor, followed with another murder in her short story “The Best LAid Plans.” She has a BA in English, a MA in Reading Instruction, and a PhD in Literacy and Language Arts. Her children’s book, The Three Basketeers, is the first in a series developed for the emerging reader.