The Edge of Nowhere

The Edge of Nowhere

>>>> Monday <<<<

Edison said nothing for the first three hours. Despite his mother’s best assurances otherwise, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being punished. And a cruel and unusual punishment at that.

It hadn’t been his fault. None of it had. He hadn’t asked to be bullied or ostracized. As far as he could tell, it wasn’t even personal – they had just needed someone to fill that role and he had been conveniently available.

He hadn’t asked for the anxiety, the panic attacks, or the insomnia either. Like the bullying, it just seemed to appear out of nowhere one day, then get worse the more he tried to fight it. Sleepless nights led to drowsy afternoons, further eroding Edison’s already damaged grades.

It had not been a good year, but against all odds he had survived. It was over. The earthly hell that was fifth grade was finally behind him. Summer had arrived at last.

Edison had had so many plans for this summer. Minecraft. Lots of minecraft. And Nintendo. Loads of Nintendo. He didn’t own a Switch yet, but he’d saved up most of what he needed, and knew he could use mom’s guilt and sympathy to get the rest. In the mean time, he had hundreds of hours of TV ready to go on the DVR, including an entire season of Game of Thrones; (Edison wasn’t a huge fan of GoT – it seemed to alternate between completely terrifying and painfully boring – but he didn’t wish to be the only kid in sixth grade not up to date).

So many plans. So much potential. And now, as he watched the miles pass by one after the other, Edison could feel those dreams withering and dying one by one. It was the worst summer he could possibly imagine.

Mom had actually tried to get him excited. It hadn’t worked.

“You love Grandma Bird,” she said. “You’ll have a great time.”

“She’s weird,” Edison said.

“She’s just a bit eccentric,” mom said. “I think it’s great.”

“Then you spend the month with her!” Edison said. “I’ll see you in July.”

“Very funny,” mom said. “I’d come with you if I didn’t have to work, but you wouldn’t want me there anyway. It’ll be so much fun just the two of you.”

“All alone in the middle of nowhere with a kooky old woman,” Edison said. “Yeah, that’s exactly my idea of fun.”

“I don’t know what happened,” mom said. “You used to love going to cabin with her.”

“I was a little kid, then,” Edison said. “Grandma had a room full of toys up there. Things are – things are different now. I’m older. It takes more than a box of Hot Wheels to keep me entertained.”

Grandma spoke, breaking the wall of silence and ending Edison’s mental exile. “I know you don’t want to be here,” she said. “Don’t think you have to pretend otherwise for my sake.”

“My mom says I don’t have to stay the whole month,” Edison said. “She says if I’m still miserable after a week, she’ll come get me.”

“Challenge accepted!” Grandma said. “Why don’t we start with something to eat? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry.”

“I’m hungry too,” Edison said.

A minute or two later, Grandma Bird pulled off the highway into a small rest stop. It wasn’t much to look at. Three parking spaces, two picnic tables, and a tiny rest room. At least it was a chance to stretch his legs.

At the table, Grandma Bird presented a cooler filled with sandwiches. “I wasn’t sure what kind you’d want, so I made a few options. Navy Blue is chicken salad, Cyan is tuna salad, Azure is raspberry jelly, Baby Blue is grape jelly, Teal is ham, Cornflower is turkey, Periwinkle is cucumber, and Zaffre is felafel.”

Edison went for the turkey but ended up with grape jelly instead. Close enough. “What are you having, grandma?”

“Peanut butter and salmon,” Grandma said. “I didn’t even think to make you one. Would you like it? I can eat the cucumber.”

“No, thanks,” Edison said. I’ll stick with the peanut butter. Your sounds, um…"

“Disgusting?” Grandma said. “It’s ok. Most people find it a somewhat off-putting combination. I, on the other hand, think it’s great.”

Edison’s was suddenly grateful for his peanut butter sandwich, which was surprisingly delicious.

The next two hours passed quicker, mostly being filled with Grandma Bird’s repeated attempts at making a connection with the younger generation.

“So what’s your favorite thing to do when you get home from school?” she said.

“Minecraft,” Edison said.

“I’ve heard of that,” Grandma said. “Those are like building blocks, right? You always did love those.”

“I’m too old for building blocks,” Edison said. “It’s a video game.”

“I like video games too,” Grandma said. “Do people still play Pac-Man?”

“No,” Edison said.

Grandma Bird hadn’t heard any of Edison’s favorite music. He offered to play her some samples, before remembering that mom had forbidden him from bringing any electronics along.

“That’s ok,” Grandma Bird said. "We’ll find lots of other fun things to do together once we get to the homestead. "Speaking of, look at that, we’re here!”

Here, as it turned out, meant not so much to the house as to the property line. They had to drive another fifteen minutes along a slow, bumpy dirt road to get to the actual structure.

