Excerpt Two from Novel: Stream of Consciousness Style

Andrew Fleming

 

As we walk down to Smithson hall I’m slightly annoyed that George set the pace and walks as slow as a snail and by the look in his eyes it’s almost like he’s a venomous snake that’s waiting for a mouse to come on by. But I say nothing and move on knowing that it’d be wrong of me to judge him since after all back home most folks first impression of me wasn’t that stellar to begin with and I refuse to pass myself off as hypocritical. I just wish it was night time already so I could explore around or drink in peace without all of these people since I am not in the mood to make mundane conversation with the same old questions of where I’m from or what I’m studying since I’ve been asked but a thousand times over just in the last two days but I realize in order to have deeper and more spiritual conversations that you need to start on a baseline level that may be in itself inane. After all you just can’t have a conversation on subjects like if a God exists or what happens after we die without knowing the other person’s name now can you. I’ve found in my experience that the key to a flowing conversation is spontaneity which I lack to the fullest degree and oftentimes that’s why I used to stumble when talking to others but then I realized that there’s no way to succeed in the world by yourself and so I rehearsed my conversation skills over and over again in front of the mirror until I could pass them off as if I was social and just like the others when in reality I am just the opposite. It’s always good to go into a conversation especially when it’s with more than one person and I mentally prepare a list of possible topics so that I don’t seem foolish in front of the others.

We arrive at Smithson Hall a few minutes before seven and Fischer is already there staring at his watch and looking around in all directions and then at his watch again as if he’s expecting that I should be early which I also get flustered about because this isn’t a job interview or anything truly significant it’s just a dinner and because I’m early as well. He looks relieved to see me which I also don’t know what for since I just met him not even twenty-four hours ago.

I introduce George and he introduces himself and we all walk inside and choose a table and all grab our plates and head around the cafeteria to grab our food. Now I should mention I get quite angry when I’m hungry but it wasn’t the hunger today it was just people and the loud noise of Smithson but I keep that in the back of my mind and look at the fabulous steak of which I picked out a double portion and the mashed potatoes oozing with gravy and smile and realize that I can begin drinking after I finish this scrumptiousness in front of me. I make my way back to my table and take a deep breath and tell my mind to switch modes. I set my plates of food down on the table and take my seat.

Excerpt From My First Novel (In Progress) In Stream-of-Consciousness Style

Here is an excerpt from a novel I’m currently working on. It’s told from 20-25 characters point of view centered on a main character who I wont reveal. Tell me what you think.

  1. Andrew Fischer

 

It’s the first week of classes and I wake up early so I can get a brisk walk in on the path that encircles our gorgeous flower-covered campus to get my blood flowing and hopefully I can grab a bite at Smithson Hall, oh how i loved those delicious Denver omelettes and French toast when I had them there the other day, before I have to be ready by ten sharp. I open the door and narrowly avoid being hit by a car, should have listened to mama’s words about looking both ways before crossing, before I get on the path and pace fast , looking to my left side to notice the potholes in the road adjacent to the path and on the right side to see the endless thicket of tall pine trees that blocked any view of the non-campus main road but unfortunately did nothing to muffle the honks and roars and revs or the multitude of cars and motorcycles that were all struggling to overtake each other on the treacherous Los Angeles roads and freeways one had to take every morning to get the work. By now I have walked about a quarter-mile or so and I arrive at the point where the uphill begins when I see a nearly hidden flight of stairs covered with the falling needles of the two pine trees it was between and I hadn’t noticed it when I took this same walk over the same route at the same time ever since I moved in three days ago. I decide to interrupt my usual routine and feed my insatiable curiosity and I pushed the branches that were nearly tickling my nose and walk down the stairs, the bottom of which there was another guy I assume to be a student sitting down, deeply inhaling a Turkish Royal cigarette holding in the smoke and repeatedly looking up at the sky before exhaling and taking his next drag leaving me in wonder at what he could possibly be worried about on an exquisite September morning like this one. I walk down the path and approach him. I could tell he forced a smile as he looks at me and throws the butt onto the road before extending his hand towards me when he realizes I am a student as well. “Andrew Fleming”, he says with a politeness that I had never heard growing up in Southern California.

 

“Andrew Fischer”, I say, in awe of the firmness of the steel vice that was his handshake. “So where are you from?”, I ask as he pulls another cigarette out of his pack and casually lights it.

 

“St. Louis, Missouri”, he says with a slight drawl in his words. “And yourself?”, he asks with the same confident manner he had shook my hand with and the same anxiety-free eye contact he had.

 

“San Diego”, I say. “Listen. I got to head to class soon. But how about dinner at Smithson at seven tonight?”, I say, making my voice as steady and confident as possible and hoping he’d take me up on the offer.

 

He casually flicks the ash at the ground and inhales and exhales again. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you there at seven”, he says and I walk up the hill and down to class.

At the Pond (Short Story)

At the Pond

 

Every morning before work I’d walk about a half mile from my apartment to a pond that was right beside my work to enjoy a walk before I’d have to spend the next eight hours in a cubicle enslaved in corporate drudgery.

 

And so one morning I got up at six o’clock as usual and prepared myself for work and ate a hurried breakfast before I walked out the door at seven and began to head over to the pond. It was regretfully the makings of a gorgeous day outside and I arrived at the pond at about a quarter past seven and after checking my watch began to rush the mile and a half walkway that formed the pond’s circumference.

 

About halfway into my walk I noticed a homeless looking old man sitting on a bench taking out what appeared to be corn kernels from his pocket and feeding a pack of ducks that had congregated around him. I checked my watch again and realized I was running late and increased my pace.

 

He must have noticed me because he yelled at me. “Hey, you there! Come over here for a second.”

