Monday, November 21, 2011

I Cut My Finger On The Mashed Potatoes!

by Janet Fogg

(In honor of all the potatoes that shall be consumed on Thanksgiving.)

To be truthful, I didn’t cut my finger on the mashed potatoes, but my cousin Susan Guenther Garcia did cut hers, and she has graciously allowed me to quote her.

I’ll often read an excerpt that immediately triggers a memory, one where I might laugh out loud, be thrust through time, or travel to a different world as I envision the lives of characters in books.

My cousin’s phrase is distinctive, and if I used it in a novel I might then explain that she really did cut her finger. She’d allowed the potatoes to dry in the pan and when cleaning up, the crusted edge of potato sliced her finger, made it bleed. Would I go into that much detail in a book? Probably. Would I need to? It depends.

Larry Schafer wrote, “She’s learning to breathe thru her feet.” Reading that, I paused for a long moment to consider what he meant. How in the heck do you breathe through your feet? I still don’t know, yet that phrase has stayed with me, as has his name.

Then there’s one that I can’t attach a name to, though I wish I could. “She looked like a hen in a fit.” Can’t you hear the fuss; envision the flapping as a cloud of dust filters through the air?

“Regular old cough drop she is, too,” from Georgette Rougier. No further description is needed. I can see the old woman quite well, hear her querulous voice.

A gentleman named Sam made me laugh out loud when he said, “His brain is as large as a pimple on a flea.” I don’t know if those are his words, an old saying, or a phrase he borrowed, but I remember it to this day.

“And the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.” Harriet is cradling Peter’s head after he hesitantly steps into her room so that together, they can face down his demons at the end of Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon. Such a simple phrase, yet it carried all the power and glory of their love.

The words penned by our own Carol Berg often capture me, but one phrase made my tears flow as I read the last few pages of Breath and Bone. “She touched me that day – dipped her hand in the pool, and I burned with such fire at the remembrance of her hands...” Ah, Valen.

Simple words, quilted together in a multitude of patterns. Joy, agony, desire. Hope. Culmination of a story that tickles your funny bone or pierces your heart.

What phrases echo and rebound within your soul?


Shannon Baker said...

I can't wait to use this, uttered by a man describing his wife: she's so cheap she'll squeeze an ant for the tallow. Thanks for the fun post.

Patricia Stoltey said...

The first thing that popped into my head was, "Frankly, Scarlet...." I have nothing else to offer. :)