Lori Thatcher

Writing and Thinking about writing


Difficult Characters

“I can’t have red hair.” That’s the first thought I notice in my rousing-from-sleep brain. The second is, “Was that thunder?”

It might have been the thunder that woke me. I enjoy changes in weather: lightning, rain, fog, thunder. They often wake me predawn and call me to sit in the dark with the sliding glass door open, watching and listening.

At least I hope it was the thunder and not the redhead. It’s bad enough the characters in my WIP intrude on mealtimes, grab me in the middle of the grocery store so I have to scribble words on the back of a receipt. It’s bothersome when I can’t get to sleep, compelled to spend hours contemplating how to get Harry from the beach where he wanted to kill himself to the backroom of the seedy bar where he’s going to rescue the damsel in distress.

But to have one of you wake me up in the middle of the night is just too much.

Go back to sleep, redhead. The morning will be soon enough to bleach your hair blond, or figure out how to describe that shade of brunette which favors people of Italian descent.

It’s 2 a.m., and if it was you, I implore you, “Leave me alone and let me sleep.”

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Once a month or so, a pinpoint of light appears in the center of my field of vision. If I’m watching TV or driving in the car, I don’t notice it at first, but if I’m staring at a blank page or even the blank computer screen, I see it right away.

This time, I pick up the bottle of liquid Advil capsules nearby and realize it’s empty. I shake it to make sure, and then panic. I yell to my husband to help me find some. There’s usually a small supply in my handbag and another in the car, since I don’t want to be caught without it. The sooner I take them, the less time I will lose to this migraine.

By the time I down the pills, the point has grown to a circle, the size of a penny at arm’s length. Within the tiny circle, the colors are brighter and distorted by undulating lines. It’s not dissimilar to the areas of wavy glass on very old window panes that bend and alter the light passing through them.

It’s impossible to look away from it. As I avert my gaze, it follows, always in the center of my field of vision. It’s like the floaters in my aging eyes, except when I try to look straight at those, they jump to the side. This spot is impossible to look away from. Even closing my eyes doesn’t make it disappear and it carries into the dark of shielded eyes or unlit room, the last colors in view, magnified and sparkling.

By now it’s impossible to read written words. Soon it would be dangerous to drive, or for me, even to walk.

By the time it’s grown to the size of an apricot at arm’s length, the spot will change into a zigzag, wavy, backwards C. It will continue growing, usually until it takes up half of my field of view.

I go and lie down with my hand over my eyes to wait out the twenty minutes it usually takes for it to develop and then dissolve.

Except that this time, the capital C is not backwards and it disappears before it gets much bigger than a grapefruit. Different than usual.

Still, I’ll have to wait another twenty to thirty minutes to know if I medicated fast enough to dodge the headache completely, or just to mute it. Regardless, I’ll be left slightly nauseated, like I imagine a mild hangover would feel, similar to how I feel the day after taking the Valium that allows me to tolerate being constricted in an MRI.

The first time I experienced this migraine, I was in my thirties. Late for supper, I was making a quick stop at a discount store after a long day at work and before a long drive home, desperate to find an appropriate white blouse for a performance by the chorus I had joined recently. Without warning, the light in the store changed, increasing in intensity and appearing to flicker. I tried to ignore it, but finally, with several white shirts in my hand, I ducked into the dressing room and cowered on the bench. Lines of fluorescent lights above me changed into menacing zigzag teeth. Was I losing my sanity?

Closing my eyes didn’t help, the gaping mouth stalked into the dimmed area behind my eyelids. I froze and attempted to slow my breathing and relax; perhaps it was just stress playing tricks on me. After a while the visions dispersed and I flew out of the cubicle and thrust the hangers at the attendant mumbling something about the clothes not working.

I was already more than half way home when the nausea hit and horrid pain clamped onto my head. I took some aspirin from the glove department, dissolving several of the foul tasting tablets in my mouth. But it was too late to help. A half hour later, I limped up the steps into my home, said barely a word to my husband and tunneled under my bedcovers. Sleep brought relief but the next morning, I felt hung over.

The lull between the visual disturbance and the headache was such that it took two more occurrences before I made the connection. Now it’s a rush—get some pills into me as soon as I see the pinprick and I can intercept and knock down the worst. I still get the hangover, but it’s not dreadful.

I feel lucky not to undergo the excruciating, debilitating pain most migraine victims do. If I have to be a migraine sufferer, this silent migraine or “aura type” is probably the best type of migraine to have. As soon as I think that, it seems silly to me, like I had any choice in it. But not quite the same way it did in 2003 when my gynecologist called me in on lunch hour with the office closed and dark—“Knock on the window and I’ll let you in.”—to hold my hand and gently tell me I had cancer. She said, “If you have to have cancer, this is the one to have.” I pray it will be, one day, a world where no one has to have cancer, or for that matter, migraines.

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Fleeing the Cold

A grey day on St Augustine Beach

A grey day on St Augustine Beach

I would celebrate yet another windy grey day here in Florida if it weren’t for the family in the vacation rental next door. I can afford a few days of bad weather, a trifling part of the three months I’ll be here. And besides, something about lousy weather charms this Northern-girl-at-heart. Even a crummy day here rarely features the icy walking conditions which trap me inside in Massachusetts.

Instead it’s a refreshing deviation from Florida’s boundless sunlit days for someone in love with the “wait a minute” New England weather.

But not for this family. They’re here to trade seven days in the refrigerated north for a blissful week in warm, sunny Florida. Except it isn’t. Not now. One balmy bright day bookended by seemingly endless grey, foggy rifts with rain thrown in here and there. I watch Mom and Dad drag their beach chairs and sand toys across the walkway, the kids cocooned in freshly purchased sweatshirts. They huddle on the sand, determined to have a time on the beach to recall.