 

Not wanting to be rude and also curious about this stranger, I made my way towards him. “Can I help you sir?”, I asked.

 

“What are you in such a hurry for?”, he asked me, his grin reflecting the sunlight.

 

“I have to be at work in twenty minutes, sir”, I said, emphasizing the word work.

 

He chuckled. “We’ve all been there”, he said. I smiled politely. “Anyway, the name’s Tom Smith. Pleasure to meet you”, he said, extending his hand. I noticed how dirty his hands were but my politeness got the better of me and I shook his hand as quickly as I could.

 

“Well, I should get going now, sir”, I said. “I’ll run late otherwise.”

 

“Alright, so long now”, he said. “And call me Tom.” I sighed. I wanted this to just be quick.

 

“Jake. Jake Greene”, I said, and began to race towards the park’s entrance.

 

“Well, so long Jake”, Tom said as I retreated to the entrance. I waved up my hand to acknowledge his goodbye and then rushed to work.

 

Work went by unremarkably as it always did. At five o’clock I packed my things and jolted down the stairs to get home and I was delighted to be met by the evening breeze as soon as I opened the company doors.

 

The next day I woke up at six again and went to the pond again. I walked and encountered Tom sitting at the same bench as yesterday casually feeding the ducks.

 

“Well howdy Jake. How the hell are ya”, Tom said, surprising me by remembering my name.

 

“I’m well Tom, thanks. I’m sorry if I was rude to you yesterday, I was just running late.”

 

He waved his hand. “Don’t even worry about it”, he said. “Most strangers ain’t even polite enough to say hello back. So you off to work again this morning?”

 

I nodded. “Unfortunately”, I said.

 

“What’s so unfortunate about it?”, he replied.

 

I proceeded to explain to Tom the banality of my work.

 

“Well, young man”, he said gravely. “It was your choice to work there. If you don’t like it so much why you still work there?”

 

I laughed, struck by the seeming naivete. “Because I got bills to pay, Tom.” I checked my watch. “Well, I have to be going else I’ll be late. Take care, Tom”, I said, getting up from the bench.

 

“Take care of yourself, Jake”, Tom said, as I walked to the entrance.

 

I reached work just on time that morning to my relief. I was situating myself as my boss, Mr. Barnes walked over to me with a mountain of papers. I knew what was coming.

 

“Ah, good to see you Jake”, he said as a formality.

 

“Good morning, Mr. Barnes”, I said as enthusiastically as I could.

 

“I have these”, he said, dumping the papers on my desk, “reports for last quarter’s sales. You know the drill”, he said like a sergeant.

 

“Yes, Mr. Barnes. I’ll see to these right away”, I said, giving him the finger when he turned his back and walked away.

 

I spent the rest of the day slaving away, and when five o’clock hit I rushed out the door.

 

Instead of going home directly, I thought about making a stop at the pond. I reached the pond and began to walk much more slowly. I saw Tom at the same place. I smiled at him and walked over and sat down.

 

“How was work, Capn’?”, Tom asked me.

 

I laughed. “Same as usual, Tom. What about you? What do you do here all day?”

 

“Well, I play with my little friends here”, he said, pointing towards the congregation of ducks. “And I get up around lunch to grab a bite down at the Bistro over there. You know it? Has the most fantastic rainbow trout.”

 

“No, can’t say that I’ve been there. Or that I’ve tried rainbow trout.”

 

“Well, make sure you do sometime”, he said earnestly.

 

I laughed at the serious tone he had. “I won’t forget”, I said. A thought struck my mind. “Tom, if you don’t work, where do you sleep?”

 

“Right here on this here bench”, he said. “Been that way for five years. It don’t get cold so I don’t mind.”

 

I shuddered at the thought. “You don’t have to”, I said. “I can offer you a bed if-”

 

He cut me off. “No, young man, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like the gentle breeze putting me to sleep. And then I wake up in the morning the next day to a beautiful sunrise. If I stayed in a house then I might experience the sunrise when I wake up in the morning but not the breeze. And I want both you see?”

 

I nodded and checked my watch again. “Well, I should get going”, I said.

 

Tom nodded solemnly at me. “Take care of yourself, young man.” I nodded. On the way out, I threw away my watch.

 

The next morning I woke up by habit at six o’clock and met Tom at the same bench around an hour later.

 

“You been alright?”, I asked.

 

“Never better”, he said. We talked for a while when Tom said, “Shouldn’t you be gettin’ to work? You been here an awfully long time.”

 

I shook my head. “Not today, Tom. I called in earlier. Boss wasn’t too pleased but I said I was sick.”

 

Tom laughed. “Alright, Jake. Well, what you gonna do for your day off?”

 

“Spend it here”, I said. “I was thinking we get a paddle boat or something and just mosey around, you know?”

 

“I ain’t got the money to rent one of them things”, Tom said.

 

I waved my hand. “Don’t worry about it”, I said. “I’ll cover it.”

 

“Well, if you’re sure, young man”, he said.

 

“Never been more sure”, I said.

 

So we went to the paddle boat rental and I rented one for the entire day. I had brought some homemade Shepherd’s pie for lunch. We unhooked the boat from the dock onto the lazy water and Tom and I began to cruise around.

 

“What a beautiful morning”, Tom said.

 

I nodded. “You’re right. Never really noticed that until now.”

 

“Probably because you were walking’ so fast you couldn’t take in all this park had to offer.”

 

I laughed, knowing how right he was. But he really was right. The exquisite arrangement of conifers and shrubs struck me in a way that it never did before that morning and the sparkling water made the different varieties of fish so much more likeable even though they meandered from one end of the pond to the other. The mellifluous cries of the pigeons and ducks and other birds feasting on rice grains or kernels that the passerby so casually tossed to them as they transversed the pond’s walkway formed an orinthological symphony that couldn’t be captured on a finite number of staves with any man-made instrument.

