Monday, December 28, 2054

Chapter Three

When we were little, Grandpa used to take Rachel and I to a Jewish nursing home a few times a year to visit the old people. Nowadays, no one is old, crippled, mentally retarded or any other distasteful thing; they’re all variously challenged. I’m not going to pass judgment on whether or not that’s a good or a bad thing but I sure as hell think it sounds dorky. Anyway, I always thought it was really strange to visit a bunch of people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me but they’d just grab us, plop us on their laps and read us stories like we were next of kin. The fact is, I dreaded these visits. Getting sloppy wet kisses from strangers who smelled funny was not high on my list of how to spend a sunny afternoon. Grandpa tried to explain that it didn’t matter whether or not we enjoyed the visit; we were there to do a “mitzvah”, a good deed. Most of the residents had little or no contact with their own families and the only thing that mattered was that they enjoyed the visits.

As I was getting into the car with Rachel for the ride home, the memory of that talk came back to me so clearly I stopped in my tracks for a moment. I guess somewhere along the line, the lesson must have sunk in. I realized that all I had done was a mitzvah, although on a somewhat larger scale. I had the clearest vision of Grandpa I’d had in years and had a small private smile, thinking He would have been proud of me.

Before I had the chance to get too smug, Rachel started the car and the radio came on, tuned to one of the A.M. talk stations. The conversation was about me; some guy saying, “That man’s selfless act is an example of the best America has to offer”.

I reddened and punched the “seek” button as quick as I could reach it. The next station was talking about me. And the next. And the next after that.

The next one had a commercial for one of those mortgage loan companies that sign up people with horrible credit and then take their homes 8 months later when they can’t make the payments. Surprise, surprise. When the commercial finished, the host came back on saying, “Well, we’ve got the latest on the ‘Beltway Hero’, Paul Harkness, who was released just moments ago from Sibley Memorial Hospital. Randi Mansfield is standing by live”.

“Thanks Reggie”, the reporter replied. “Yes, I’m here at Sibley Memorial Hospital where, as you say, just moments ago, Paul Harkness was discharged and left the premises with his sister. Here’s what he had to say”.

Then I listened blankly to Rachel and myself from just moments ago. I said to Rachel, “This is the most bizarre thing ever. Guess I better exercise some real self control. If I fart in public they’re liable to break in with a special report to play it back”.

Rachel smiled and said, “It’ll all die down in a couple of days. They’ll forget all about you as soon as Brittney Spears takes another drive to the coffee shop”.

As I flipped though the stations, I remember feeling some relief at the thought and hoping Brittney was, at that very moment, jonesing for a ‘Grande double caffe, half & half, latte'. And don’t forget the kids, dear.

I turned to the right, partly to watch the scenery going by, mostly to avoid Rachel’s gaze. The day had begun so normally. The usual routine. And there are few things quite so enjoyable as carrying on your usual routine on one of the few spring days D.C. is allotted. When winter finally gives up its grip on this part of the country, we’re rewarded with, at most, a week of beautiful spring weather. Then, the weather, having no respect for what the calendar says, closes in with our own version of summer. A D.C. summer is a physical being with weight and substance; close, sodden, relentlessly hot. It occurred to me that I had just lost one of those precious spring days. Having little hope of enjoying the next few days, I eagerly settled into a childish pout.

I went back to scanning the radio and settled on an oldies station playing the Stones. You can’t always get what you want. Well, you can say that again.


Arachne Jericho said...

By the way, I forgot to comment earlier here, but this part is good.

I think your beginning definitely needs work. The rest seems to be shaping up fine so far.

Will see if I can comment later this evening; I might not be able to. I have time commitments on my own blog. :)

Arachne Jericho said...

Once again: just my opinion. I should have said "I think this part is good." Apologies.

Nathan said...

arachne jericho

Couple of things:

My comment after chapter one was meant to be a little snarky. "See how I've sucked you in" needed a little smiley.

Please don't feel the need to remind me that its "only your opinion". I put this out there and asked for input. I really do appreciate it. Also, I'm pretty thick skinned. No need to walk on eggshells here.

Lastly, you may be 100% right about the first chapter, but I'd like to hear from more of the peanut gallery before I decide. There actually is something I was trying to achieve there, and obviously I think I did. Its also entirely possible that I'm just to close to it.

After a few more people have weighed in, I'll tell you what I was trying to establish.

Once again, I really do appreciate the comments. Thanks for taking the time to read and post.

Arachne Jericho said...

Very sensible to wait for more opinions.

I'll be looking forwards to more!

(See, now you've got me.)

Jeri said...

I agree, this section also flows well. It has good pacing, good dialogue, and a nice balance of internal voice vs. other story elements.

I'll definitely keep reading.

I'll also upload an excerpt from my novel (which I guess I should start editing now that it's January) and let you know the link. It's only fair. ;)

Nathan said...

Jeri said after Chapter Two:

"On the structural thing - I would guess that it's either the fact that it's a dialogue-oriented chapter following a description-oriented chapter"

Close, but still no nap for you! Once you read Chapter Four coming tomorrow to a screen near you, I think it will become obvious.

I kept telling arachne jericho I wanted to wait for more opinions before commenting on Chapter One, but I can't hold off any longer.

What I was trying to do (and now I've got two of you telling me I've missed the boat), is to give a fairly extensive introduction to Paul. One of the key things about Paul is that he over-thinks things. He's a little scattered. And he can't keep from interrupting himself from the story at hand when he's distracted. Oooh, shiny!

With that in mind, I like the elements I've introduced and don't want to toss them. Are you guys saying I should save them but scatter them later in the story?

Are there some that you felt were key to that chapter and others that could wait?

BTW Jeri, I had to interrupt reading your blog three times because of email coming in saying you'd commented. I'll go back over there and comment on your latest.

And for everyone else. Hopefully, in the next couple of days, I'll figure out enough coding so that I can collapse the chapters and make the site easier to navigate.

Jeri said...

LOL funny... I've done that before too, been in someone's blog the same time they're in mine.

Anyway - should you be interested, here's a link to my novel excerpt. It's not yet linked from my main page - but those who find it are welcome to read it.