“Well,” Grandma said, “here was are. Our old new home. Is it everything you remembered?”

Edison’s memories of the summer house were all from the perspective of the little kid he had once been. Mom was right; back then, he had loved coming up here to spend a week or two with his grandmother. He remembered getting just as excited as she did when they passed the last bend in the road, and of racing out of the car and up the steps as fast as he could. Everything seemed so magical and perfect back then.

Through older, wiser eyes, Edison could see that the place was, in really, kind of a dump. The house itself was an unremarkable two story (smaller than most of the ones in his neighborhood back home), with a cracked foundation, faded paint, and a sagging roof. Far from the utopian wonderland he had foolishly thought it was.

“Well?” Grandma said.

“Hasn’t changed a bit,” Edison said.

Grandma laughed. “It’s not exactly the same, of course; I had to replace Helga (the refrigerator) last year, Frank (the old sofa) finally sat his last, and of course your room is different. But other than that things are pretty much as they’ve always been. Come on, let’s go inside.”

Edison felt the same way inside that he had outside. Everything was the same, and yet somehow different. He remembered the big pantry, where he had spent cumulative hours staring up and imagining all the delicious meals grandma would soon cook him; it was all still there, but now it was just ugly shelves of uninspiring boxes and ingredients.

The difference was even more apparent upstairs. Grandma Bird’s room hadn’t changed a bit, but being invited in to sit on her bed no longer felt like a special treat or grown-up privilege. It was your typical old-lady room, complete with the requisite out-of-date flower patterns and lingering perfume smell.

The two spare rooms, which Edison used to call the “hide and seek rooms,” were now locked, used as storage for what his grandmother described as “miscellaneous things she couldn’t bring herself to throw away”.

Edison’s room had once been his favorite place in all the world; deep blue walls that always made him smile, toyboxes filled with all the funnest things, and right in the middle the most exciting racecar bed he had ever seen. It was an almost mythical place then.

His new room was fine, but nothing to write home about. The bright blue walls had been repainted a respectable tan, the magical toyboxes replaced by a pair of plain Ikea bookshelves, and the custom racecar bed swapped out for a comfortable but plain metal frame.

“Thanks, Grandma,” Edison said, trying his best to sound excited. It wasn’t that he would have wanted a little kid room still (he was, after all, grown-up now), but he did miss the wonder and excitement that the new furniture could never recapture.

“You’re welcome,” Grandma said. “I wasn’t really sure how to decorate it. I thought maybe you and I could finish it up while you’re here.”

“Ok,” Edison said.

Edison his clothes bag on the bed. He hadn’t packed much. Three shirts, two pairs of pants, and his pajamas, plus socks and underwear. Just enough to get him through the week.

The second bag was lighter, and had been packed by Edison’s mom. He didn’t have to open it to know what was inside. Half a pack of “nighttime pants” (as she insisted on calling them) and, if that wasn’t humiliating enough, baby wipes.

The bedwetting was something else that had only started recently, another unwelcome intrusion into Edison’s previously stress-free life. The pull-ups helped (it was better than waking up in soaked pajamas twice a week), but he hated the fact that he needed them. Edison kicked the bag under the bed and tried his best to forget about it.

Unloading and unpacking the truck took most of the rest of the day. Grandma Bird seemed to have packed the entire contents of her apartment, then half the local hardware store on top of that. Enough food to feed a small army, building materials sufficient to make a whole new house, stacks of books to add to an already exhaustive library, and a box of what Edison was sure were Christmas decorations.

They stopped in time for a late dinner, which consisted of the sandwiches from lunch. Edison tried to find the turkey again, but picked Azure instead of Cornflower and ended up with strawberry jelly. Whatever, he thought.

After dinner, they headed up for the night. Edison changed into his pajamas and tried not to think about the duffel bag under the bed. Embarrassing as it was, wearing pull-ups at night had become routine at home. Doing it here felt different. Worse. Even as a little kid in the childish racecar bed, Edison had never had trouble staying dry at night. He cringed at the realization that that had changed.

Putting the thought behind him, Edison pulled back the covers and climbed into bed. He’d be fine. He’d just been to the bathroom, and hadn’t had much to drink in the first place. Besides, he probably wouldn’t sleep very soundly in this crazy place anyway.

>>>> Tuesday <<<<

Edison was cautiously optimistic. One down, four to go. Four more days and he could ask mom to take him back home. Four more days and he’d be free.

He found Grandma Bird on the front porch, gazing off into the distance. “Isn’t it great?” she said. “Nothing but open forest as far as the eye can see.”

Edison did not think being an hour from the nearest other human was in any way a good thing, but he felt like he probably shouldn’t say that to his host. He needed to behave. To thoroughly behave, as his mother had said.