 

After a while I asked Tom, “What was your life like when you were younger?”

 

He exhaled for a prolonged period of time probably to avoid the question. “Well, I served back in the day o’er in ‘Nam for five years and when I came back I found that the wife had left me with the kids.”

 

“I’m so sorry I brought it-”

 

“Don’t be. It’s just life. Life’s like a game of boxin’. You get some blows in and it gets some blows in. But at the end of the day it’s your mind that determines whether you end up standin’ or it ends up standin’ with its foot on top of you.”

 

I shuddered. “Well, either way she was a bitch to leave you especially-”

 

“Naw now don’t say that. She still raised my kids and that’s what counts”, he said. “Either way, she may have done me wrong, but I ain’t gonna soil my own mouth by badmouthin’ her, it only gunna affect my own mind and the dear Lord will judge me more for it. I just hope my kids now are well grown and are enjoyin’ their lives, maybe not in the way I am, but enjoyin’ it nonetheless.”

 

We continued boating around for a while. It was around lunch time and I take out the Shepherd’s pie and some paper plates and offer Tom a piece which he was glad to take. I begin to eat my own pie.

 

“Why you in a hurry?”, Tom says.

 

I looked at him, puzzled.

 

“Why are you eating so fast? What’s the rush? This is a delicious shepherd’s pie. I just don’t want it to end”, Tom said, closing his eyes.

 

What may have just been my mother’s recipe for shepherd’s pie to me was liquid gold to him, I looked at Tom and wished I could be as free as he was.

 

We finished a long day of boating and went back to the dock. “Thank you for the wonderful day, Jake”, Tom said.

 

“It is I who must thank you, Tom”, I said. “I would have been stuck in a box all day were it not for you.”

 

Tom laughed. “Well then, if that’s the case I’m glad I could help. Take care young man, follow your dreams”, he said.

 

I hugged him and walked home. The next day I went to the park early but as I walked past the bench, Tom wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Figuring he had gone to get some breakfast or was sleeping somewhere else that night, I bought a packet of corn kernels at the entrance and was sure to feed them to the ducks by his bench before I headed off to work.


When I finished work that day I went back to the pond, but Tom was still nowhere to be seen. I went outside and bought a copy of the evening paper and my heart sank when I read the headline, “Former Vietnam Veteran Struck by Motorist.” Knowing immediately who that was I let myself cry for the man who had taught me how to cry.  

 

The next day I immediately handed in my resignation letter, and continued to feed the ducks every morning and evening until I was able to save enough money and start life anew in the French Riviera, far away from this place that had torn me apart and put me back together before tearing me apart again.

The Mausoleum (Short Story)

The Mausoleum

Every day after work at the bank no matter what the conditions outside were John Ternovan would drive on home in the same old worn down truck he bought with her twenty or so years ago and when he’d arrive home he’d be greeted by his faithful Golden Retriever Nancy who’d stand right beside him while he’d fix himself up a pot of piping hot tea and would follow him after he’d pour himself a cup and walk over to the sofa where he’d sit and read the Evening Post, sipping slowly to make each second seemingly endless while she provided cushioning for his feet.

And after John finished he’d set his cup down on the armrest and got up and opened the backdoor to the patio and would walk down the deck stairs which led to an unpaved trail that circled his property with Nancy nipping relentlessly at his heels.

John would walk the trail at his own pace, quick for an old man but not quite quick enough to be young but wishing he was again. Sometimes Nancy would bound ahead of John looking back wondering why he wasn’t keeping up and other times she’d be right by his side, trudging along with him.

Man and dog would go along that trail for twenty or so minutes until they’d reach a large pond that John owned just as the sun was about to set, always right on time. And right besides this pond was a large tomb that John constructed after she had died that was the centerpiece of the entire waterfront.

John walked up the three steps clutching one of the pillars, as steps weren’t easy at his age, with Nancy following closely behind him. John walked to one of the benches and sat and stared unflinchingly at the tomb which through the aperture in the canopy above the waning twilight was able to shine down on her name, “Ashley Maria Ternovan.”

And John sat there with Nancy on the other side of the bench remaining still and rigid as a board except when petting Nancy, occasionally glancing at the pond and watching the fish move gracefully and monotonously in little circles.

Every day when John sat there he’d recount the fond memories he had with her. When he first met her, their first date, their first fight, their first house, their first child… He remembered when August was born and how Ashley and her raised him to be a fine young man who now was stationed somewhere abroad and he hoped he wouldn’t have to build him a mausoleum as well especially as young as he was. He remembered when Sylvia was born and how happy Ashley was that she looked just like her. He remembered when Sylvia got married and when she had her child at the hospital John saw everyday on the way home from work with Ashley and himself present.

John sighed. All of them were gone enjoying their lives and here he was alone in the middle of the woods but no one but Nancy for company. But he refused to have it any other way. She was the only one he ever loved, loved so much he’d allowed his parents to disown him after they disapproved of her, loved so much that he preferred solitude after her death, loved so much he’d constructed this mausoleum for her, burying her ashes beneath the tomb even though she preferred to be cremated and scattered in a river or the ocean.

But John couldn’t bring himself to do that since he’d be truly alone. “Perhaps love is selfish after all”, he thought. John got up and walked towards the tomb and picked up the rose he had placed there yesterday and walked over to the pond where a fresh rosebush lay. He cast aside yesterday’s and plucked a new rose and walked back to the tomb and carefully set it down and then returned to the bench with Nancy and continued to stare at the tomb in the center.

