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Writing Fiction - Chapter 24
Here's where Chapter 23 left you.
I waited a few long moments.
“Yeah, weird,” he finally continued, “Looks like he’s not coming back today. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him miss a day. Really weird.”
It was working very difficult to refrain from interrogating Griffin, but finally I blurted out, “What do you mean his share of troubles?”
My tattooed friend looked a little uncomfortable. “I probably shouldn’t say, him being a regular and all.” His face looked sad for a moment.
I just sat quietly.
One thing I learned when my kids were younger was, if something was bothering them, my silence would usually make them start talking. So I just sat quietly sipping my coffee.
It was hard to be patient. I felt like a bottle of pancake syrup in the microwave. You know how the bottle kind of explodes if the lid isn’t left open? My silence was making me dangerously close to imitating that particular mess.
Finally, after what felt like an hour had elapsed, Griffin cleared his throat.
“I just feel bad for the guy, you know? And I mean all the stuff about him was in the papers, right?”
Although my heart started beating faster, I simply murmured a little sound into my coffee cup and finally Griffin continued.
AND NOW CHAPTER 24 CONTINUES...
“It’s not like I’m gossiping, right? And I’m not trying to be like all those people who hear about an accident with someone else and then act like they know all about it because of that stupid ‘Kevin Bacon 6 degrees of separation’ thing…(I had no earthly idea what Griffin was talking about) and they come and tell you this story about how their neighbor’s sister’s daughter-in-law’s father’s uncle’s friend had this horrible mishap and they act all like they were there and saw the whole thing and it gets really irritating…”
The only thing that was irritating me at that exact moment was Griffin’s filibuster of babble; I’d learned nothing more than I’d known at the outset.
I swear, my tattooed friend must be pretty amazing at staying under water for a long time, because, without even taking a breath, he continued, “…because you try to figure out which parts of the story are true and which parts are made up because I think those people just try to embellish everything to make their five minutes, or is that fifteen minutes? of fame last longer and…”
Just then the jingling bell over the door interrupted Griffin’s attempt to say the longest run-on sentence in the history of the world.
I glanced up hoping to see Mr. Moro…I mean, Jay, but instead four well dressed women walked in, filling the small space with talk and perfume.
Little snippets of their conversation floated through the air along with the dust motes, “Can you believe she said…”, “…book club choice was horrible…”, and, “that quilt class was so…” I tried not to listen, but my ears perked up when the women ordered their coffee drinks and muffins. Muffins! I didn’t know the coffee shop had muffins!
I pretended I wasn’t eavesdropping as I continued to sip my now chilly coffee. I was surprised at how delicious it tasted, even cold. Maybe I should tell Griffin or Walden about my idea to serve cold coffee drinks when the weather was hot. I wondered if that might catch on.
Instead of taking their drinks and muffins with them, the four women took a larger table in the other corner of the shop and continued filling the space with noise. I’m certain they were all talking at once, and over the commotion I glanced up to see Griffin raise his eyebrow at me. His blinding smile made me smile back and I was determined to wait until the women left to learn more about Jay.
Instead, the coffee shop became very busy. For the next hour or so, the bell jingled almost nonstop. Finally I gave up, left a generous tip on the table and headed to the door. Griffin’s shouted, “Bye Pearl!” made me feel good. I waved to him and told him I’d be back soon!
Instead of hurrying home, I decided to walk up Main Street a little bit. Not only was I thinking about what he’d told me about Mr. Moro…I mean, Jay, I was thinking about him asking me, “What ARE you planning to write about?” I realized I didn’t have one interesting thing going on in my life.
I’d spent so many years being a mom, wife, chauffeur, cookie dough fund-raiser coordinator and rescuer- of- sweat- pant- cords- lost- inside- waistband- casings, I couldn’t even remember what hobbies and interests I’d now forgotten.
I plopped on a bench in front of a store filled with colorful fabrics and quilts. They were pretty and happy, but somehow I didn’t have any interest in going inside.
Instead, I got out my little magnetic notepad and decided to list things I was interested in and could write about.
I tapped my pencil for quite a while and couldn’t think of a thing.
Nada. Zip. Nothing.
I tapped some more.
Finally, I began writing down things I used to enjoy doing.
1. Ride bikes? No way. Too old. Too fat. No bike. I crossed it out.
2. Play piano? Couldn’t remember how to read music. No piano. I crossed that out, too.
3. Read? I’d never stopped reading. I just didn’t read as often or as much as before.
4. (tap, tap, tap) How dismal was it that I couldn’t even write down four things I used to be interested in doing?
I ripped the paper up and threw it in the glossy green trash receptacle by the bench.
“OK, Pearl,” I told myself, “Think of things you’d like to do.”
1. Quilt? Darn, darn, darn. I wanted to say that sounded interesting, but it didn’t. PLUS I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I crossed it out.
