Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Word Count Wednesday: Fact to Fiction

If you’ve been reading my posts, you already know a little about Joe and Shirley, the original owners of the Door County coffee shop called Shirley’s Cuppa Joe. You know the couple has had to face some health issues. Shirley found a lump on her breast.

I expected some health concerns when I started writing the story. At first I thought perhaps Joe had a heart condition. He is in his seventies. Not an unlikely story. I know quite a bit about heart issues men face. My own husband had his first heart attack when he was 47 years old. Well, I discovered this past week that Joe is diabetic. No, the doctor didn’t tell me. I learned it in a rather unusual way.

Last fall I wrote two freelance pieces for the Home Health Aide Digest. The first was on medicines used during hospice care and the second was about the safe lifting and transfer of stroke patients. I really didn’t know much about either one, but used my resources and research skills to deliver the articles.

A few weeks ago, the editor contacted me asking if I would be interested in writing an article on neuropathy. She wanted me to focus on what the home health aide could do to help a client with neuropathy in the feet feel more comfortable and safe. After doing a bit of initial exploration and research on the internet, I accepted the job.

Neuropathy is when nerves are damaged. For the article I was asked to write, the focus was on damage to sensory nerves or motor nerves. The person may lose sensitivity to pain, extreme temperatures, or injury. The person can also lose mobility. The symptoms usually first appear in the feet and sometimes the hands. A leading cause of neuropathy is diabetes. I researched the condition and intrigued, I did a bit of research on diabetes. Yep, that’s when I came to realize Joe was a diabetic.

When Joe is in a health care unit, Sonja visits the man who started the coffee shop. Consider the following excerpt. I think it tells you a bit about both Sonja and Joe.

“I found what looks to be a recipe for coffee written on the cover of the instruction manual for the airpot brewer, but I can’t figure it out,” Sonja said. “It says ‘3CCR for every 1CFCR’ and under that it says ‘3pslt LRG or one pslt S.’ Does that make any sense to you?”

            “Not the way you’re readin’ it,” Joe told her. “Here, let me see that.”

Joe took the manual in his left hand and brought it up close to his face while with his right he fished for a pair of glasses. They were hanging around his neck with a cord. He moved his eyes over the cover through the thick glasses, adjusting the writing one direction or the other from time to time. He seemed to be studying each letter carefully. Sonja realized he was nearly blind. She was beginning to regret having brought this problem to him when he suddenly put the paper down with a laugh.

            “That’s Shirley’s writing,” he declared. “That’s how she made coffee.”

That much Sonja had figured out. She wasn’t annoyed, though. Joe seemed so happy to see his wife’s writing. Sonja could imagine Shirley experimenting with the new coffee maker, trying the best combinations to perfect her brew. She could imagine her predecessor triumphantly writing down the recipe once she and Joe had declared this combination the best. Sonja wasn’t sure, but she thought Joe was reliving that day as well.

“What does it mean?” Sonja asked. She hoped he knew. She hoped he would share.

Joe pulled the manual back up to his face. “Three cups of Columbian roast for every one cup of French Columbian roast,” Joe grinned. “And here’s the secret. Three pinches of salt if you’re making the large pot full up and one pinch of salt if you’re making the half size one. That’s all there is to it.”

            “Salt? Really?” Sonja questioned.

“Yep. Salt. But,” Joe lowered his voice to a whisper, “I wouldn’t go around shoutin’ it out to everybody. Gotta have some trade secrets, right?”

“Right,” Sonja smiled. She decided not to tell him she was on her way to a trade show where professionals would pass on their own trade secrets. Secrets she trusted more than the memory of this old man. However, when she looked at the writing on the cover, Joe’s explanation made sense. It may be worth a try.

Sonja picked up one of the western novels Joe set on the table beside him. “I don’t have long, but would you like me to read some to you?” she offered.

So where am I now for Word Count Wednesday? I have 22,581 words...but I think I should warn you, as sweet a person as Sonja appears to be, she is, like the rest of us, flawed. I sense a turning point heading her way.

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