A pigeon flew through the aperture and John jumped up. “Go away! Shoo!”, he yelled clapping his hands and the bird flew away and John returned to the bench. The sound of the fish stirring in the pond ceased and so did the incessant cries of the pigeons but John still sat unmoving, with Nancy now drifting off to sleep at his side. He looked at her and wished he could go to sleep so easily but couldn’t decide if he wanted it to be temporary or permanent.

At last the twilight turned into darkness and Ashley’s name faded away from view. “Come on Nancy, it’s time to go dear”, he said. Nancy stood up slowly and walked beside John. It was getting cold now and the moon was beginning to rise. John could make out a single star in the sky shining brightly, perhaps even outshining the moon.

John walked up to the tomb and kissed his palm and touched the hard cold stone and squeezed it tightly. “I’ll be back tomorrow, darling. I’ll be back at the same time.” He whistled perked up her ears and trotted beside him and the two began to walk up the hilly trail to the house, ready for tomorrow.

The Oak Chair (Short Story)

The Oak Chair

Every summer when I went to Grandma Betty’s and Grandpa Vince’s I noticed an old oak chair sitting but never sat on in the right corner of the living room right next to the television across from where Grandma Betty would sit on the store-bought mahogany couch, more comfortable for her back she’d say, and watch her favorite serials from two to four o’clock every afternoon.

I never saw Grandpa Vince, the father I never had, sit in the chair either but he told me it was on account of not wanting to sit on it if Grandma didn’t, and so I left it at that. But I really wanted to sit on it but never dared to because I knew either Grandpa or Grandma would give me the yelling of my life which I wasn’t too fond of receiving.

But how I longed to sit on it and feel its shined smooth headboard press into the back of my skull and have the back-cushion which wasn’t large enough to cover the full back of the chair squeeze my aching back muscles while I sit and sip on a nice cup of coffee and observe the beautiful sunrises and sunsets from out the window that was just to the right but I couldn’t since there wasn’t any place to sit since right where a cushion should have been on the seat was an enormous vase.

I thought it was an ugly little thing at first. There wasn’t a design to be seen on its exterior. It was a plain white ceramic vase that could have been made by the most amateur artist in under an hour that Grandma must have gotten for five dollars or less at a little thrift shop and I regret not helping her since she was awful when it came to interior design and decorating

Inside the vase lay a large clump of earth and growing inside was an assortment of azaleas, petunias, chrysanthemums… but all these flowers surrounded a rose that was directly in the center of the vase. And Grandma Betty would periodically replace all the flowers but she would never replace the rose. And she never told me why, saying that I understand why one day.

Many summers had gone by and nothing had changed at Grandma’s. The curtains were still drawn shut and had become a dust collector and the chair was still unmoved in the corner and the vase remained in the exact same position as when I saw it last time but the other flowers had been replaced and the rose was now wilted.

One day I decided to ask Grandma about the chair and why she never sat in it. She looked at me and sighed.

“Well Anna, that chair is a hand-carved chair made by my granddaddy’s grandaddy. It’s seen many sunrises and sunsets, many winters, many summers, and many springs and autumns. It’s seen the men of this family return from war and it’s seen the women of this family leave with their husband’s. It’s seen my mother’s birth and my birth and your mother’s and your births in the couch just across it”, she said pointing at the couch she sat on normally. “And it’s seen the time your grandad and I moved here after our old place burned your down to the ground. It’s seen your mother and your aunt grow up. And that’s why your grandad and I never sit on this chair. It’s more important than you or him or I. This chair keeps more secrets than anyone in this family does. And one day the chair will see an important moment of your life. It already has, in fact, and it will see when you get married and have kids of your own and they grow up. And it’ll see me when I go and it’ll see you when you go.”

She finished her speech and stood up to walk out of the room when I asked, “Grandma, why is it you never take out the rose but you take out all the other flowers? It’s so withered.”

She bristled and snapped, “It’s not withered or wilted, it’s just as lovely as it was when I put it there all those years ago.” She left the room, making me wonder how I brought that harsh tone to her voice.

I returned home after a couple of weeks at Grandma and Grandpa’s. And after a few weeks I learned that Grandpa Vince was sick with cancer and the doctors failed to detect it early and that he didn’t have much time left.

My mama and I went up to my grief-stricken Grandma’s and saw her sitting across the chair silent and solemn. She nodded at us when we walked inside and motioned for us to sit down beside her.

“Is it really true mama?”, my mother asked my Grandma, quietly trembling. “Is it true papa doesn’t have much time left?”

Grandma looked at my my mama and said, “I’m afraid so, darling. It’s about that time for him, and it’ll be that time for me soon.”

“Don’t you dare say lose such a thing. Ain’t it bad enough to lose Papa?”, mama said angrily.

“Now you know how little Anna felt when she lost her daddy all those years ago”, Grandma said quietly.

Heaven received Vince Jerome Callahan that night, the angels welcoming him with open arms but ignoring the rest of us down here on Earth who would have at least liked to spend another day or two with him. And after the funeral had passed with the rest of the town mourning but soon forgetting and leaving us Callahans mourning, Grandma handed me a rose.

“Now it’s time for you to plant your own”, she said. “God may have added a flower to his garden, but you’ll add one to yours.” And God planted another flower in his garden a week later.

Blind and Sighted (Short Story)

Blind and Sighted

 

Arthur Cunningham was blind since birth. This didn’t bother him but he always lamented that he wasn’t able to enjoy color for what he thought it was. One day the Cunninghams decided to go camping deep in the woods, for what Mr. Cunningham called “a pleasant distraction from modern society.” So that weekend the Cunninghams packed all of their provisions and gear and hitched them to the top of their old beat-up sedan and drove for several hours until they reached an old abandoned clearing. Arthur grabbed his cane and stood by his mother while Mr. Cunningham set up the tents.