“If you thoroughly behave for one week, and you’re still not having any fun, I will come pick you up and you can have the summer you wanted sitting here staring at a screen all day.”

Edison didn’t know exactly what mom had meant by that, but he wasn’t about to take chances. If he wanted to get out of this, he had to convince her that he’d given it a good try, and that meant “having a good attitude.” Which is what he was determined to do. Be “positive,” and “agreeable”. He’d say nice things, and go along with his grandmother’s insanity. And then at the end of the week, when they went into town to get supplies, Grandma would have nothing but good things to say about him, and he could confide in his mother privately that it wasn’t working out and that he’d rather come home.

All that would start right now, with saying something nice about the freaky isolation that Grandma Bird loved so much. Edison thought about it, but had difficult time thinking of anything nice to say. “Well, it certainly is… the middle of nowhere,” he finally said.

“Hey!” Grandma said. “My summer house is NOT, I repeat NOT, the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere is seven miles up the trail that way. This is merely the edge of nowhere.”

“Very funny,” Edison said. “Grandma, can I ask you a question?”

“As long as it’s not about the war,” Grandma said. “Some of that is still classified.”

Edison took an uncomfortably long time trying to remember if his grandmother had ever been in any sort of war, or if she just joking around. He gave up still unsure.

“Not about the war,” he said. “About this place.”

“Go ahead,” she said.

“Why do you like living way out here, anyway, so far away from other people?”

“Because other people suck,” Grandma Bird said. “Present company excluded, of course. There are exceptions, but by and large most people seem pretty convinced that they know how you should live your life better than you do. I get tired of it after a while. Sometimes it’s nice to come out here where you can do whatever you want and there’s no one around to say a damn thing about it.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Edison said. He still thought she was crazy, but then again maybe he sort of understood. There was something kind of nice about the idea.

Grandma Bird started talking about all the fun activities they could do together, and kept on talking right through breakfast and beyond. Edison had a hard time coming up with appropriate amounts of fake enthusiasm.

“What do you think?” she said. “You excited for fly fishing?”

“Of course,” Edison said. “I’m very excited”. (He wasn’t).

“But first,” Grandma said, “As soon as we get settled, I’ll take you on a big hike. Show you around the neighborhood. Does that sound fun?”

“That sounds great,” he said. (It sounded terrible). “I love hiking”. (He hated hiking).

“Great,” Grandma Bird said. “But all that later. What about right now? What, in all the world, do you most want to do right now?”

The names of various video games floated through Edison’s head, but he knew better than to say any of them out loud.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “Any suggestions?”

“Why don’t we take the truck up to the north property line and make sure everything’s a-ok up there,” Grandma Bird said.

“Sure,” Edison said. “That sounds fun.” (It sounded like the most boring thing he could possibly imagine).

“So what are we looking for, exactly?” Edison said about halfway up.

“Washouts, rock slides, trees that fall onto the road, that sort of thing,” Grandma Bird said.

“Things that make the road impassible?” Edison said.

“Mostly, yeah,” Grandma said.

“Where does the road go?” Edison said.

“Nowhere in particular. It ends at the property line.”

“So what do you use it for, then?”

“I use it mostly just to make sure everything’s ok up this direction.”

“Oh,” Edison said. “That makes sense.” (It made absolutely no sense whatsoever).

They reached the end some time later, then immediately turned around and headed back for the house. There was nothing wrong with the road in either direction.

“Well,” Grandma Bird said, “I guess this wasn’t as fun for you as I’d hoped it would be.”

“It was fine,” Edison said.

“Say,” Grandma Bird said. “We’re almost back. Would you like to drive the rest of the way?”

Edison laughed. “I’m eleven,” he said. “I won’t be able to drive for five more years.”

“You forget,” Grandma Bird said. “This is my truck on my road on my land. That means I decide who can and can’t drive. What do you say?”

Edison agreed to give it a try. He moved to the driver’s seat and listened to his grandmother explain the controls. “Ok,” she said. “Why don’t you give it a go?”

This was going to be awesome. Nobody else in sixth grade would know how to drive. If he got in enough practice, maybe mom would let him drive her car in a parking lot or down by the fairgrounds. Most kids his age would kill for this opportunity.

Then why was he so nervous? Why were his palms sweaty and his hands shaking and his heart pounding? He just had to push the brake, hold the wheel, turn the key. They were all alone in the middle of a big open field. There was no reason for this to be frightening. So why couldn’t he get his hands and feet to cooperate?

Grandma Bird could tell that something was wrong. “Are you ok?” she said.

“I’m not-” Edison said. “I’m not old enough. I can’t do it. I’m sorry. I’m too-”

“There’s nothing wrong with being scared,” Grandma Bird said. “Don’t feel bad.”

