Recently, I've started rewriting a story I have attempted to write twice before (most novel ideas start like this for me). While my current project has been inspired by Cormac McCarthy's writing, I've found myself writing something that delves a lot deeper than what the original story was intended to do (an action story like "Last Action Hero", yes, THAT movie). I had a lot of ideas going for what I wanted to do with the characters, mainly the MC because my antagonist gained so much power through re-conception. This wasn't intentional, it just happened. While reading one night, I happened upon a new idea. It wrote it down and started adding details and came to realization that the story concept was simply MASSIVE. I also realized I didn't want to deal with character development either, thus the fate of my MC, and even my antagonist, was decided. I am working on a novel with a conceptual sequel idea written in my idea/dream book. I would like to do a third novel to make it a trilogy, but one step at a time.
Annnnnnnnnyway, here is the point. I have been writing the novel for a little while now. On September 11th, I wrote a stand alone piece that was intended for character development of my MC. It was also inspired by the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. As I went back and read over it (this is after I came up with the idea for a second book), I found myself saying wow to myself. The segment not only captured in essence the tone of the first book but also hints at what is going to happen in the second book. It's things like this that makes me love writing with a passion. Writing is just like Stephen King said, "Digging up a fossil," you discover a little bit at a time and it takes time to dig up what you have discovered.
Okay, I'm done yacking here. Had to get caught up. I will post more. I have a lot of little short stories to share, but for now, check out this character intro of my MC and his father. Enjoy!! :D
Michael Bender sat down across from his father in the small café outside Del Rio County and looked over the place; small and empty save for themselves. The large landscape window at the entrance breathed cold air from outside. The floorboards were cracked, warped, and rotting away. Nail heads protruded and raised the potential of snagging people’s jeans and boots if they didn’t watch their step. The booth’s cushion was heavily worn with it protruding from the corners like something had chewed it open and ripped the guts out. The waitress came along. She was middle aged with gray lining her hair she had tried to cover up with blonde streaks. She wore it in a tight pony tail. Her face was haggard and worn like old leather. Her eye liner was uneven. Her lipstick, once fresh at the start of her shift, had faded and exposed the wrinkled slim lips on a two pack a day smoker. Her voice was husky and dry.
“What will you folks be havin’?” She asked.
Michael took the single laminated menu from the wire holders against the wall when his father, Charlie, spoke.
“We’ll have two pieces of toast with butter ‘n preserves ‘n two coffees black,” She scribbled the order on her tattered note pad and stuffed it absently in her filthy stained apron and walked away. Michael looked at his father, the menu still held in his hand.
“Don’t go givin’ me that look boy, you ain’t want nothing to do with this place’s cookin,” He said and Michael set the menu back in the rack. Charlie wore a blue and black checkered shirt and reached in his breast pocket and took out a pack of Camels and began smacking them against his hand. Michael gestured to them.
“Those things will kill you,” He said.
Charlie tore away the cellophane and took out a cigarette and popped it in his mouth. “Boy, when I want your opinion on somethin I’ll ask,” He said and put the cigarettes back and dug in his pocket for his Zippo lighter. He withdrew it, lit up, then took a long pull of his cigarette and let out a thin stream of smoke that hung over them like a dark cloud covering the sun on a warm day. They sat in silence for a while when Charlie jerked his chin at his son.
“How’s workin for the government?” he said.
“You like it?”
Michael didn’t answer.
The waitress came with their food and coffee and set them down then left without a word spoken. Michael looked at the black coffee sitting in front of him. He stared at his reflection and looked at the dark circles under his eyes, the stubble on his face. He placed his hands on the table and kept his eyes there as if to hope for something greater to happen, as if he were to stare long enough he could wish away his doubt or maybe bring the day purpose when he couldn’t in the world.
“You stare at the coffee long enough it might do a trick,” Charlie said, raising the cup to his lips and sipping, he set it down. Michael reached for the spoon and stirred his coffee even though there was nothing to stir. Charlie watched his son for a long time with discerning eyes.
“You gonna tell me what’s got you all bundled up?”
Michael stopped stirring and set the spoon on the table lightly and picked up the cup and sipped. He set it down and stared at the untouched blackened burnt toast in front of him. “What do you think pops?”
“About the world,”
Charlie looked at his boy without blinking. “You ain’t tryin to get at me with that ‘what’s the purpose of life’ shit are ya?”
“I’m talking about what you see in the news. You know, the state of the country, the things going on, you must have an opinion.”
“Yessir, I do,”
Michael held out his hands, waiting.
Charlie took a long sip of his coffee and looked at his son over the rim. He set it down and took a piece of toast, cut it and buttered one side. “Son, I don’t watch a lot of TV. All there is bad news about bad happenings around the world.”
“Are you afraid?”
He set the toast down. “I ain’t afraid, I’m just irritated,”
“With the world?”
He gestured his hand in a so-so gesture.
“What does that mean?”
“It means exactly what it means boy. What’s up with you? I ain’t gonna invite you out here no more if you gonna be like this,”
Michael grinned. “You didn’t invite me.”
Charlie put preserves on the toast. “No, I guess I didn’t,” He took a bite. Michael watched him.
