I know what some of you might be thinking: “Wait a minute. Didn’t you just publish a new novel last month?” Good memory – I did…The Dreams of Teddy Schreck.
I suppose before you conclude that I am more prolific than a literary bunny, I should explain. Madonna is a novel I began in 1985 and for reasons I cannot recall, abandoned that same year. After rereading the first three chapters, I dove back into it…editing, rewriting…pretty much a complete overhaul. I asked my wife to read chapters one through three to gauge if the rewrite was worth pursuing. She urged me to continue, saying the characters captivated her and she wanted to know what happened next. So I continued to rewrite Madonna, until I reached a point where I was unsure where to go with it. It was 1985 all over again!
Not content to remain stalled in a non-writing period, I set Madonna aside and began drafting The Dreams of Teddy Schreck, which I published last month, and then turned my attention back to Madonna. It only remained to finish one chapter and the book was completed.
In this novel, Mary Cottle struggles day-to-day as a widow and the single mother of a 43-year-old son with special needs. She wanders the streets of her town, scavenging abandoned “treasures” that she then sells to an antiques dealer and friend, Karl. From this meager income, she provides a bare-bones life for her son, Jimmy. He is a simple man, but one day he confronts his mother with the revelation that he has a girlfriend…a woman who works nights with him cleaning offices. Dread overcomes Mary. She has feared this day for years and despite all the time she has had to prepare for it, when considering what to do about her son’s announcement, she flounders. At times Jimmy behaves no better than a child; Mary frets about how to dissuade him from this entanglement as she would in denying him a shiny toy. But her son surprises her….and assists Mary in surprising herself. Mary wistfully considers how her deceased husband would manage their son’s desires. Her friendship with Karl blossoms beyond what she ever could have anticipated. She ritually visits the neighborhood tavern, spars with the bartender, sips Scotch for breakfast and predicts his fortune while gazing at a small crystal ball. And then there is the girl…Connie…bent on complicating her life. Mary abandons caution and reacts to Jimmy’s news recklessly, oblivious to the consequences. Her decisions snowball, appropriately she feels, as a winter storm assaults the town in drifts and frigid temperatures. Unexpected events unfold and Mary’s reticence to allow Jimmy the things he has always coveted begins to melt. She spies a light at the end of her tunnel and charges headlong toward it. Never having believed she deserved a happy ending to her life, Mary casts aside her fears and lunges toward one.