But Edison did feel bad. What a stupid thing to be scared of. He couldn’t believe he’d screwed things up so badly. The first good thing to happen since mom insisted that he go on this stupid trip, and he’d ruined it by being afraid.

Edison spent the rest of the journey sobbing quietly in the passenger’s seat. Grandma Bird, mercifully, said very little.

He had cheered up, mostly, by late afternoon when Grandma came in to ask about dinner.

“You’ve had a rough day,” she said. “Why don’t you pick? What, in all the world, would you most like to eat? We can have anything you want.”

Edison thought of his favorite foods, none of which they could possibly get for dinner. The Double-Double with Fries from In-N-Out. The Maui Zaui from Round Table. The blueberry pancakes from Mike’s Diner. He was surprisingly in the mood for all of them, which was actually unusual; it seemed like months since he had really been hungry for anything.

As Edison considered this, another thought formed in the back of his mind, then slowly but firmly pushed and shoved its way forward. He remembered something, something his grandmother had frequently made when he was little. Macaroni and cheese, with chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It had been his favorite meal. Perhaps, he thought, he might enjoy it still. And yet, it was little kid food – not something any self-respecting almost-12-year-old would ask for."

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’m not in the mood for anything in particular. How about spaghetti?”

By the time he went to bed, Edison had all but forgotten about the incident in the truck.

He didn’t give much thought to the pull-ups under his bed, either, at least not at first. He later remembered about them suddenly in the middle of the night, when he woke up feeling very, very wet.

>>>> Wednesday <<<<

Edison woke confused and disoriented, unsure exactly where he was or why. Slowly, he began to remember bits and pieces of the night before.

Dark. Wet pajamas. We blankets. Fear. Shame. Tears.

Grandma turning on the light. “It’s ok. Not a big deal.”

Grandma helping him change into dry clothes. “We’'ll wash these in the morning. For now, you can sleep somewhere else, ok?”

Edison remembered following his grandmother into the dark hallway. She unlocked one of the storage rooms. There was, she said, an extra bed there. Grandma led him over and helped him climb inside. It was soft. Comfortable. Familiar and strange at the same time.

The sun was up outside, but through closed curtains the room was still mostly dark. The blue was the first thing Edison noticed. Bright blue walls. He remembered those walls. This was his old room. His grandmother hadn’t repainted it, she’d just switched, putting his new furniture in one of the spare rooms and her storage stuff in here. Except something wasn’t quite right, and he couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

Edison looked down and caught sight of something else he recognized. A steering wheel. More specifically, the steering wheel footboard from his old bed, the one he had loved so much when he was little. It took him a minute to realize it was still attached, that he was sleeping in that bed now. It was all there, even the racetrack sheets and pillowcase.

It was lighter now, and Edison began to look around the rest of the room. The dresser was right where he expected, the toybox and shelves exactly where he had left them many summers before. Even the toys were still there, stacked neatly in their proper places.

Notably, there were no additions either. Suddenly he understood. This room hadn’t been used to store things Grandma didn’t want to get rid of, the room was the thing she didn’t want to get rid of. It was untouched, as if no one had been in here in years. Except everything was clean and dusted, so clearly she’d been keeping it maintained. But why?

Edison got up and made the bed, then went back to his new room and started gathering up the wet sheets and blankets. He had hoped to wash them by himself, but couldn’t figure out how to work his grandmother’s ancient washing machine.

Asking Grandma Bird about the laundry led right into the uncomfortable conversation Edison had been dreading all morning. The explanation. The bedwetting talk.

Edison explained how it had started, how mom thought it was related to his troubles at school, and how he was supposed to, but didn’t, wear protection at night.

Grandma Bird wasn’t mean, upset, or patronizing. In fact, she was as nice and respectful as possible given the circumstances. Which, somehow, made an already terrible situation even worse. Because Edison realized just how much his grandmother had gone out of her way to treat him like a real teenager – the new furniture, grown-up activities, even offering to let him drive her truck – and just how badly – from the steering wheel panic attack to the nighttime accident – he had failed at living up to that. No wonder she’d put him back in the little kid room.

After breakfast, Edison went upstairs to spend some time by himself. He brought a few books from the library with him, mostly for appearances sake; if Grandma Bird thought he was reading, she’d be more likely to leave him alone.

Edison started out on the floor in his bedroom, but found that being back at the scene of the crime only made him more depressed. Moving to the blue room – his old room – helped. He had made a lot of old, good memories here, and (perhaps more importantly) no new, bad ones.

With nothing else to do, Edison picked up one of the books he had blindly pulled from the shelves downstairs and started reading through it. The reading level was a grade or two below what he’d been practicing at school, which made it a surprisingly easy, stress-free activity. Edison couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually enjoyed reading a book, or (for that matter) done it voluntarily in the first place.