“Do you know what I do?” He asked his father and he nodded.
“Sure, you work for the government,”
“I work for Paragon Horizon,”
He nodded and set the toast down again. “That new agency developed to help the war on drugs right? Some kind of new faction to help the government dump more owed money down the drain so we can be driven deeper into the debt? The one that the new president said it would bring an end to all the terror drugs has brought about this good country?”
Michael sighed. “Yeah, that one,”
Charlie watched his son as he stared into his coffee. “What did you expect me to say?”
“It ain’t nothin new. Nothin in this country is. Nixon said the same thing when he started the war on drugs in the 70’s. Ain’t nothing has been done since then to help the situation, ain’t nothin’ gonna be done to help it now,”
Michael grinned. “So you think I’m wasting my time then?”
Charlie bit into his toast and shook his head. “I ain’t sayin that. I said the government is wastin more of its money on somethin that ain’t goin to work,”
Michael picked up his coffee and sipped. He watched his father. “You ever miss older times?”
“It ain’t much different then than it is now,”
“What do you mean? Seemed all right to me,”
“That’s cause you was a kid. Kids ain’t got much to be worryin’ about,” He clasped his hands together and set them on the table. “Look Mike, the country has been in a downward spiral for a long time. And it has been happenin since long before you were born. People will say it was Vietnam that put us in the rut we’re in now. Some folks will say it was 9/11. Which I can understand, the country has done gone drastically changed since then. Everbody has gone paranoid. The government likes to say they didn’t break our spirit, but we’re actin more like a terrorized country than ever. But,” he paused, holding up a broad finger. “The country has been in the muck since the thirties. People like to say how the country now is bad, but think of the way the country would be now if it were to be a repeat of the depression. It would be complete chaos, there would be riots. You know what really scares me about it though?” he asked and his son slowly shook his head. “There ain’t no one topside to help the train get back on the railings if it did derail. Everone in the government is a shouter, there ain’t no leaders.”
“A new FDR would work,” Michael added and Charlie shook his head.
“FDR did his part but he brought the country out of the depression by creatin war. War creates the need for munitions and it created jobs. It put people to work and it put money in the pockets of the workin poor. This country is fueled by two things,” he raised his broad hand and ticked them off with his fingers. “People spendin money they don’t got and killin others.” He brought his hand down on the table then picked up his coffee and sipped. They sat in silence. The cold air from the outside brushed over Michael’s exposed neck and he shivered and popped the collar on his black leather jacket. He looked at his father, he was looking outside. He turned and looked out the window and saw snow was falling in a heavy white sheet.
“Gettin home just became a bitch,” Charlie said and finished his coffee. Michael turned back to his father and looked at him, then his hands. They were rough, calloused, the hands of a working man. He looked at his own; his hands were soft and devoid of any blemishes. He lowered them into his lap.
“What you make of the world now?” Michael asked in a low voice.
Charlie sighed and took one more pull of his cigarette and crushed it in the ashtray between them and leaned back in the booth and studied his son. “You wear me out,” He said and sighed again. “Your mother and I live out in the boonies so we can live in our own world apart from the shit that’s bringin the world down faster than it ever has.” He sat up and leaned forward. “Lookit, within the next twenty or thirty years there will be people that ain’t entirely people. We’ll be merged with them cellular devices embedded in our skulls and we’ll talk to each other over the open air. We’ll have little micro machines coursing our blood that regulate our system like an immune system should. Everday, I see a civilization that is separatin itself from the world it came from and creatin a world that is artificial. One made of steel, concrete, exhaust, and chemical emissions. We try to find God inside A.I. and forget that God is where we started. We get involved in materials that ain’t gonna matter. We plug ourselves into a digital world and live it as if it were reality yet the only thought that comes to mind when I see this is ‘What will happen when someone turns off the lights?’ The world is progressin at a rate it has never before progressed and it’s because someone created the computer in the 70’s and decided it could change the human race for the better.” He sat back and looked out the window. Michael looked at his father. He glanced at his watch. He looked at his cold coffee and untouched toast, the blackened corners curving up. They sat in silence.
Michael said. “Thought you said you didn’t watch the news?”
“Guess I lied,” He said and scooted out of the booth and stood. “You ready?”
“Yeah,” he said, getting up. “I’m ready.” They paid, then stepped out into the icy cold where the snow fell gently. Michael looked to the end of town and out to the plains where it was covered by a white veil descending from the heavens. The mountains stood in the distance with the authority of ancient markers of time and the knowledge of what was and what was to come. He took in a deep breath and let it out a long stream of smoky air. The outside was dead quiet, devoid of human life and wind. Charlie stood beside him and took out another cigarette and placed it between his lips. Michael looked at his father and watched as he lit up, smoke escaping as the cherry tip glowed.
“What would you do if I died?” he said.
“I’d want to die too,”
“You’d want to be with me after?”
He nodded and the wind kicked against them. Michael shivered and Charlie watched his son as he did. He placed his arm around his boy’s shoulders.
“Let’s go home,”
They descended into the white blur like two souls walking into the unknown. Two men walking side by side and stride for stride as if they were the last two people left from the frozen creosote of the winter plains.
Jacob G. Adams
September 11th, 2011