Dragonhaven - By Robin McKinley

I keep having these conversations with Dad.

I'm at my computer. He says, "What are you doing?"

I mutter something, because the screen has a lot of squiggles on it so he already knows what I'm doing.

"Have you started on it yet, Jake?"

"No," I say, probably more belligerently than I mean to. But we've had this conversation so often.

Dad sighs. "Jake, I know I'm nagging you. But it's important."

"So is the dictionary important!"

"It's not important to anyone but you if only you can read it," says Dad. I glare at him, because he knows that I know that he knows it is important. But that also it's an excuse.

"I don't know how to write it," I mutter. Like, just by the way, I do know how to write my dictionary. Which I don't either. In spite of the fancy graphics package.

"That doesn't matter. Just write it." He tries to make a joke. "Your spelling is pretty good."

"I don't know how - I can't make it a story!" I shout, or rather, I don't shout, I sort of hiss it through clenched teeth. I want to shout. "It's not . . . It doesn't have . . . There's no . . ." I can't think how to finish. I can't think how to begin.

"It doesn't have to be a story. It doesn't have to be anything. Just put down what happened. Don't call it anything."

Yeah, right. Make pizza without tomato sauce and mozzarella, just don't call it pizza and you'll be fine. What's the use of pizza without tomato sauce and mozzarella? Like Alice said before she saw the White Rabbit: "What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?" Although the pictures are covered really well elsewhere, and the new coffee-table, drop-it-on-your-foot-and-spend-the-rest-of-your-life-on-crutches art-book version is coming out soon. Text, I have to say, by some chucklehead sensitive type. Yuck. The thought of it is one of the things that's getting me going here finally. The sensitive version will probably be way too much like a story. A fairy tale.

But who lives a story, you know? With chapters and things. And as a fairy-tale hero if someone gave me a vorpal blade I'd probably stick it in my foot. Or get lost in the mimsy borogroves. Life is just one day after another, even when the days are really, really strange.

Dad looks at me. I look at him. We both know what we're both thinking. I prod a couple of keys and make the squiggles go squigglier. "Just do the best you can," Dad says, really gently. "You're the only one who can tell it at all."

Yes. That's the awful thundering can't-get-around-it thing. I'm the only one who can tell you about Lois. And the only way I can tell Lois' story is through me. I feel like starting by saying, I'm not a crazed egomaniac! Really I'm not! I am a crazed Lois-iac. Joke. Sort of. But it's not only the freaking hard work of trying to write it all out coherently that is stopping me now. I don't want to go back there. I've got used to . . . like being able to look out windows again and not worry about what I might see.

Also a lot of the stuff that's about me is stuff I don't want to tell anyone. It's also a lot about Dad and me, and I don't want to tell those parts either, down on paper and everything, where he can read them. Which he will.

I may not know how to write my dictionary, but at least it's not embarrassing.

There's another problem (I should make a list): I don't remember every day as every day, as different from the day before and the day after. Sure, I kept notes - I kept lots and lots of notes - but I seem to have left a lot of stuff out. All the connecting bits. All the conversations. All the sane bits, if there were any sane bits. I was just trying to stay alive, those days, keep Lois and me alive. And I wasn't thinking in terms of needing to make a story out of it later on.

And I sure don't remember every conversation I've had in the last four years. I remember a few of them - the ones that really got to me for one reason or another - but mostly, who remembers? Not me. And I bet not you either.