Reading proved to be a good distraction, and so Edison spent the rest of the morning and afternoon lost in various stories. Grandma Bird came up at noon with his lunch and some new suggestions, then reappeared (seemingly only a few minutes later) to announce that it was almost time for dinner. As she had the day before, she offered to make Edison anything he could think of to eat.

Edison knew that, after everything that had happened, the most important thing in the world right now was to be as grown-up as possible. And yet, somehow, he knew that wasn’t what he really wanted. What he wanted was the same thing he’d wanted the night before, the same thing he’d always wanted on his first night staying with Grandma Bird. He paused to consider his options.

“We’re the only ones here,” Grandma said.

Had he thought it all out loud, or was she just a really good guesser? Edison wasn’t sure. He could ask for ham soup. Or meatloaf. Or – or he could tell her the truth. In that moment, Edison made a decision. A decision to go for it, to say what he really wanted before he lost the nerve.

“I want Mac and Cookies,” he said. “Just like we used to.”

“So do I,” Grandma said. “Let’s do it”!

She meant it. Let’s as in both of them. For the first time ever, Grandma Bird let Edison help in the kitchen, divulging to him top-secret recipes previously known only to herself and the CIA. Edison learned the trick to making boxed Mac and Cheese taste like a four-star restaurant, and practiced all six components of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

It was, without a doubt, the best Mac and Cookies either of them had ever had.

“It’s getting late,” Grandma Bird said some hours later. “I think I’ll head to bed. You can stay up as long as you want, just – you know what, I forgot to put new sheets on your bed. I’ll go do that now.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Edison said. “I can do it. Or maybe, actually – what if – what if I just slept in the blue room again. Would that be ok?”

“Of course!” Grandma said. “That’s perfectly fine. You can have whichever room you want. Just don’t forget to-”

“I won’t,” Edison said.

>>>> Thursday <<<<

Edison awoke the next morning to a wet pullup but a dry bed. He was still somewhat embarrassed about the situation, but much less so. Somehow, sleeping in his old racecar bed in the bold blue playroom made wearing diapers at night seem a lot less weird. He was in a surprisingly good mood.

Edison threw the wet pullup into the bin and started to head to the shower. On the way out, he decided he might as well unpack. It seemed silly to be living out of a dufflebag when he had a perfectly fine dresser right here. Edison unloaded his socks and underwear into the top drawer, then stacked the remaining pullups beside them. His shirts went into the drawer beneath that, and his pants in the very bottom. It felt good to finally be all moved in.

After breakfast, Grandma Bird suggested a fishing trip. “Do you like fishing, Edison?”

“I don’t know,” Edison said. “I’ve never been.”

“Would you like to find out?” Grandma Bird asked.

“Sure,” Edison said. “It sounds like it might could be fun maybe.”

“It just might maybe could,” Grandma Bird said. “Let’s do it. I’ll get the stuff, you pack us some lunch.”

Edison made a few sandwiches and put them in grandma’s cooler, along with some of the leftover cookies, a bunch of grapes, and a variety of drinks. Grandma Bird loaded up the truck with various supplies and gear, most of which Edison only vaguely recognized.

Fishing, as it turned out, was an extremely boring activity! Mostly you just sat there and waited. And then, after waiting for a while, you’d move the pole around and then wait some more. It wasn’t Edison’s idea of fun at all. But, while they waited they talked, and Edison enjoyed the talking. Grandma Bird caught three fish, which provided a few moments of excitement.

“You’re really good at this,” Edison said.

“Thanks,” she said. "Your grandpa taught me. It’s a shame you never got to meet him. He was so excited to finally have a grandson. He used to say to me, “Nora, I love you more than anything, and I’d follow you and the girls to the end of the earth, but we really need another man in this family!”

Edison laughed. “He sounds fun.”

“He was,” Grandma Bird said. “Edison?”

“Yeah.”

“Thanks for coming up here. Despite all the misanthropy, I still get lonely sometimes. It’s been nice having someone to hang out with again.”

“You’re welcome,” Edison said.

It was evening once again. “So,” Grandma Bird said, “what, in all the world, would you most like to eat for dinner today?”

“I don’t know,” Edison said, “but I think it’s your turn to pick. What would you most like to eat in all the world?”

Grandma Bird thought about it a long while. “Mushroom Risotto,” she finally said. “Does that sound good to you?”

“Not in the slightest,” Edison said. “But I guess I’m willing to give it a try.”

“Good,” Grandma Bird said. “I can guarantee you that mine is the best Mushroom Risotto in the entire world, so if you don’t like it today, there’ll be no reason to ever try it again for the rest of your life.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Edison said.