Me? I’m inside, But I can’t draw my gaze away from the seascape. The palm tree fronds whip back and forth, the ocean flaunts whitecaps as far as I can see, and the horizon is cottoned by grey. I slide the glass door open just an inch to relish the wail of the wind. The kid’s voices are gusted to me by the squall, “Daddy, can we go inside?”


The Cutting Saddle, 400 word Challenge

The cow was to be separated from the herd. The rider kept light contact on the reins, and quietly walked into the herd. Natural aptitude, “cow sense,” and intelligence helped, but it was good training that made this horse a master. The herd milled, but didn’t bolt. The horse waited, without anticipation or nervousness.

Finally the rider identified the cow, and smoothly drove it to the edge of the herd. When a slight separation was attained, the rider dropped the reins, sat deep in the close-contact cutting saddle, grabbed hold of the horn and allowed the horse to take control.

With a good horse, that moment was absolute magic. Anticipating every move the cow made, staying between it and the herd, barring the way, countering every change in direction. Like a ballet, or maybe more likened to a prize-fight, stopping short, whirling and changing direction, without over-shooting each turn.

The horse’s concentration was palpable, nostrils flaring, ears pointing, and every sinew of his being focused on the cow. Nothing else intruded, only the smell of horse sweat, the creak of the saddle, the pounding of hooves. And then it was over. The cow tired and gave up trying to return to the herd. With a lift of the reins, the rider told the horse to quit the cow. The best horses did it quietly, relaxing into calm and waiting for the next one.

After a long day, the rider would un-tack his horse, throw his cutting saddle over a fence, and loose his horse until the next day.

“And I was part of that. My rider sat deeply in my seat and listened to the creak and groan of my leather as his horse moved. I didn’t need polishing because his denim-covered bottom accomplished that each day.”

I imagine that the Circle Y cutting saddle is saying that, remembering those times and the riders which depended on it. Now it sits on a saddle rack in a seldomly frequented tack room. I brush away the thick layer of dust that somehow manages to waft under the covering.

Somehow I hear the saddle’s voice and it says to me, “It isn’t fair. I want to be on the back of a good horse working the herd with a rider sitting quiet.”

I no longer ride and have kept the saddle in sentimentality. But today, maybe I’ll listen to it.

The Challenge is from:

RemembeRED: Personification 

Write on Edge: RemembeREDOn Tuesday, inspired by Terry, I asked: Do objects have a memory? Does a rocking chair hold the essence of the snuggles it has witnessed? Does a pottery mug remember the comforting warmth it offered a struggling soul?

The dictionary defines personification as “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.”

Now it’s your turn to tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness in 400 words or less.

Horse graphic courtesy of: website at: http://alove4horses.com/free-horse-clip-art/


The Boundless Sea

        When I was fourteen, I saw the sea. I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been convinced that I was approaching my last breath.

        My Dad had lived with his sister ever since he was released from the hospital after being shot by his lover’s husband. His visits were wrapped in disagreement between him and my mother. I grew sad and fearful.

        I took to consulting a Ouija board. It spelled out words I didn’t know. We spoke to souls of the dead – one hanged for stealing a chicken. It was an appealing diversion for sheltered country kids.

        When my father decided to take my brother and me to Maine on our first-ever vacation, I was ecstatic—the sea. My mother bought us new clothes, normally a once-a-year occurrence.

        Before we were to leave, the Ouija board spelled out that if I left Massachusetts in the next month, I would perish. “Doesn’t perish mean die?” I asked.

        Suddenly the trip was a death sentence. But it would be unthinkable to even tell my father, never mind cancel.

         I felt like a person on death row. The world was at once sweeter and sadder. I said goodbye to my mother and my horse. I wore my seat belt without being told. I awaited my impending death.

        We had not yet seen the sea before we crossed the border to New Hampshire. I was sure I would die without having seen it, but the border fell behind us and I still drew breath.

         Then it came into view—the vast, the limitless, sea. I breathed easier, surely this could not be the last time I would see it. Somehow I came to believe it wouldn’t be. Little by little, I relaxed.

         It indeed wasn’t my last time.


This Challenge prompt was from: 

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-HoodThis week,  Kir of The Kir Corner gave us this quote:

“The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.”
~ Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke

Did you come to a resolution by the sea? Did a character reach a crossroads of sweat and tears?

Link up your 300 salty words (oooh!), but only if you’ve responded to the prompt.

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Lori Thatcher – Fat Old Lady Writing

The Prompt for the Challenge Today

by Write on Edge

Okay, folks, it’s time to link up our super-short RemembeRED for the week.

You creative people were to come up with a title and tagline that captures your life, or a moment from your life.

That’s it.

Looking forward to reading your life distilled to its essence.


It didn’t take long to think about this challenge but I sure wish I was smart enough to get the graphics right (that actually could be my tagline)

But-Mine is:

Lori Thatcher — Fat Old Lady Writing
Glad she didn’t listen when they said she was too old to start.


Lift Off Response to Write on Edge Surprise Challenge

I wasn’t sure if it was the earth moving or just the air vibrating, but the tremble sunk to my bones. It felt at once all around me and inside me. The light was so bright, it took over the task of casting shadows from the sun.
I watched it in binoculars until I saw the two pinpoints of light that were the solid fuel tanks jettisoning.
When it was gone we turned to each other and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was bubbling up from the vibrations that had been forced into my bones.
One of the ladies who had been standing next to me turned and said, “Well, isn’t that something?”
That statement has always felt like it didn’t really mean anything to me, but I found myself answering, “It sure was. It was really something.”