This morning I asked my husband to duck-tape my wrists together. He raised his eyebrows, but he took the tape and gave my wrist two wraps. Frank is used to my strange demands which often involve a scene I’m writing. Today, I’m working on the climax of a new young adult novel in which a serial killer has taped my heroine’s wrists together. I watched a YouTube on how she could escape from this and wanted to try it. With two wraps of tape around my wrists, I raised my arms over my head, then in one quick movement, I brought my arms down, forcing my elbows to go past my ribcage. I freed myself. (I do have some bruises so if you try this, you might want to wear something for protection.)
Frank is not only used to my strange requests, but he’s often a good sport. Years ago, he agreed to accompany me on a twilight excursion to a beaver lodge near Briggsville’s Neenah Creek so I could rip a hole in it. I wanted to study the beavers and watch them repair the damage in order to flesh out a scene I was working on.
Once, he agreed to a family vacation to a Montana dude ranch. The cabin’s beds were terrible, the pool was nothing like the inviting one in the brochure, and the food was just so-so, but riding the horses through streams and up and down scary switchbacks (high in the hills) helped me with my story Thirty Pieces of Silver. My main character, Kayla,solves the mystery of who is slaughtering the wild horses.
My husband joined me on a northern Wisconsin bike ride so I could bog stomp on a spaghnum-laced mat complete with pitcher plants, sundew, and a beaver lodge. He was game, wore high boots, and sprang on the mat right along with me. When I approached the woods close to the beaver lodge and suddenly screamed, he thought I’d been attacked by a bear. I’d screamed because ground bees rose out of the beaver lodge, surrounded me, and stung me. He offered to ask a nearby fisherman if he had ice for my welts, seven or so, but I opted to bike home.
He also drove down a remote, sandy road so I could watch the herons in a rookery for a middle grade novel I was writing. Our van got stuck in the deep sand resulting in our needing to ask a pickup driver to pull us out.
Once, Frank accompanied me on a 150-mile drive so I could meet a 90-year-old woman, Hildegard, and pick up six luna moth caterpillars. I raised them to the cocoon stage and they hatched out, helping me add details to my picture book Follow Me Into the Night.
Frank also got up at 4:00 a.m. years ago to join me in recording the unison or guard calls of the territorial cranes during the spring Sand Hill Crane count. Cranes are featured in what I hope will be a long running series for second graders, The Podkins on Their Own, which will be published in the next year. The Podkins, an “undiscovered species,” are four-inch-high creatures with names like Snip and Bittersweet. They have big noses, webbed feet that are sticky like anoles, and smell like their names. They and their villagers are trying to escape the cold Wisconsin winter by riding on the back of migrating sandhill cranes. When the crane they’re on veers sharply, Snip and Bittersweet fall off and are left to try to survive the harsh Wisconsin winter on their own. Oh, the adventures they will have.
My husband has been a great sport, but he hasn’t always joined me on escapades. He didn’t accompany me when I got locked in the Oxford state prison with an inmate so I could ask him to authenticate a story about a young Lakota boy living out on the plains in the 1840s.
He didn’t join me when I hiked Isle Royale hoping to see wolves and moose and develop scenes for TAKE A HIKE, BRONTE, a middle grade novel I hope will soon find a home.
He flatly refused to join me in eating a raw oyster since he’d tried one years ago and had no desire to eat another. I managed to gag one down and was glad because now I knew what Annie, my protagonist in my new survival story, Stranded on Castaway Island, experienced.
Recently, I wrote a column about how reading memoirs allows a person to live multiple lives. Writing, too, allows me (and often my husband) to have multiple experiences. As I glace at our wedding picture, I suspect there will be more “duck-tape” requests in my long-suffering husband’s future. If you see the poor guy about town, offer him a conciliatory smile, would you? He deserves it.