It was ok. Not great, but not nearly as disgusting as he’d expected. “This isn’t nearly as disgusting as I’d expected,” he said.

“Not the highest compliment, but I’ll take it,” Grandma Bird said. “No reason to eat the rest if you’re not a fan. There’s still leftover spaghetti in the fridge.”

Edison took her up on the offer.

After dinner they watched a few movies from Grandma Bird’s extensive collection of state-of-the-art VHS tapes. It was long past bedtime when they finally called it a night.

>>> Friday <<<<

It was lighter than usual when Edison finally woke up. He must have slept in, which didn’t surprise him considering how tired he was the night before. He was wet again, but not no so much that he felt the need to change right away.

Edison lay in bed for a long time before deciding to get up. This, he thought, was what summer was meant to be. No deadlines, no schedules, no stress. No need to get up earlier than he wanted to.

It was the toyboxes that finally lured him out. In all this time he hadn’t opened any of them. Edison couldn’t help but wonder what was inside, and whether his grandmother had kept all the fun things he had loved so much before.

She had. The first bin he checked was labeled “blocks”, and contained what had been Edison’s most favorite toy. Without much thinking about it, he took the bin out and dumped its contents on the floor. It was weird, he knew, an almost-12-year-old playing with blocks, but it didn’t feel weird. He should be ashamed, embarrassed – of the little kid room, of the toys, of the fact that he couldn’t he keep his underwear dry at night. But he wasn’t. Down here on the floor, his tower going up block by block, Edison felt perfectly wonderful (wet diaper and all).

Minas Tirith took longer than Edison had expected, and it must have been almost lunch time when Grandma Bird came up to check on him.

“Sorry, Grandma,” he said. “I sort of got carried away. I know it’s late.”

“Never apologize for a masterpiece,” Grandma said. “That’s amazing!”

“Thanks,” Edison said. “It’s from Lord of the Rings. Well, Lord of the Rings and my imagination. The parking garage wasn’t in the original.”

“Well, I think it’s wonderful,” Grandma said. “You have the soul of an architect.”

“I picked yesterday’s activity,” Grandma Bird said, “so I guess it’s your turn. What should we do today?”

“I’ve always wanted to see the middle of nowhere,” Edison said. “Can you take me up there?”

“It’s a pretty long hike,” Grandma Bird said. “You think you’re up for it?”

“I don’t know,” Edison said. “How about if I don’t make it, we try again next week?”

“Deal,” Grandma Bird said. “I’ll grab some lunch, you go get the truck ready.”

I was a long, somewhat difficult hike, but Edison made it. All the way there and back.

>>>> Saturday <<<<

Saturday morning Edison woke up dry, which at this point seemed like the unusual state. He had to go somewhat badly, but first he wanted to look for more blocks. He only needed a few more spires to be finished.

The first toy bin, the one labeled “Blocks”, was empty. Moving to down the line, he was surprised to find the next one said “Bears”. Somehow he hadn’t noticed it until now.

True to its name, the box was full of stuffed animals, most of which Edison recognized. At the bottom sat a large brown teddy bear with a fuzzy nose and inquisitive smile.

“Mr. Roofus!” Edison exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you in forever. How have you been? Do you want to see my castle?”

Edison showed the bear his creation, starting with the bottom and working his way up. He had just about finished the tour when Grandma Bird came in.

“Sorry,” she said. “I forgot to knock.”

“That’s ok,” Edison said. “What’s up?”

“Today’s the day,” Grandma Bird said. “We’re going into town. Time to get supplies for another week.”

“Already?” Edison said. “I can’t believe it.”

“I know,” Grandma Bird said. "Time flies. But I double checked, and it’s definitely Saturday, so we’d better get going.”

“Can Mr. Roofus come?” Edison said.

“Of course he can,” Grandma Bird said. “The more the merrier. We’ll leave as soon as you’re ready.”

“I’m ready now,” Edison said.

Grandma laughed. “You might want to put some pants on first.”

Edison looked down at himself, teddybear in hand, standing in front of a block tower wearing nothing but a wet pullup. He remembered now. He had been in the process of getting undressed when he had gotten distracted by the toys. That explained the lack of clothes. But he specifically remembered waking up dry. How had he wet while awake, and without even realizing it?

Grandma saw Edison’s surprised look and started laughing again. Edison, not quite sure what to think, decided he might as well laugh too.

“Pants.” Edison said. “Good idea. I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Edison spent most of the 45-minute drive working on the next week’s supply list. He and grandma talked over food they wanted to eat, home repairs they needed to do, and possible activities.

“Can I get a few more clothes?” Edison said. “I don’t think I packed enough.”

“Of course,” Grandma Bird said. “Not sure I know what’s in style for sixth graders these days…”

“Me neither,” Edison said. “But I’m sure I can find some stuff I like.”

