Wednesday, December 31, 1986

She

A short story from college days, sometime in 1986

“She’s beautiful,” he tells his always sensible doctor-brother.
“I think she may be the one.”

“Yeah, but probably not the one for you.”

Autumn leaves. Fuzzy street lamps. Her hand doesn’t grip as tight.
“I’m just not sure where we’re going anymore... but I always want us to stay friends."
He tugs his trench coat closer to block the chill.

“No thanks,” he whispers.
“None of my friends have ruined my life before.”

Soft jazz. Dim lamp. Moist eyes. Empty bottle.
He collapses on the floor, sobbing.

“Mom, I don’t need someone to tell me what to do!” he screamed at seventeen.
“Help me, help me, help me,” he begs at twenty five.

Clenched fists. Thrown magazines. Broken vase.
“She isn’t coming back,” his brother says.

“But she was everything to me. She was the one.”

Excited. Slightly buzzed. Feeling rather chatty.
He calls his brother late one night.

“I met this gorgeous girl tonight. I think she may be the one.”

Skyscrapers and Oak Trees

Short story originally written sometime in college, 1985/1986.

George and his lap-top computer were very close. His wife, Linda, called it “The Lamb,” because “everywhere that George went, the lamb was sure to go.”

George’s boss, Mr. Bellwether, wasn’t particularly concerned what George or his wife called it, so long as it ran 25 hours a day. “You get out what you put in,” he bellowed.

“Uh huh,” Linda countered, “and if you put in ulcer-creating hours then you’ll get an ulcer.”

“But my work...,” George would sputter, “my work doesn’t stop just because the work day does.”

“Yes,” his doctor would confirm, “but when the battery on your lap-top runs out, you can plug it into the wall.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” George would nod in mid-eye roll, “and when my battery runs out there’s no rebooting. There’s nothing I can do. I have to put food on the table.”

“And a cabin at the lake and three cars in the garage? You can’t drive three cars at once and your summer home probably wouldn’t even recognize you if you dared to actually visit it! It isn’t about you needing money, George. It’s about you wanting money.”

“So what are you gonna do? Write me a note and get me outta class?”

“If you ever left class, as you put it, that might work. The only problem is when you’re not at work, you’re still at work. Your office goes wherever you go.”

“Doc, stick to medicine. You’re not my shrink.”

“George,” his shrink would retaliate, “listen to your doctor.”


“George,” commanded Linda, “You need a break. I think we ought to go to the cabin for the weekend.”

George pondered his doctor’s words and contemplated his boss’ expectations. “I do have that proposal due on Bellwether’s desk by Monday, but if I brought my lap-top and cellular phone and fax machine with me...”

“You just can’t survive without your office equipment, can you? Just forget it, George. I’ll take the kids and we’ll go without you. You have a ball spending the weekend with your ulcer machines; the kids and I will try swimming and waterskiing instead.”

Attempts at appeasement failed and around rolled Saturday to find George at home working all day accompanied only by The Lamb. “Maybe Linda’s right,” he thought, “I need to learn to put work aside once in awhile.” He headed for the kitchen to see what relaxation the fridge might offer. Armed with a bowl of cereal he hunkered down at the table determined to take it easy for a whopping five minutes.

The fading sun outdoors signaled the patio light to flicker to life. George gazed at it for a moment before his eyes rolled down to the kids’ toys decorating the patio and spilling their way into the yard. A smattering of tree saplings majestically guarded the yard, assuring that no harm would come to the children’s playthings.

George’s spoon clattered into his empty bowl. He sat for a moment, pondering the work yet to be done. At that moment, though, George did an uncharacteristic thing. He didn’t go back to work. Instead he let his beckoning backyard have its way.

George pried open the sliding glass door and was greeted by a light wave of summer wind lapping across his cheeks. His feet padded lightly across the concrete slab of the patio to the edge of the grassy sea bathed in impending moonlight. The voices of locust croaked in his ears as insects began huddling about the backyard lamp. George stepped hesitantly onto the ocean of green as if testing a newly frozen pond to see if it would support his weight.