 

Suddenly, Arthur felt the urge to take a dump. Testing the ground in front of him, Arthur approached the sound of his father’s strained grunting and panting as Mr. Cunningham struggled to set up the tents. “You shouldn’t smoke so much, dad”, Arthur said, taking a whiff.  

 

Mr. Cunningham wheezed again and paused. “What is it, Art? I’m busy here.”

 

Arthur scrunched his nose when he smelt the repulsive mixture of sweat and smoke. “I’m going to take a dump, pops. I’ll be back in a few.”

 

“Alright, Art, you do that”, Mr. Cunningham said, and resumed setting up the tents.

 

Cane in front of him, Arthur meandered around for a moment until he found a spot and then drew a circle around himself to make sure he had enough space. He felt around and discovered a large leaf hanging from a tree which he ripped out.

 

Setting his cane down in front of him, Arthur dropped his pants and squatted and forced it out and wiped himself with the leaf. “Glad I don’t know what that looks like. Can’t be good.”, he thought, turning away from the foul odor. He began to walk back to the campsite, calling for his parents, to which he received no answer. He yelled louder this time, but the only thing Arthur heard was a hawk’s angry screech and the sound of its wings rousing the air in front of him before it soared away.

 

Arthur continued to wack back towards the campsite but suddenly dropped his cane. “Goddamnit”, he thought and bent down to retrieve it before he felt his flesh brush against some sharp rocks. Taken aback, Arthur lost his balance and tumbled down a trail for a few moments, his hands clutching his head.

 

He dusted himself off, and decided to give up finding the cane, knowing there was no chance of finding it now. He picked up a handful of earth. But this earth wasn’t wet or clumped together. This earth was smooth and grainy and slipped between his fingers. “It’s sand”, he realized. “And if there’s sand, there’s water nearby.

 

He began to go further and further down the sandy trail until the sound of water became stronger and stronger. Arthur noticed the relatively solid texture of the sand change even before he felt the cool but not icy water seep through the minute air-filled crevices of his shoes through his socks causing him to wriggle his chilled toes squeamishly when he realized he had arrived at the river. ‘

 

He felt the sun’s rays hit the right the right side of his face, slightly near his eye and he surmised it was either a little before noon or a little after, as he didn’t know if he was oriented correctly towards the horizon, but he reasoned it was more than likely the former since he arrived at the campsite just after breakfast.

 

He crawled away from the river, ensuring it was well within earshot and stopped when his outstretched hands felt a tree trunk. He sniffed it. “Oak”, he thought. “Nice and sturdy.” Arthur stood up and grabbed one of the branches, stroking it, gripping it tightly, examining the circumference.

 

After finding the branch satisfactory, Arthur pulled the branch towards the ground from the tree with all his might. However, he didn’t grip it hard enough and the tree threw him back, slicing his hand open. Refusing to be subdued, Arthur wiped the blood on his shirt and returned towards the tree. He clung to the branch and this time with every last bit of strength and energy he could muster, pulled the branch towards the ground again.

 

Arthur screamed loudly as he heard the branch’s resounding snap and was thrown back again, prize in hand this time. He stood up and was delighted to find the branch only reached up to his upper rib, the perfect height.

 

Moving towards the river, he used his new cane to make sure he didn’t step inside. When he reached the shoreline, Arthur felt around for stones. He found a patch of small pebbles just beneath the water and collected over fifty, counting them one by one.

 

Arthur threw the first one across the river and was dismayed when he heard the pebble’s impact against the water. He threw the second pebble across the river, again to no avail. He threw the third one, then the fourth, then the fifth… all for the same result.

 

Forty-six pebbles later, with his heavy aching arm,  Arthur summoned the last of his resolve and hurled the pebble with all his strength his dirty and bruised body could muster and jumped triumphantly when he heard the pebble hit the other shoreline about seven seconds later.

 

Arthur estimated the distance across the river to be somewhere between seventy-five and one hundred feet across. Arthur steadied himself with his cane and stepped into the water and nearly recoiled when he felt something slippery and slimy brush his left foot. He grabbed it and bit into it. “Mullet”, he realized and then also realized that the mullet was traveling downstream.

 

He decided he needed to walk across the river at a forty-five degree angle to the opposite shoreline so the river wouldn’t sweep him away.

 

Arthur gauged the depth of the river with his cane and was relieved when the cane reached the river bottom. Steadying himself again, he began to trudge one step at a time, making sure he angled himself properly, enjoying the relief the cool water provided his cut hand and beaten body.

 

At last, exasperated but elated, Arthur reached the other side where he heard noises in the distance and began to walk closer and closer to them. “I wonder where he’s gone. Perhaps we should alert the rangers. He hasn’t been back in over an hour”, a female voice said. Arthur recognized his mother’s voice and began to run.

 

“Give it twenty more minutes, and if he’s not back we’ll go, Becky”, Mr. Cunningham said and Arthur recognized the sound of his father’s wheezing.

 

He began to run even faster towards the sound, not caring if he’d run into anything on the way. At last he recognized the scent of his father’s smoke and sweat and realized he had made it to the campsite. His mother saw him and rushed to hug him.

 

“Arthur, dear, where the hell have you been?”

 

Arthur smiled. “I was discovering color, mother. I was discovering color.”

The Green Sun (Short Story)

The Green Sun

In a world which attacks the depths of our hearts with its morbidity and unpleasantness, forgiveness paves the easiest way to peace. Our hearts are castles which we fortify with misconceptions and bias of our surroundings. Penetrating through the walls of one’s castle requires persistent love and unconditional forgiveness.

