Upon re-reading “Chapter One” and thinking about it, I am not satisfied with the ending of it. One, the description of Mary is brief, to say the least. Of course, she’s a ghost; how much fleshing out should I have done? Still, the scene ends abruptly and badly. It ends like I didn’t know what else to write and I put words in her mouth.
It’s true I didn’t know what else to write. The words, though, are Mary’s. She did say, “You are writing the wrong story,” and she told me that over and over again. I’ve had to really think about that. I thought I had a really good story planned. So who is Mary talking to? Is she telling the protagonist in the story, “You’re writing the wrong story”, or is she telling me, the author of the story?
Another problem is Mary’s language. I am of course speaking American English of the twenty-first century. Mary did not learn English until after she was twenty-five years old and a captive in England; she never did speak it very well. She spoke French, Scots, Latin, and Italian. French was the language in which she naturally spoke and wrote. So as Mary hovers before our protagonist (what is her name?) instead of telling her, “You are writing the wrong story!” shouldn’t she be instead be saying, “Vous écrivez l’histoire mal!”
If she chose to speak in Latin, since our as-yet unnamed protagonist is a university professor, and during the Renaissance, all professors taught in Latin, Mary would have said, “Scribis iniuriam fabula!”
But perhaps Mary wouldn’t have been able to tell that our protagonist was a professor, since she was coming in from hunting. Maybe Mary looked at our protagonist and thought she was a peasant or just someone way below her station in life. So perhaps she would have addressed her in Scots, the language of the common people. She would have said something like, “Yow air wryting th’ wrang tale!”
Whoever Mary is talking to and however she is saying it, her message is clear: I am writing the wrong story. As the protagonist (whom I haven’t even bothered to name) tells Mary, “I haven’t written anything in a long time.” So Mary must be talking to me.
I’ve hardly begun this story. I have a few other chapters that I haven’t posted because they’re not even done, but Mary Queen of Scots seems to think that I’m going in the wrong direction. (Before she was telling me I was writing the wrong story, she was telling me I was going in the wrong direction. Because the protagonist was going to say, “I know where I’m going; I’ve walked through these woods a hundred times.” Going in the wrong direction/writing the wrong story, it’s basically the same thing).
However, since Mary hasn’t bothered to come back and share any ideas on what to do, I’m doing to finish the other chapters and continue writing the story I have. Since it’s what I’ve got. If she wants to reappear and let me know what she thinks, well, I’m ready to hear it.
Today is Mary Queen of Scot’s 670th birthday !
It was a few days after Samhain when the rains stopped. It had rained for over a week with the latest “Storm of the Century”, and before that we had enjoyed warmer than usual temperatures. I taught my morning class, but I left my afternoon class in charge of an assistant and drove to the southerntier, where I had a hunting camp on a few acres which butted up next to the State Lands. I had long desired to retreat here permanently, but it was too far to drive on a daily basis. The cabin once belonged to my uncle, and was totally up to date with electricity and well water that didn’t smell and comfortable furnishings. I was surprised when he left the property to me in his will. But none of my siblings were interested in hunting and fishing, while I had always been one with Artemis.
It was still misty when I walked out to my tree stand. I never liked afternoon hunts, but there was nothing I could do about it; I got to go when I got to go. With the heat of the first week and the rain of the second, I hadn’t been able to hunt at all. Having practiced all summer, I knew my bowshot was accurate. I wanted to bring down a beautiful buck for my wall or a tasty doe for the freezer. Either way, I had the itch. My step quickened. Past the circle of birches I called the dancing ladies, along the creek bottom and up the hill.
I climbed into my stand and attached my harness. I set my bow on its hook and relaxed. Time to sit, to watch, to listen. Time to meditate, time to pray. Time to let go. The hours passed.
It was almost dark when I saw something. It was getting misty again. I was having trouble seeing; even there was a deer, even a buck, I didn’t know if I would shoot. I put up my binoculars to look. Whatever it was, it was way over by the dancing ladies … inside them, wandering around. What was that? Not a deer. I couldn’t tell what it was. I shook my head and took another look. There wasn’t anything there. I was getting tired; it was time to go.
I walked back in near darkness. I had a small mag flashlight but I had walked this way so many times I really didn’t need it. I was proud of my ability to walk in the woods in the dark. But, just in case, I kept my hand on it, snug in my pocket. You never know. Just in case.
When I approached the circle of birches, I stopped. There was something there. What was it? Another hunter? What was another hunter doing on my land? It was posted and I hadn’t given anyone permission to hunt. Even if he was tracking a deer, my cell number was clearly printed on every sign, he could have the curtesy to call. I mean, give me a fucking break. Now I was glad I had my mag light and I pulled it out my pocket, turning it on immediately. I went forward, all righteously pissed off. Then I stopped dead in my tracks.
It was Mary Queen of Scots.
She was dressed in a steel grey dress streaked with brown and black stripes of – what? Dirt? Mud? Or was it part of the fabric? I couldn’t tell. She blended in with the woods as well as my Mossy Oak. Even better, since she was a hologram.
“You are writing the wrong story,” she said.
“I’m hunting,” I replied.
“You are writing the wrong story,” she repeated.
“I haven’t written anything in a long time,” I argued.
“You are writing the wrong story,” and then she was gone.
I watched a Tudors marathon the day after I received radiation, stretched out on my couch, feeling sick and drowsy, but loving the English Renaissance. I was sad when it was over, wishing that they had continued into Edward’s and Mary’s and Elizabeth’s reigns. It got me to thinking that there should be a drama about the Stuarts. At the very least, a new one about Mary.
I started reading the books I had on my own shelves about Mary, and it struck me, the vast difference between the factual Mary and the fictional Mary. The factual Mary, depending on which biography you read, loved Darnley and lost her love for him, or didn’t love Darnley, but she most definitely did not love Bothwell. The fictional Mary always loved Bothwell, even if she was raped by him and treated badly by him. Th factual Mary was supportive of the Protestant Kirk, to the point of losing the support of the Pope. The fictional Mary was a devoted Catholic.
I have spent the remainder of the summer reading books about Mary, and I have only scratched the surface. Some of these books are very good, and some are terrible. I am also watching the movies made about her.
Meanwhile, I am working on my own story about Mary. I’ll post bits and pieces as I write them, and my research. I hope you are as interested in this subject as I am!