“Then add it to the list,” Grandma said. “Edison shirts, pants, underwear. And speaking of, don’t forget to pick up another bag or two of, um-”

“Diapers,” Edison said. “Pull-ups. You can say it. I’m not embarrassed. Not anymore.”

At breakfast, Edison had a Mickey Mouse pancake and, at his grandmother’s encouragement, his first ever cup of coffee.

“My mom doesn’t let me have coffee,” Edison said. “She says it’s just for adults.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re mom isn’t here,” Grandma Bird said.

After a long and thorough shopping trip, there was only one task left before heading back to the homestead.

Edison was a bit nervous talking to his mom. It had only been five days, but it seemed like forever. He talked for fifteen solid minutes before she managed to get a word in.

“Can I assume from all that that you’re staying the whole month? You don’t want me drive up there tomorrow, right?” mom said.

“Actually,” Edison said, “I was going to ask about that. Do I really have to come home at the end of the month? Couldn’t I stay here all summer? Please, please? Grandma Bird is old and frail and needs someone to look after her.”

Mom laughed. “That might could be arranged. Put your grandmother on the phone.”

Edison jumped to dodge the bag of broccoli Grandma Bird had thrown at his head, then handed her the phone.

“That was fun,” Edison said on the drive back, “but I’m excited to get home.”

“Same here,” Grandma Bird said. “We still have some afternoon left. What do you think we should do today?”

“I was wondering,” Edison said, “if maybe we could try the driving lesson again.”

“I thought you said you weren’t old enough?” Grandma said.

“I wasn’t,” Edison said. “But I think, perhaps, maybe I am now. Plus I’ve got Mr. Roofus here to help me be brave.”

“Indeed,” Grandma Bird said. “Let’s do it!”

1 Like

Re: The Edge Of Nowhere

This is a nice setting, out with only the wind in the trees and the wildlife to disturb anyone. Just the place to get away from mean, nasty humans. I like the way Edison finds he can remember and resurrect his youth while still being grown up at the same time.

Re: The Edge Of Nowhere

Yeah, this was a delightful piece. Finding one’s self in the context of a lazy summer afternoon really speaks to the intent, I think, of the theme.

Re: The Edge Of Nowhere

There is something truly magical about spending the summer with one’s grandparent.
I love the element of abandoning the illusion of maturity for the pleasure of just having fun.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

Thanks for the kind words, guys. Disappointed that I didn’t win, but given the competition I think it was rightfully so. Still, I’m very happy with how it came together. Probably my best ABDL story so far. (That being said, further critique/suggestions are always welcome).

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

As far as critique, the only thing I could really say is to work on mixing up dialogue tags a bit. He said, she said, gets repetitive. You can emote so much more by saying how they said it; whether they yelled, whispered, sung, cooed, growled, etc; or whether it was soft, harsh, flat, etc; and as well, you can describe any actions or facial expressions, all within the confines of what can be considered dialogue tags.

Otherwise, there’s really nothing to complain about. You have a really nice little character arc, and it was fun to read.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

And I’m going to appeal to authority here and argue the exact opposite - or at least something tangential that is still diametrically opposed to this advice.

Don’t use dialogue tags at all. If you need to clarify who’s speaking, insert an action of some sort, be it subtle or overt. When there are only two speakers, once you identify the first in the sequence, the rest is in the rhythm of the dialogue, and there’s really no need to delineate them unless the back-and-forth gets disrupted. And when there are more than two speakers, adding actions instead of dialogue tags add a great deal more color and can still evoke the speech pattern you desire with a “show” instead of a “tell”. Like this, for example.


“Wait a minute! This has to be some kind of a joke!” Susy’s feet groped their way backward, her eyes fixed on the brightly-colored square in her mother’s hand.

“Do you see anyone laughing?” Mom gripped the thick disposable diaper tightly as she strode forward, and it rustled merrily in her hand in rhythm with her steps.

“But that’s a… A…” Susy couldn’t bring herself to name the object. She stumbled slightly, planting her hand on the wall to keep from landing on her fully saturated bottom.

“It’s a diaper! And it’s for you, since you can’t seem to be bothered to use the bathroom anymore!” Dad’s face was stone. Clearly Susy wasn’t getting any sympathy here from him.


See, no dialogue attributions necessary. It’s fairly clear who’s speaking, and I embellished the scene itself with descriptors instead of trying to invent a million different ways to say “yell” or “whisper”.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

[QUOTE=WBDaddy;70545]And I’m going to appeal to authority here and argue the exact opposite - or at least something tangential that is still diametrically opposed to this advice.