Edward Garland was as an industrialist in Chicago and owned a chain of factories throughout the city.  He was a man of contradictions, all of which destroyed him daily. Edward projected himself with brashness and arrogance equal to that of ten men but barely looked like half a man himself. Aside from work where he was forced to be presentable, Mr. Garland was an unhygienic recluse. His study was a disaster and scattered around were numerous cigarette butts and whiskey bottles. His son David was compelled to clean it on numerous occasions. Mr. Garland wasted most of his time in his sanctuary and other than drinking only God knows what he did inside his prison. He never entertained guests and never went out. The only times the industrialist would leave would be for work-related dinners. None of those interactions were genuine, and Mr. Garland would only be able to initiate conversation after a few instant and immediate pegs.

Mr. Garland was devoted to his son, or at least tried his hardest to be and made sure David excelled and involved himself in anything and everything. Despite David’s disapproval of his father, he had to credit him for being a stellar student and athlete. Despite  Mr. Garland’s unpredictable temper, his noisy and violent rants, his lack of understanding, and his lack of communication, David valued him in his mind but not in his heart, understanding his madness ever since his mother Josephine passed away when he was seven years old.

Mr. Garland was such a different man before his wife died, demonstrating charm, class, and elegance. He always managed to put his family in the best of moods. Sometimes Mr. Garland and David walked to the park and spent the evening there. Other times the entire family would go out to dinner and then the theater.  Mr. Garland was the soul of every cocktail party in Chicago and everyone wanted to meet him at some point in their career.  His jokes with their biting punchlines were known far and wide .

But one night destroyed any further hope of any sociability. One night Mr. Garland, Josephine, and David visited a friend’s for dinner. When it was time to leave Josephine insisted on driving home but Edward refused. They fought for a few minutes and of course she won the argument. Everything was normal on the drive home until suddenly a large truck smashed into their car, making it spin out of control and crash into a tree. Once the paramedics arrived and took them to the hospital, Mr. Garland and David received devastating news. Josephine was dead, murdered by a reckless drunk driver who ended up murdering the entire family. For the first time in his life, David saw his father cry. For the next five minutes Mr. Garland sat screaming amidst several nurses trying to calm him down. And then he lay still and from that moment, nothing was ever the same.

Mr. Garland began to turn into a vile shadow of his former self. He blamed himself for Josephine’s death. “If only I was driving”, he’d mumble. “If only I was driving.” Mr. Garland began to drink. Before work, after work, it never mattered to Mr. Garland. His only friend was the bottle. After a while Mr. Garland wouldn’t want to nor be able to talk to his son. David was forced to look after himself. Fortunately, David was blessed with a large reserve of common sense. And raised himself and his father. David began to use school as an escape, trying each day to find someone stay with for the night. His performance plummeted and eventually his teachers scheduled a conference with Mr. Garland, who forgot to attend. As a result, David pushed himself to the limit.  In the meantime, Mr. Garland further deteriorated. The brash businessman was forced to sell one of his factories at a loss due to his own foolishness. It seemed as if Mr. Garland would rip his family to shreds.

But one day, this notion vanished. David was around seventeen, and school had just let out for spring break. David arrived home to discover Mr. Garland with a smile plastered on his normally stoic face. They stared at each other for a few moments. Then Mr. Garland in a quivering voice attempted to make conversation.

“David, how was school today?”

“Dear God. The way he said that was awkward. And why is he even talking to me? He doesn’t even seem drunk”, David thought. “Fine. Is something wrong?”, he mumbled.

Mr. Garland startled David by looking genuinely shocked. “Nothing’s wrong. Can’t a father ask his son how his day was? I have some incredible news.”

“If it’s about the stupid merger he’s been raving about for the last three weeks I might go insane”, David thought. Instead, David held his tongue and muttered, “Go on.”

Mr. Garland began, “I’ve been thinking, it’s been ages since we’ve taken a trip. We’ve been imprisoned in this house for centuries it seems like.”

“No you have. I’ve been out though I’m sure you never noticed”, David thought, his head getting heavier with his father’s ranting.

Mr. Garland continued, “So I got us two tickets for a ten day tour in Peru. The mountains. The Amazon. Canoeing, fishing, and hunting”, he said with a hint of shyness. David stared at him. Of all the things he had said in the last ten years this was the most pleasant. “Here, see?”, he said, exuberantly showing David the tickets.

“Of course, dad”, he said, trembling. “I’m excited to go. When do we leave?”

“Three days. Make sure you pack everything that you would need for the outdoors. Your tent, fishing pole, flashlight, you know the drill. See you for dinner in a few hours. I have some last minute work before we leave.” Leaving David amazed, Mr. Garland retreated to his study.

David raced to his  room and began to pack, his mind flooded with questions. As he grabbed his suitcase he asked himself, “What possible motivation does he now suddenly have?” As he was packing he thought, “If this turns out to be a business deal, business related, or if he gets drunk the entire time” and many more “if” statements, “then I refuse to associate with him again.” Several hours later he finished packing and Mr. Garland emerged from his study with his packed suitcase, the day’s second surprise.

“Are you sure you packed everything, dad? I should probably check.” As David walked forward to check his suitcase, Mr. Garland waved him away.

“No, David I checked twice. It’s all in there. ”David nodded, knowing how futile it would be to argue, “Come downstairs for dinner. I ordered. It should be here any moment.” He grabbed his Bourbon and took a large gulp before stumbling down the stairs. The food arrived and they ate quietly. Once they finished dinner Mr. Garland retreated to his bedroom. David snuck upstairs and checked his suitcase and was shocked to discover it was neatly packed with everything necessary. “Life surprises us sometimes”, David muttered.

