Saturday, March 26, 2011

How's this?

So tell me. Does this grab you as the opening scene for a novel, or not? Honest opinions please.

The piercing sound of the alarm finally penetrated his dreams and he began to wake to reality once again. Four-thirty in the morning was too early for most people and he needed some time to wake up. The anticipation of this day had made it difficult for him to fall asleep the night before; that and the torturous lumps of his parents old couch, on which he had spent the last three nights. But he was awake now, all dreams and visions gone from his mind.

He sat up and slowly pushed his out-of-shape body off the couch and started towards the kitchen to make coffee, banging his shin on the coffee table that his brother had made for their parents in tenth grade.

He held back the word that came to his lips, can’t say those things in mother’s house, and limped into the kitchen. He found the coffee and the filters in the same cabinet his mother had kept them in for the 28 years his parents had lived in this house, and started the brand new coffee maker brewing a fresh pot.

Coffee makers did not last long in this house at the rate that his father drank the stuff, and he was usually safe in buying them a new one at least every other Christmas, if not more. If the last one hadn’t given up the ghost by then, it probably wouldn’t be much longer. And then his mother would have his father climb the pull-down stairs to the attic to retrieve one of the fresh new coffee makers that sat up there in the darkness, still in their boxes, just waiting to be put to use.

These thoughts ran through his mind as he watched the dark liquid begin to fill the bright glass pot and realized that he had other business to take care of right now. He headed down the hall, so familiar there was no need to turn on the lights, and turned into the hall bathroom his mother kept fresh and clean for the frequent guests that came to visit. He stood before the commode, trying to aim his stream. He certainly did not want to splash anywhere in here. He was startled by the memories that came flooding back to him; the days that his mother and father had spent training him in all the little things that make a boy into a man.

And here he was, a man in his parents’ house, no longer the child who needed training. His own wife and children asleep in the back bedroom his parents kept as a guest room. He moved about in the familiar darkness, doing the things a man does when he is the only one awake in the early morning hours.

He finished in the bathroom, dried his hands on the small guest towel his mother kept hanging by the sink, and went back towards the kitchen. The coffee should just about be finished by now and he found that he needed the familiarity of that domestic habit, on this day in particular.

He poured the strong brew into the old travel mug that he carried with him wherever he went, and sat at the kitchen table. It was his desire to leave his family a short note before he started out and he was glad for the quiet that allowed him to focus his thoughts, but his thoughts were slow in coming. And as he sat in the stillness, pen in hand, paper and coffee on the Formica tabletop before him, he thought of the course that he was to begin on this day, and the possibilities it might bring back to his wife and children, and of all the joy that they had shared already as a family. And he wondered if his decision to embark on this campaign would bring some of that joy back. Or would it bring about their destruction?

In the end, he decided a short note telling them that he loved them and hoped to be back soon would be enough. He folded the note into thirds, wrote his wife and children’s names on it, and propped it against the napkin holder, which was shaped like a duck from a children’s book, and which his mother kept in the center of the kitchen table. They would be sure to see it there when they sat down with his parents for breakfast in a few hours. By that time, he hoped to be halfway across the state, heading east.

His note left, his bags having been packed the night before, he found that there was nothing more keeping him from starting out. It was time. Today was the day that he had been working towards for so many months, if not years, and it could not be put off any longer. He went to the front coat closet and got his old leather coat. He would need the warmth of this old coat this morning, and in the days to come. The mornings were still chilly in March here in central Texas and the smell of this old coat kept the memories of home close.

He picked up his small duffel bag of clothes, grabbed his travel mug off the kitchen table, opened the kitchen door that led out to the carport and his parents’ driveway, went outside and pulled the door shut quietly behind him. He stood in the driveway in front of his pickup and looked up at the bright stars overhead. He knew that he was being slow about getting started on his journey and that he was only putting off the inevitable. Still, he stared a few moments and allowed his mind to traipse back over the years. Back to the early years of joy and happiness, the wonderful births of his children, the usual financial struggles that came with young children and young parents. And then the later years came. The months and years of pain and of fear and of anger and betrayal.

He hoped that this expedition would bring an end to those years of turmoil, and that maybe, just maybe, it would set things right. But maybe not. Either way, this was as good a day to get started as any. This was as good a day to fix things as any other day. This was as good a day as any to kill some people. If not today, than when?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A conversation with Preston

Preston is getting ready for school this morning. I'm standing there watching him making sure he keeps moving. He is putting on shoes.

Preston: I like to just slip my shoes on without untying them.
Me: I do too. Mostly because I'm fat and I can't breathe when I bend over to tie them.
Preston: Dad, your not fat.
Me: Yes I am. As a matter of fact according to the american medical association I am obese.
Preston: Obese?
Me: Yes.
Preston: You mean obtuse?
Me: That too.
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