Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SEO Optimized: Septuagenarious Long-Form Love

Have been spending less time on staccatos, more on flowery sentence botany. For the moment. Since there's snow, ice, no where to go and nothing else to do but wait for the landlord to click the heat on, I'm posting the intro to the ongoing, old-timey story of Saul and Pippah, one of those works of fiction penned between office hours and factual deadlines that will never see the light of day because no one reads books anymore unless they're by Franzen. It's about two wrinkled old lovies who begin a cross-country affair in their late 70s. 


It will be too long for some, not zeitgeist-y enough for most and is guaranteed to be despised by at least one cantankerous amateur literary critic in Reading, England, but while snow's falling I like to fantasize that long-form fiction will not be murdered off by the 140, that love and the meandering bits leading in and out of it won't be erased by SKINS.






Meet Saul. And Pippah. They are old. They are in love.

(Intro excerpt from "It Does Get Easier, It Seems")

Saul liked to imagine the start of their correspondence was simultaneous--that two pen tips touched down on papers miles apart at the exact same moment, each respective owner perfectly in synch. 


Pippah was more practical. She usually wrote in pencil.  

Saul and Pippah were prolific writers of love letters. Neither could ever recall any formal rulings on mail. It was understood that emails required more technical savvy than either was willing to develop. Text messages seemed both unromantic and unrelenting on aging thumbs. So soon after their first departing both started putting pen to paper, doing so with such regularity that letters began crossing paths en route from Idaho to New Jersey and back, landing daily in each mailbox like doves gone home to roost. 
Pippah never worried about what to do with Saul's notes. Left to her own devices by John's commitment to online poker, she could pass his squeaking chair parked in front of their sleek computer, the youngest item inanimate or otherwise in the entire aching house, with a dozen bits of correspondence taped to naked windsock breasts and he would never notice, if he managed to tear eyes from the incoming river of cards flowing on the screen. John never really had any curiosity about the details of his Pippah’s life--those which did not pertain directly to him, anyway. Pippah had ceased feeling alienated by this shortly after their honeymoon.  
Each afternoon after the mail arrived, regardless of John's household whereabouts, she separated Saul's latest letter from the bills and magazines and placed it next to a glass of juice. Once the rest had been sorted through appropriately, she settled down at the head of the kitchen table to calmly read his words, sipping juice and swallowing intimacy in full view of the world. Sometimes John would pass through looking for a snack or to answer their only telephone, but he never asked what Pippah was doing and she never volunteered commentary. When her reading was done she'd walk the carpeted path to the bedroom with Saul’s pages and accompanying envelopes, each slit open at the top with jagged efficiency, adding them to a pile kept neatly in their closet. After the first two dozen or so made it through her door Pippah began binding them in orderly six-inch stacks, each tied with a piece of ivory ribbon and placed in a designer shoebox. Over time the stacks doubled, tripled, quadrupled and then so on, until a romantic army of promises, missives and proclamations living in Chanel and Prada houses lined Pippah's top shelf.  There they rested, lazy sentries beautifully camouflaged, whispering their contents to dresses and dusty purses.
Her lover, however, did not have the similar luxury of privacy. Iris had married Saul with pure intentions, blind enthusiasm and enough conditioned cynicism to suspect her husband would falter in exactly the way he did, even if it happened years beyond when she'd have felt it really mattered. It may have been woman's intuition, or a keen awareness of her shortcomings. Maybe it was the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy one summons with years of subtle doubt. Regardless, she was suspicious by nature, forever combing the depths of his pockets and back of desk drawers for insight into her husband. Iris rarely unearthed more than receipts and forgotten newspaper articles, sometimes old postcards or photographs from friends. Four different times she spoiled her own birthday surprises and twice ruined anniversary presents. Once she came across pornography, holding the yellowing pages of a nubile form pulled from a men's magazine between her fingers, but the prints were so old and irrelevant by then that she labeled them benign, returning the nudes to their original homes after glaring at the girl a moment. She never found anything, in fact, that painted Saul as anything but a stand-up spouse and otherwise mundane man, a beige carpet sample lined up among her friends' patterned marital narratives. Still she kept on digging, indulging sick curiosity like others do small children.
Saul always knew, of course. He couldn't pinpoint how, exactly--it might have been when one closeted birthday gift was found resting askew, or when a Playboy centerfold was crinkled at her edges after he unearthed her--but after many years, traces of his wife's covert investigations transformed into a dull awareness that, though they would never discuss it, Iris did not trust him.
Knowing there was no box, pile, space or spot that would or could go undiscovered, Saul initially considered shredding each of Pippah's letters, eliminating the potential land mines from ever being laid. But as he held each scrawled page from her hands, some laced with the sort of sparse poetry only he would ever know Pippah Allenson to be capable of writing, he found himself unable to destroy them,  superstitious that with their burning some piece of her would die--that the softest parts of Pippah would turn to ash with his hard deconstruction.
One afternoon early in the affair a stack of ten letters grew into eleven, a number too great to continue hiding in the slim space between the rug and his night-stand's feet. With Iris in their garden Saul paced their bedroom furtively, wondering where to stow them before she came inside. He put his nervous head in his hands and hinged his legs over the far end of the bed, taking a moment to think. Raking gnarled fingers through thick, peppery hair, he stared from shoes to mattress and then back at the letters next to him, stomach twisted with anxiety about his paper mess. As he sat a sudden flash jumped in the corner of his eye--a little spot of sunlight reflecting on a tiny trail of zipper, peeking out where the bed's dust-ruffle had accidentally been pulled back to expose it. Pulling the ruffle back further with a fingertip, he found the zipper ran a flat equator around the entire length of bed. Once undone it exposed two interlocking sections of memory foam bedding, the pieces of cushioning he and Iris slept on every night. With a careful hand and eye the bed's entrails could be zipped back up cleanly, the zipper covered with the pale sheets and dust ruffle again. 
And so began Saul's practice of placing Pippah's letters within the depths of his marital bed, the one place his wife would never dream of looking. In between the memory foam papers hid like desperate fugitives, more gathering in hushed solemnity as each month passed by, until one day Iris and Saul Silverman slept on a firm foundation of years of Pippah's posts