Six hours later George opened sleepy eyes to stare up at a starry sky instead of his bedroom ceiling. A clearing and a fallen tree had begged him to sit down for a moment to take it all in. An accidental nap later, he imagined an irate Mr. Bellwether pounding his desk Monday morning and screaming about how “it was foolish to trust an idiot with a deadline!” George rushed back home to beg The Lamb for its forgiveness.

With his deadline looming even larger, George once again felt a need to get away. “No,” he told himself, “I can’t waste my time relaxing. I’ve got to get this done.” Minutes later he settled for compromise and scooped up The Lamb and headed out the back door. While he couldn’t rely on either his business or pleasure proving quite as fruitful, this method would allow him to accomplish both.

Sunday morning rolled around and George and his good intentions were fast asleep in the forest clearing again. Or so he thought. George awakened to the same beautiful creek bed and tree line as before, but now a window stood between him and his view. “That’s odd,” George thought, “I must be dreaming.”

George’s gaze fell down on The Lamb, which now rested on his desk instead of his lap. He glanced around to see his fax machine, his trash can, his stapler, and his paper clips - all the trappings of his office at work. It was real; he really was looking at the woods from his office window.

He wrinkled his brow and walked to the door. Bewilderment became alarm when he tried to turn the knob of his apparently locked door. Beads of sweat crawled across his forehead as he tugged his collar. George frantically tugged at the doorknob and pounded at the door. “Help! Help! Somebody get me out of here! The door’s locked! Somebody help me!”

It was to no avail. His office had followed him home and taken his life and family away from him. When George strolled into a small clearing in the woods to find the most peace he’d had in years, he wasn’t content to allow it. Instead he let his lamb follow him there too. Now his own little prison cell of an office had transplanted itself into the midst of his supposed getaway, a getaway he abused.

George ran to his desk and picked up his chair. He charged the window, smashing it with his chair. Over and over he smashed the glass until it splintered. On his last charge, the glass shattered and George’s momentum plunged him through the window.


“Linda Jacobson?”

“Yes, yes, officer. Is something wrong? Where’s my husband? Is something wrong with my husband?”

“Ma’am, your husband was found downtown by his office. He apparently charged through the glass in his office window and fell. I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Linda’s eyes welled up as she stood in shock staring at the uniformed man standing in her doorway. “Oh, George,” she whispered, crumpling to the floor.

“Mrs. Jacobson, I’m sorry to bother you, but I do need to know if your husband had any enemies or would have had any reason to kill himself.”

“Sir, my husband didn’t have any reason to live.”

Tuesday, May 13, 1986

Inspirations from a Fish

Meditations from college days, inspired by Marillion's Misplaced Childhood

The drums rolled across my head from one ear to the other and back. I sat on my island alone gazing at the sea of pollution before me. I listened carefully to a voice echoing from the waters. I desperately tried to define its message to me; what did it wish to say or what did I wish to hear? I peered about the confines of my imprisoning sea. Meanwhile the Fish sang “rain...”

Very visual. I see a park, dimmed by the greying clouds above. A couple of robins pick at the ground for worms as a sprinkler fans its fine mist across a hopeful sea of green. The children slowly abandon the slides and swings in favor of warm cookies and cold milk at home. The birds vigorously pluck at the worms looking like vultures picking at corpses. I wander the deserted park and marvel at the ironic grey of a place so sunny...

“And the man in the mirror has sad eyes...”

A wavy reflection stares at me, unmoving. The eyes are unblinking; the frown is constant and tightly drawn. I contort my expressions, but the face in the puddle is unchanged. I throw a rock at it. The face ripples away into oblivion. Now a calm, empty pool of water glares up at me. The impending storm does nothing to ruffle the water.

“And he looked out the window and it started to rain. I thought maybe I’ve already gone crazy.”

The voice of the sea had an eerie calm, a calm before the storm... “There’s a presence here - childhood, my childhood. My childhood? Childhood, my misplaced childhood... oh, please, give it back to me...”

And then the breeze blew stronger and my hair tossed in the wind.

“I see children with vacant stares destined for rape in the alleyways.”

