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The Ups and Downs of Skeeter Kitefly
Skeeter Kitefly's Sugardaddy Confessor
I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.
Organizing my fast-accumulating notes in July 1990, I noted a "definite shift from 'doomed' view of Skeeter to skyrockety-intense 'supergirl.'"
During the development of "Demon Bag Lady," Skeeter's appealing plea "Won't you be my sugardaddy?" led to "There was no denying Skeeter was in need of a financial sponsor," with the latter two words bracketed. As a character this sponsor got launched with no name, but advanced from a single "Daddy Warbucks" reference to Father Warbucks, then to Père Warbucks, and finally to PADRE Warbucks.
In my notes for new Skeeter stories, I speculated that "Padre W. works—not his dayjob—as ... a CARICATURIST—meets Skeeter in connection with? inspired to try a Skeeter comic strip?" This cardinal concept shone a piercing light on the nature and function of "Padre Warbucks" in the overall narrative—as did my identifying him with Peyton Derente, the Wizard of Schnoz.
Originally headlining the musical You're Up Against the Wizard in 1973, the Outlandish Wizard of Schnoz ("a first-rate sorcerer, second-rate soothsayer, and third-rate exorcist") resurfaced in 1980, needing a "real" name. Schnoz suggested the great Durante; a few altered letters produced DeRente; the demands of punniness made the first name obvious; so PAYT DERENTE stood forth—nose first, needless to say. Two years later he made his narrative debut in Derelict Days:
(The similarity to Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty was of course intentional; though not till 1995 would Peyton acquire a shaven pate, egghead style; and that would be as a Warbucks/Kojak takeoff.)
At the end of July 1990 I laid out my first table of contents of The Ruby Hot Stuff: Skeeter Kitefly:
I then added "Merely SAD" as an introductory story—"Have Padre meet Skeeter and they go off to a scary movie—the OPENER of Ruby Hot Stuff"—and resurrected Jim Midge (though not his singing and dancing) for "a rather scary story directly descended from the old Elohssa Decaftihs Shining Show."
During this uncongealed period other ideas arose, were combined and redivided, laid aside and taken up again. The first numbering of chapters (as chapters) took place in October 1990, with "Ruby Hotstuff/ Skeeter Kitefly" becoming the closer:
The fundamental structure of Skeeter Kitefly was now in place, despite "Two Points" being temporarily removed, "The Skeeter Cuckoo" not having yet found an identity (as "Angelmaking"), and there being a six-year gap in the plotline. The chapters themselves would continue to be laid out and written as independent stories, giving the narrative an episodic quality that would eventually require remedial treatment. For the time being I made Skeeter—about to begin telling the story of her life—warn Padre Warbucks: "I jump around a lot." ("I'll take that into consideration," he replies.)
As work proceeded over the next year, "Two
Points" was restored along with the date-&-dance story "Bonum Vivant" (later
"Little Artful Antics"), plus new chapters "Surrogate Fun" (later "Fine
Lines") and "Since My Last Confession" (returning us from Skeeter's past
history to the present day, i.e. 1983).
"Spookacious" introduced The Dough Girl, Pamela Pillsbury. She and Skeeter were to some extent twins—their characteristics having coexisted (1984-88) in Melissa Chicale/Peaches Beckett. Now high school classmates and overarch rivals, their close resemblance stoked the girls’s mutual antagonism. Pam reappeared in "Projectile," as did Sally Whistletoe in a sizable cameo.
In January 1992 I divided the Skeeter Kitefly novel (then twenty chapters) into four parts:
• The Connections (Chapter I, "Merely
By this time the newly-written chapters were becoming so lengthy, and so intertwined with earlier entries, as to discourage their being submitted to literary magazines as stand-alone stories. "ELOHSSA DECAFTIHS" weighed in as the longest Skeeter chapter yet; and as a traumatic turning point for both our heroine and her bass-ackwards mystery man:
"'That Was Sven, This Is Mao'" (the very first Skeeter prose vehicle, though completed a couple of weeks after "Initially Illustrated") waxed and waned over the years. Originally it was to end with Skeeter meeting Padre Warbucks; at another point it incorporated the Jim Midge story. "Sven/Mao" took on a calculated vagueness, deliberately blurring the period 1980-83: "Skeeter fearing transience and passing-forgotten because of 'sins' (frivolity, flightiness) ... rather shallow before, certainly not introspective; now flounders in the deep end."
So abundant had the "Demon Bag Lady" drafts been that they furnished a separate hospital-and-health-club tale back in June 1990—"Kitefly in the Ointment," featuring the "punk-haired, sly-eyed girl" RoBynne O’Ring. Over two years in the making, "Ointment" proved recalcitrant when draftwork began and had to be set aside for a month. During this interlude I reread all the completed chapters, listing themes and common threads together with needed corrections and alterations. In the process several chapters got retitled and rewritten. Returning refreshed to "Ointment," I injected a sizable dose of "Skeeter with Castanets On" (here epitomizing Skeeter’s fear of burnout) and brought the chapter to completion a week later.
By way of contrast, "Since My Last Confession" took a mere eighteen days to write. Here we returned to present-day 1983, and to Peyton's point of view for the first time since "Merely SAD." Skeeter’s confessions are over and we have moved into "The Confusions." Among its most confused was Peyton's "ex-everything" Joyce Finian, whose sad story in "Fine Lines" surpassed "ELOHSSA DECAFTIHS" lengthwise and depthwise:
In "The Conclusions" Peyton hits upon the idea for the comic strip Ruby Hotstuff, using Skeeter's life "as a BASIS for Art—giving the life a focus ... and himself an outlet and vehicle." In which Ruby gets her own sugardaddy confessor, Ty Kuhn, who in turn would create an author named Fred who would write stories about Li'l Bitsy, the girl of his dreams; and so on and on ad infinitum:
"Ruby Hotstuff" was completed in June 1993. The rest of the year was given over to a combo-revision of all twenty-three chapters, patching them together into a single cohesive document. Further rewritten, repolished, and reprinted on New Year’s Eve 1993, The Connections, Confessions, Confusions, and Conclusions of SKEETER KITEFLY weighed in at 98,500 words—an ominously onerous count, yet one pertaining to a bona fide full-length novel FINISHED and DONE WITH.
Or so I thought at the time.
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