46 comments:

  1. The makings of a novel.

    Some outline, start. Pieces.

    Keep going.

    It's not serialized fiction. Shouldn't be. But it's nice to see this again.

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  2. Also, in light of both of our AOL twitter fuming, I want to kiss you on the lips for the title of this post.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. And I guess that, alone, would be a strange introduction.

    But, yes, fingerpainting sentences, bla bla bla bla -- you're a writer, damnit.

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  5. I'm going to comment again because I like multiples of 5.

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  6. Being old myself was a good enough reason to follow your link and start reading.

    Your writing was a good enough reason t keep reading.

    Don't stop.

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  7. Kind words very much appreciated, Howard. That you broke up the online comment section banter between hannah and I is likely appreciated by even more people.

    You're a peach, and thank you.

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  8. Congratulations on being Blogger's Blog of Note! You certainly have an interesting blog! It's different!

    http://www.theliterarylioness.com

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  9. Great to see writing featured....well done.

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  10. You must write an e-book Kim. Wow.

    mostevilwomen.blogspot.com

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  11. Oh it is a great post. I really like it! ^_^

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  12. I used to write love letters in Junior high. This story made me miss it. I can't wait to read more.

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  13. Forget e-books. Just write. It belongs on paper so that you can touch each page and the words - like they did.

    I'm old. I check the BON regularly. If it's good, I comment. If it ain't - I pass. I'm no literary critic, but I know what I like to read.

    Your beginning reminds me of The Book Thief - especially the last word.

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  14. Amazing! Congrats on the Blog of Note, but moreso on your ability to put words to page in such a beautiful form.

    I look forward to reading more of this story.

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  15. Congratulations on BON! MrCachet took the words out of my mouth -- verbatim! Our biggest agreement..."if it's good, I comment".

    It's Good.

    xoxoxo, cd
    http://clare-dunn.blogspot.com/

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  16. Thank you so much to everyone--I'm honored and humbled and so thrilled that people still like to read about plain old people.

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  17. Follow my blog:

    http://questoesdefutebol.blogspot.com/

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  18. What an absolute treat to read! And I definitely agree that it's good to see writing acknowledged as a 'blog of note'. Cheers!

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  19. You're so awesome. "Over time the stacks doubled, tripled, quadrupled and then so on, until a romantic army of promises, missives and proclamations living in Chanel and Prada houses lined Pippah's top shelf." So beautiful.

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  20. This is fantastic! I would love to hear more about these two!