2. Write? Maybe. That sounded a little bit tempting.
3. Take a writing class. I liked that idea. I wonder where I could find out about one.
4. Volunteer. With kids? Little kids? That might be fun.
5. Research what had happened to Jay. I circled that idea.
Just then, I realized maybe the library was the place to start my list. I could find out about writing classes there and libraries need volunteers, don’t they? And don’t they keep copies of local newspapers?
I was excited. The library was the start of this new direction in which I was going to take my life.
It took me just a few minutes to zip across town to the Carnegie Library. I had a brief moment of panic in the car when I realized there might be a chance I’d run into someone I knew there. I didn’t want anyone asking me questions about my husband or offering me consolation. I worried for a moment that someone at the library might still be missing one of the many empty casserole dishes I’d washed and stashed in the hall closet. That might prove a bit awkward.
But I squared my shoulders and told myself, “Pearl, no cupcaking out, you can do this.”
And I did.
I walked right up to the small brick building and entered through the double glass doors. The inside was cool and slightly cavernous. I inhaled that smell peculiar only to libraries. I think it’s the smell of paper, glue, history and drama.
So far, so good. The young woman behind the desk was definitely someone I didn’t know. I’m sure I would have remembered her golden skin, big, brown, liquid eyes and platinum blonde/ bright pink hair. Although she looked to be about twelve years old, I’m certain she was older. The name on her nametag was obviously misspelled, unless Priyanka was her last name. If it was, indeed, her first name, that only served to re-enforce my newfound belief that there was no one left in the world named Bob or Susan. In a lovely, sing-song voice, Miss Priyanka asked me how she could help. I asked her where I could find local newspapers from a year ago and whether she could give me information about volunteering at the library. At the last second, I also asked for information about Cairn Terriers and blogging.
It was good to see Miss P pull out a small cut piece of paper and a pencil. Some things were still the same in this world. She handed it to me, saying, “Here’s where to find the books on that dog breed and blogging, check at the Periodical desk for the newspapers, and you’re in luck! There’s a volunteer meeting starting in about ten minutes in the Shakespeare Room.” Just then her phone rang, and she pointed a slim, golden finger toward where the meeting was being held. I smiled my thanks at her and decided to go to the meeting first.
The room was obviously set up for a meeting. Twelve or fifteen chairs sat in a semi-circle around a small table at the front. I was the first one there and I chose a chair at the very edge of the circle. A few moments later, the room began filling up. An older man wobbled in with a dull, silver walker. Two women, obviously friends, followed after him. And, just when it seemed like all the seats were full, a thin, younger man with chaotic brown hair stood in front of the table. “Hi Bob!” several people greeted him. I was so excited to see someone named “Bob”, I said it, too!
His brown eyes lit up for a moment. “Welcome. It looks like we have a new person here today. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
Using my best ‘former PTA president voice’, I said, “Hi. I’m Pearl. I’m hoping to work with children…maybe in the reading room or with arts and crafts, but I’d be happy to help with whatever you need me to do.”
Bob looked at my quizzically for a moment and then said, “Well, Pearl. We welcome your enthusiasm and we’ll talk more in just a moment.” Then he called the meeting to order by saying we would all join in a brief prayer.
For some reason, I thought prayers were not allowed in public buildings anymore. It was nice he wanted to create a feeling of fellowship among all the volunteers by having us join in worship before the meeting commenced.
Bob then asked if anyone wanted to share, and the older man with the walker raised a shaking hand. In a quavery voice he said, “You’ll be happy to know that I started getting rid of her sweaters this week. I packed a whole box of them and donated them to charity.”
Everyone in the room murmured praise and encouragement. I was puzzled.
Then another woman spoke up. It was too bad the old man hadn’t donated the box of sweaters to her because she was wearing one of the most hideous sweaters I’d ever seen in my life. It was chunky and snagged and had a picture of an ugly Santa Claus across the entire front of it. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would wear it at all, much less when it wasn’t the holiday season.
The woman clenched some shredded Kleenex in her hands and tried to talk. Stammering out the words, “I can’t...” interspersed with sobs, it finally dawned on me I was not in a volunteer meeting. “I can’t…(sob)…I can’t…(sob)…” the woman continued.
I stood up. “Bob? This isn’t the Shakespeare room, is it?” I interrupted. “No,” he quietly replied, pointing to his right. “The Shakespeare room is one door down. This is Chapter 8 of the local Grief Support group founded by…”
I didn’t stop to let him finish his sentence.
I all but ran out of the room and across the deserted lobby of the library. Priyanka smiled at me as I approached her desk. I raised my hand in a wave of goodbye, or perhaps panic, as I raced by her.
When I finally reached the sanctuary of my car, the tears started. “I can’t… I can’t…I can’t…” I echoed Ugly Christmas Sweater Lady until I thought I was going to be sick.
Finally I took a deep breath and, with shaking hands, started my car and began a careful and slow drive home.
To be continued, Tuesday, February 22.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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