Don’t use dialogue tags at all. If you need to clarify who’s speaking, insert an action of some sort, be it subtle or overt. When there are only two speakers, once you identify the first in the sequence, the rest is in the rhythm of the dialogue, and there’s really no need to delineate them unless the back-and-forth gets disrupted. And when there are more than two speakers, adding actions instead of dialogue tags add a great deal more color and can still evoke the speech pattern you desire with a “show” instead of a “tell”. Like this, for example.


“Wait a minute! This has to be some kind of a joke!” Susy’s feet groped their way backward, her eyes fixed on the brightly-colored square in her mother’s hand.

“Do you see anyone laughing?” Mom gripped the thick disposable diaper tightly as she strode forward, and it rustled merrily in her hand in rhythm with her steps.

“But that’s a… A…” Susy couldn’t bring herself to name the object. She stumbled slightly, planting her hand on the wall to keep from landing on her fully saturated bottom.

“It’s a diaper! And it’s for you, since you can’t seem to be bothered to use the bathroom anymore!” Dad’s face was stone. Clearly Susy wasn’t getting any sympathy here from him.


See, no dialogue attributions necessary. It’s fairly clear who’s speaking, and I embellished the scene itself with descriptors instead of trying to invent a million different ways to say “yell” or “whisper”.[/QUOTE]

Well, I thought using the speaker’s name + verb constituted a dialogue tag, whether it was a speaking verb or not. I may or may not need to brush up on my definitions.

And yes, I would second what WBDaddy said over how I put it. Regardless, the quotation marks alone tell you that someone is speaking, the only thing beyond that needs to be defined is who; after that, you have compete freedom to spice it up and/or help it flow with the rest of the text.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

Well, the way I did it it’s more in line with the narrative flow, as opposed to “He yelled” or “She whined”. I know, a lot of my previous stories do this constantly. It’s a new leaf I’m trying to turn over, and in my early revisions, it’s really making an impact on the flow of the story in a very positive way.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

I actually really like the no tags thing. I used to do that a lot, but some of my early readers said it was hard to follow, so I stopped. I should try it again. I definitely see how it would have improved this story, especially since so much of it consists of the same two characters talking back and forth for long stretches.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

Actually, I’ve been mulling over what WBDaddy said. I took a section of a story I had, which had plain old dialogue tags and replaced all of it with simple actions and descriptions. I ended up changing almost nothing when came to the information conveyed, but everything read so much better after the change.

I’ve been struggling with dialogue for a while, there’s just been something about it that wasn’t quite right. This is that something.

WBDaddy, thanks for pointing this out, who knows how long I’d have been banging my head against the wall on this one. :slight_smile:

Still, regular dialogue tags aren’t the devil, so I wouldn’t say you should force them entirely out if your writing just for the sake of it. They have their place, but I think I can probably do ninety percent of my writing without them, possibly more.

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

engage creative writing teacher mode

No, regular dialogue tags “aren’t the devil.” However, they can often be the cause of lazy writing. When we try to convey action through tags we abdicate the writer’s responsibility to show that action to the reader. One classic example I used to use in my Creative Writing classes was the verb “to chortle” used as a tag. (This came from someone’s piece at some point, as in: "Oh, no, I don’t think you’ll need THAT one again," he chortled.)

Now, first of all: CHORTLED? Love the thesaurus creativity, dude, but come on, this is a word that calls attention to itself simply because it’s used so rarely. Second, the definition of “chortle” is “to laugh in a breath way, a combination of chuckle and snort.” Does this sound like a thing you could do while speaking? Heck, LAUGHING is hard enough to do while speaking. (Try it. If you are really laughing, your words just get lost in the laughter.) In other words, you are using your word incorrectly, which is the sad and unfortunate result that often befalls people who rely on a thesaurus. And third: come on, stop trying to do ten things at once. “To chortle” is an action. “To say” is an action. Both of these events seem to have occurred here, I guess. (Or maybe some other version of “to laugh.”) But they did not happen simultaneously, and you do yourself and your reader a disservice to pretend otherwise.

Thus:

“Oh, no, I don’t think you’ll need THAT one again,” he said, and walked away chortling under his breath.

Or:

“Oh, no, I don’t think you’ll need THAT one again.” Mills chortled as he walked away, the juvenile sound in deep contrast to the gravity of what his words were implying.

The lesson?

The BEST word that means “said” is…(are you ready?)…said. (I know, right?) It really doesn’t need or want to be dressed up. Other tag verbs are trying to accomplish two things at once, and just as physics says you can’t be in two places at the same time, you also can’t have two primary meanings at the same time. (Double entendres are secondary meanings.) But you’re right to desire not to overuse “said”; for that, use action tags, which suggest who is talking by juxtaposition with action.

end creative writing teacher mode

Re: The Edge of Nowhere

Thanks for the advice, create writing teacher kerry. I never got a chance to take a real creative w