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  21. hmm...I am SO curious about how this story unfolds. I hope you're planning to continue? It's your fault you know, that we're all interested. You started it.

    Go on :)

    a.

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  22. Still a fan of writing letters myself and experiencing somewhat of a forbidden love, this story felt rather personal. An incredible piece. Thanks for the beautiful writing.

    d.r. wilsey jr.

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  23. Very interesting. I hope this continues in a similar vein. I'll have to keep reading to find out!

    Congrats on the blog of note!

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  24. What a wonderful start to a story that MUST be finished!!! I had a pen pal for years. I recently unearthed a stack of letters that were wrapped in red ribbon. Those letters started out when we were 11 years old and went into our twenties and somewhere along the lines it stopped. We are in our late thirties now- married with children. I think I will pick up a pen and send a snail mail, pen pal letter.

    Thanks!!!!
    http://motoxmom72.blogspot.com/

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  25. Enjoyed this start to a great novel. When will the next post be? :)

    Congratulations on Blogs of Note!

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  26. Again, thanks to all the new comments for the BON lovin.'

    A close friend told me not long ago that no one would read about Saul and Pippah because there's no market for a romance story about wrinkled old geriatrics. I'm pretty fond of the doddering old pair of lovebirds, so your feedback's really...just, thank you.

    @Mary--Saul and Pippah do have many adventures inked down. I'm trying to decide how and when to share them. Will drop another tidbit shortly.

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  27. Oh, I really enjoyed this intro. Can't wait to see what happens next! Your writing is just wonderful.

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  28. @ Kimberly Kaye -- glad to hear another snippet is coming :) As for the advise that there is "no market" for a geriatric love story...I think a better statment would be that there is currently a gaping hole where a love story like this would fit quite nicely. No market? Pfft. Make one :)

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  29. Love letters . . . does anyone write them anymore? Oh I have had such writings in life and sadly the were disposed of by someone else.

    Letters of love, they are such cherished words meant from a truest of hearts and imaginings.

    my most sincere thank you for such wonderful few minutes of romantic prose. I want more.

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  30. You have a much fancier way with words than me... and better hair. :)

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  31. I really enjoyed reading this story. Your style of writing is a great inspiration, because it is intelligently descriptive and well written. I would love to write like you.
    I avidly await reading your next post.

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  32. Brilliant! I can hardly wait to read more ....

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  33. "A close friend told me not long ago that no one would read about Saul and Pippah because there's no market for a romance story about wrinkled old geriatrics."

    Who want's to write for a market? Just let it come and write what you feel. It may not always be a goldmine, but at least it will be honest, true writing. And that's something that's lacking now a days.

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  34. Put it on Kindle. You can sell it dirt cheap their, thats what I'm doing with my own work, and not have to worry about submission letters, editors, etc. If you do that, I'll buy it. Amazon has its own self publishing thing and everything. Doesnt cost a penny.

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  35. You write so well. I could see exactly what you were writing. I loved your descriptive words. Don't stop writing. You have real talent.

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  36. Hey, you seem cool, is there anyway I can add you???

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  37. @The poetic assassin: I normally don't list followers on my page, but I'm going to for a short stint so it's easier to add to a blog roll. Also, if you're reading through google/blogger etc. just go all the way to the top of the page above my logo/header. On the left you'll see FOLLOW/SHARE/REPORT ABUSE...click as you see fit.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. Hi Kimberly,

    I don't follow a lot of blogs but your B.O.N. nod brought me to your page (congratulations by the way). I read through your stuff a bit and find both you and it really enjoyable. I like your poetry, I love that you slam, I love your love of New York, and all and all (were this an introduction in a bar over cocktails instead of in a post over the Internet) I feel like you and I would be fast buddies. However, I'm writing to you for another reason.

    I am a blogger without copyright and noticed a CC icon on the side of your screen. Was kind of hoping you could tell me how you procured that lil sucker. I tried following the links but got lost when I reached the part with program code. It's been an hour of frustration and I have resigned myself to technological incompetency. I definitely don't want you to go out of your way, but if you have a second I would really, really appreciate it, one writer to another.


    ...Please?

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  40. Like many others, I found your writing rich and inspiring - I love to write snail mail as much as the e kind. Also love reading about well-worn hearts.

    Finally, I have the same question as Lookin' Good-- how do you get a copyright for your blog?
    Thanks for all the words-

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  41. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you







    SEO New Jersey

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