Occasionally people ask me how the editing process worked for The Well and the Mine–how much did I have to change or cut or add. They expect me to say it was miserable. The truth is that it was an all-around pleasant process–my editor, Kate Sage, had a great eye and ear. I don’t think I disagreed with a single suggestion she made. There’s something incredibly satisfying about reading criticism and thinking, “Yes. Exactly! I did screw up here and it would work so much better the other way.” Dead-on criticism is a tremendous gift.
But I got off track. For the most part, I only added material to the novel for the final publication. Very little cutting. The one entirely cut scene was of Virgie watching an outdoor basketball game. I had someone say they’d like to read it, so I thought I’d post it–at least part of it–here. The first time these words have seen the light of day…
Tom sat on the ground a good foot away from me, and still I wanted to scootch away a little toward Ella. Then I felt bad and tried to think more kindly about Tom. He didn’t make me nervous. But I had a feeling everybody had noticed I was here with a boy for the first time. Sitting at a ball game was more personal than a walk. It took longer for one thing. And there were more people. What I wouldn’t have given to just sit between Ella and Lois, with the boys sitting off to themselves. I knew what Ella would say if I suggested that. She’d gotten her way as usual, and here we all were.
So instead I made due with Tom, smiling at him occasionally, glad he seemed to be fascinated by the game. The boys from both teams ran up and down the dirt court, all in cut-off trousers with belts, most with the sleeves cut off their shirts. A couple of our boys had CHHS sewed across their chests. They were supposed to have either red or white shirts, but mostly it was a hodgepodge, sort of like the game itself. Tom made a comment from time to time about the score or the defense or the shooting, and I nodded and tried to look interested. But my interest wasn’t on the basketball. It was right enjoyable to be out with everybody, with everybody cheering—we were playing against Guin—people stopping by to say hello, the smell of popcorn and an RC Cola to sip. Tom had bought us both one as soon as we sat down. At first it burned my throat a little, but I started to like the taste, so much sharper than tea or juice.
We were on a thick patch of grass, completely dry, so I didn’t have to worry about getting my dress dirty. And, really, people didn’t exactly stop to say hello. They couldn’t because they’d block the other people’s view, so we got to wave and smile and exchange a word or two, but we didn’t have to bother with long, drawn-out conversations. I didn’t get stuck after, “I haven’t seen you for ages” or “I sure was afraid it was going to rain.”
“Foul!” yelled Tom, which gave me a start. “Sorry,” he added, grinning at me. “We get two free shots now.”
I played on the girls’ team at school—I was a center—so I understood about fouls. But he seemed to enjoy explaining it to me.
I watched the shot, and the sight of that ball going clean through the net was much more appealing to me than all the bustle once the boys started running around. Why, I wondered, couldn’t this be the whole game, to line up and take turns shooting the ball? But they jumped up like dogs after a rabbit as soon as the second shot bounced off the board instead of going in the net.
“Virgie, that’s a gorgeous skirt,” said a girl that was friends with Lois. She was gone to another row before I’d gotten out a “thank-you.”
People always complimented me and my cousin, Naomi, on our smart skirts, but truth was they came from britches Naomi’s brothers had outgrown. Mama and Aunt Merilyn would slit the trouser legs so there were four sections of cloth, then re-sew them together in one piece. They both had such fine, small stitches that no one ever noticed.
“So you like basketball?” asked Tom.
So as not to look at him so close eye-to-eye, I watched the game, and I saw one of our boys make a basket from nearly halfway across the court. I started to clap, but Tom was on his feet, hooting with his hands cupped around his mouth. When he sat back down, he was only half a foot away, and I couldn’t scoot much further, or I’d be on top of Ella. On the field, the Guin boy with the ball had his face lifted like he’d caught a sniff of something.
“What’s he doing?” I asked.
“Wind changed,” he said. I must’ve looked confused, because he licked a finger and stuck it in the air. “They’d have checked the wind at the beginning of the game, but it’s blowin’ different now.”
“How’d you know that?”
He looked sheepish, and his smile was aimed around my feet. “Well, your hair was blowing over there towards Ella when we got here. Now it’s sort of hitting you in the face.”
That seemed like a perfectly reasonable comment to me, but since he seemed embarrassed, if made me wonder if I’d missed something. So I only said, “Oh,” and didn’t look straight at him either.