The Garlands disembarked the plane, weary and exhausted. A large man holding a sign with their names introduced himself as their guide. When David looked at him for the first time something didn’t sit well with him. He was an intimidating and imposing figure. He was six-foot-four and very dark, with large, chapped hands from years of hard labor in the unforgiving relentless sun. When he smiled David noticed he was missing a few teeth.. On his side he had two leather pouches strapped to him, and in each one was a large hunting knife, the blade six or seven inches long. He wore earrings as well, not ordinary earrings but ones made from the bone of some animal. On his feet he wore leather moccasins, made from the skin of some wild animal. But none of these intimidated David as much as the large emerald necklace that he wore. It was a sun on its own, radiating fiercely. “My name is Pascual”, the guide said. “And I’ll be your guide for the trip. Pleasure to meet you.”

He extended his hand and smiled again.

They shook hands and introduced themselves. “The car is right over there”, Pascual said pointing at a small station wagon about twenty feet from where they stood. “Give me your luggage, I’ll tie it to the roof right away. Mr. Garland handed him the luggage and then he and David seated themselves in the car. While Pascual was fastening the luggage to the roof, an old vagrant knocked on the window and asked for chang and David pulled out a bill and gave it to her. She thanked him and stared into his face and said, “The blood of blood shall be spilt” , scampering off as Pascual shooed her away. And then they began to drive.    

They drove from the airport to some abandoned clearing next to the Amazon where Pascual parked the car. On the journey Pascual told us a bit about himself. He was from one of the forest tribes. When he was ten years old his parents had died and the tribe was forced to move to the mountains after a band of loggers mowed down their home. Mr. Garland’s heart went out to him at once and he told Pascual his own story of loss.. Once they reached the clearing, they got out of the car and Pascual untied the luggage. While Mr. Garland and David followed, Pascual proceeded to pull the luggage towards a large canoe located at the shoreline of the river. While Pascual smoked a cigarette, David pulled Mr. Garland aside and said, “Dad, I have this bad feeling about the guide.” Mr. Garland  looked at him in amazement.

“What? Why? He’s been nothing but polite and professional since we came here. I spent five thousand dollars on this trip. I refuse to waste it because of some delusion. Unbelievable.”

David shook his head and walked away and then they began the voyage.

It was nice and peaceful. The river as they left the shore was calm and gentle. The verdant landscape and the cool air brushing the company’s faces were pleasant distractions. The landscape was a collection of many universes. The sky was painted with the plumages of various birds, and their songs were synchronized in harmony. The water was filled with little minnows and other varieties of fish. Just ahead two monkeys were yelling at each other in the tree when out of nowhere a large eagle snatched one away and flew high in the air. “Such is the fragility of life”, David thought.  David looked at his father canoeing with Pascual and decided to swallow his pride and enjoy the trip at all costs.

After several hours of canoeing, they reached the campsite, their arms numb and heavy and their bodies drenched in sweat. Pascual broke the silence at last. “That was a good day’s work. David, Mr. Garland, we certainly need a campfire. Would you mind assisting me in gathering wood? There should be plenty around this clearing.

As they gathered wood, Mr. Garland came beside David. “Enjoyed the first day, son? You seemed silent.”

David smiled. “Yes dad I did. I was just taking in the landscape that’s all. It’s so beautiful out here.”

Mr. Garland nodded. “Glad you are”, he said, and went back to collecting wood.

Once they brought the wood, Pascual began the fire and brought out some deer meat and a pot and began to cook. Everyone sat as close as they could to the fire, basking in its heat. They filled their stomachs and went to sleep.

The next few days were lazily passed by. On the seventh day, they woke up and prepared the canoe. Today the river was enraged. They started down the river and Pascual was able to maneuver against the raging water.  When the river turned peaceful again, David noticed Pascual dropping some crumbs that looked like meat into the river. All of a sudden, Pascual screamed, “Piranhas! Quick! Get out! Grab what you can.” David and Mr. Garland looked at the water and noticed a swarm approaching them. David panicked and stayed frozen in the boat. At this point there must have been at least fifty flesh-eating, ravenous fish by the boat. And then, the boat overturned. The fish started to attack them, biting at their knees and ankles. The pain was searing and David could feel the blood leaking from his leg. Pascual grabbed David and swam with him back to the shore.

“Are you alright?”, Pascual asked.

“Yes, I’m fine, at least I think.” Then David saw that Mr. Garland wasn’t there. “My father! Pascual, please save him”

Pascual looked at David and grunted. “Alright, I’ll get him.”

Then Pascual swam back to the middle of the river and grabbed Mr. Garland’s hand and pulled him back to shore. “Here he is”, he said, dropping him on the sand.

They set up camp at the shore by where they were attacked earlier. Pascual caught fish and fried them. As they ate, he brought out bandages and dressed their wounds. He began to speak.

“David, Mr. Garland, seeing as you have almost no supplies, what do you say we head to my village tomorrow? We are by the mountains and it’s not terribly far from here.”

Mr. Garland said, “We would be most grateful for that, Pascual. Thank you so much for the generosity.” Pascual nodded at him, pleased.

They ate and then pitched their tents which were somehow saved. That night David was drifting off to sleep when his father told him something that would change his life forever.

“Son, are you asleep?”, Mr. Garland asked. David didn’t feel like replying and pressed his eyes shut. Mr. Garland shook him. “Son, are you asleep?”, he said more loudly.

“No dad, I’m not. What is it?”, he asked, struggling to open his eyes.

“David, after that attack today, I’ve been thinking and I realize I need to apologize.” David jolted awake. “Apologize for what?”, he said.

Mr. Garland thought for a moment, struggling to find the right words. “Well David”, he began. “I wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed every moment of this trip with you. I know I’ve been distant with you the last few years. It was because I was afraid of losing you like we lost your mother. I know I’m not good at expressing my love for you. I want you to know it’s there, son. From my mind to my heart to my soul it’s there. I know you’ve had to raise yourself for the last ten years. Words cannot express how proud of you I am for everything you accomplished in your young life, only seventeen years and so many more left. I know I used your mother’s death as an excuse to delve into my own selfishness. In this horrible world of selfishness and despair, a mother’s love is the only truly unselfish love. It’s an unbounded ocean of never ending, unconditional forgiveness. No other love is the same, since even if we love someone else we expect them to love us back. But your mother and I didn’t have that pure love. She was my wife. You lost more than I did and I couldn’t meet my own expectations.” Mr. Garland hung his head in shame.

Even though he was young that night, David still remembered her in great detail. He remembered her contagious laugh, her vibrant personality, and her incredible sense of humor, and most of all, the delicious chocolate chip cookies she would bake when David would return home from school. David felt that tears should be reserved, but he felt tears well up in his eyes.

Mr. Garland continued. “ I know you’ve been more of a father to me than I have to you. I know you stayed away from home on purpose to avoid me. I know you know this. I want to let you know that I know and that I care. I know I can never give you those lost years of your life back. But I can try.”

David didn’t even what to say, his mind overflowing with emotions.“Yes dad, I forgive you. Of course I do. Be good to yourself.” And the father and son embraced each other for a long time for the first time in years.

The next day they started towards the mountains, which were now visible. After canoeing for several hours, they arrived at the shore by the foot of the mountain and then started to climb. There were no signs of life like there were in the forest and the landscape changed to a stony gray. At last they reached Pascual’s village. There was no shortage of laughter at all. The children had a ball and were tossing it amongst themselves. The women and men were all drinking and gossiping together. Then they broke out into song and Pascual joined in, his heart at home.  At last Pascual said, “Here is the elder’s tent. Let me tell him we’ve arrived.” After a few minutes a smiling old man came out with Pascual. “Welcome to our humble village, Garlands. Come inside.”

They entered the elder’s hut, the largest hut in the village. The elder brought out a large tumbler of water and poured everyone a glass.

“I trust you had a safe journey. You’re in good hands with Pascual”, he said, patting him on the back.

“We definitely did, Mr. Elder”, my father said. The men conversed for the next half hour. The conversation eventually reached the subject of the village. The elder smiled and began to speak.

“Mr. Garland, have you ever heard about the sacred stone?”

“Briefly, when I was talking to Pascual. I forgot the legend though. I thought of it as a fairy tale or something of the sort.”

The elder looked disappointed. “No, Mr. Garland. I can assure you it is not a mere tale. The sacred stone in this village allows those who touch it to experience a different world. You can be there for as long as you want. Think about it. You can have an abundant supply of scotch, a new factory, or who knows, maybe your wife might visit you again.”

‘“I would love to use this stone. Where is it?”, Mr. Garland eagerly said.

“It’s in our temple just behind here. Let’s go. David, come with us if you wish.” David shook his head.

The other three walked about fifty feet behind the elder’s hut to the temple. The elder opened the door and there lay the stone. The stone was a large, magnificent emerald, similar to Pascual’s in shape, only far larger. Next to it on each side lay two large lamps.

“Mr. Garland”, the elder said. “You need to touch the stone and concentrate.”

Mr. Garland nodded. He walked up to the emerald and grasped it. He waited for a few minutes. “Nothing’s happening”, he said.

The elder replied, “Concentrate harder. Sometimes these things take a while. I promise you’ll be seeing stars soon.”

Mr. Garland nodded and continued to concentrate, not hearing Pascual’s footsteps behind him. And then in a series of indiscernible movements Pascual grabbed Mr. Garland’s throat and began to push him into the opposite wall. Mr. Garland tried to run, but the elder blocked his path.

“Pascual, what are you doing?”, Mr. Garland said, cornered.

“Avenging my tribe, Mr. Garland. The tribe you destroyed thirteen years ago. Remember those loggers you sent to the forest? Well today is the day of retribution”, said Pascual, putting the struggling man in a chokehold. And then the elder rushed towards him and grabbed a long knife from his pocket and slit Mr. Garland’s throat. Mr. Garland began to convulse. His face turned from a milky white, then to red, and finally to mixtures of blue and purple as he struggled to gasp for air, kicking and screaming. Over the next few minutes, the kicks grew weaker, and his gasps for air grew more shallow until at last he lay still on the floor, his desire having devoured him.

The elder and Pascual had just returned to the room where David was sitting, not noticing him. “Well, justice has been served”, the elder said.

Pascual said, “I don’t feel sorry for him at all. He squealed like a pig when he died”, he said laughing. “In spite of what he caused he didn’t take his death like a real man would.”

David, shocked and speechless began screaming. “That was my father. I knew you were a horrible man all along”, he said, bursting into tears.

Pascual whipped around and walked over to David and placed his hand on David’s shoulder. “Well then, now we are even.” David looked up at him, confused. He continued. “Garland’s Paper Company. Your father was the one responsible for the death of my family and the destruction of my tribe. Why do you think I never cared when he was attacked by the fish? Had it not been for your pleading I would have let him drown. Son, I liked you and knew you were not like your father, else I would have found a way to kill you too. Now we will leave you here to grieve. I’ll drop you off at the airport in the morning. Pascual and the elder left.

David continued to sob, but didn’t know how to feel since Pascual didn’t kill his father out of malice. David reached for the whiskey in his dead father’s pocket and drank for the first time ever, trying to sleep. But David wasn’t able to sleep that night, despite how much he drank. And in the morning when David was about to leave the village, David said to himself, “Well dad, glad we fixed it. I’m just glad we fixed it.” And from that day on, whenever David looked up at the sky he always saw two extra stars side by side, and after that whenever he swigged some Bourbon he realized how much he understood his father.