I gazed down the alley; it invited one in from the cold and wind, like a Mother’s warm cookies and milk. Still, that eerie calm felt like a deserted park or a reflectionless pool...

A carefree summer or one reeking of pointless hours flipping hamburgers somewhere... is summer really calm? Is the work world so close to the turbulent seas? When does the calm become eerie? When is the too-good-to-be-true no longer true? Has something vital been misplaced? A reflection in a pool? The spirit of childhood?

Dustin’s got plenty in his life ahead. How happy will Barney be?

Isn’t this how the mind really works? Disjointed, confusing, disconnected, baffling... Why shouldn’t everything we do be complex? After all, it is, isn’t it?

Is it time to make sense yet?

“No, Gideon. The only thing that makes sense to you is death, man.”

Should it be scary? If it’s real.

Directionless. Uninhibited. Unorganized? Meaningless? Unreal?

“And I found direction. There is no childhood’s end.”

Friday, March 28, 1986

Your Good Friend Noah


a short story written during my college freshman year

I don’t suppose it matters now. I only wanted time. I guess that is sometimes the most valuable thing to ask of someone. But is it all that unreasonable? I never felt it was. But then, I guess I was the one with the time.

Oh, I suppose answering your question is in order about now. I’m Noah. You see, I have always valued friendships on the basis of time commitment. After all, I gave the most time to those friends I valued most. It seemed only fair that the favor be returned. But it wasn’t.

In the strictest of terms, I guess I was wrong. But it had been so unfair. I did not see it as perversion or obsession, but the courts had chosen to disagree with me.

Dearest Laura,

I sincerely apologize for the brutality of the last letter. I certainly don’t mean to sound possessive, but I tend to get jealous of your time. I honestly do not wish any more than your friendship. I realize your commitment to Ron is an important one and have no intention of interfering. But I still want you as a friend. Oh well. I guess you don’t have time to read anymore; I just wanted to get a postcard off to you. The Grand Canyon is great.

Your good friend,
Noah

I wrote that shortly before Laura and Ron’s engagement announcement. I responded that I thought she was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t see her relationship with Ron as a strong enough one. I assured her that I just wanted friendship, and that her escaping from me by getting married was extreme. She was furious and what was left of our friendship was pretty much destroyed.

When they married in late July, Laura didn’t even invite me to the wedding. I wrote a terse letter suggesting that she was afraid to face me because my previous accusations were correct. She wrote back - our first communication in three months. She said we had to talk before this got out of hand.

She had moved to Houston with Ron; I was still in Cincinnati. She said she and Ron planned a trip back to visit family at Thanksgiving and we would talk then.

I waited anxiously. I wrote a couple of letters which got no response. She called me on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we agreed on dinner that night. I made reservations at a fancy Mexican restaurant I knew she liked and was ready for a pleasant evening.

Ron only knew she was having dinner with a friend, a fact she pointed out quickly. I asked why it made a difference and said she seemed quite flustered. I again made comment that Ron was not really important to her and that she really only wanted to get away from me. She walked out.

I couldn’t stand to see Laura in such a marriage. Ron was an okay guy, but he just wasn’t right for her. I went over to Laura’s parents’ house where they were staying to confront him. Ron answered the door declaring I wasn’t welcome in his home and that I was to stay away from Laura. “Ron, you are just going to have to face it. She doesn’t love you. She’s just angry with me and trying to get back at me. You are just the unfortunate victim.” Ron became enraged and slammed the door.

I refused to give up. I would not let Laura destroy her life. I would prove that she didn’t really love Ron. I quit my job, packed my bags, and moved to Houston. I lived secluded and privately in a one-room apartment not far from their house. I was able to watch out my window and see Ron drive down the street on his way to work every morning and quickly picked out their routine. I also became familiar with Laura’s routine. She wasn’t working, but I knew she had planned to go back to school. I watched her drive by enough that I soon knew her routine as well.

One afternoon after she had returned home and hours before Ron would get there, I finally decided it was time to confront her. She was shocked when she answered the door and quickly tried to close it. I forced my way in. She screamed at me to leave. I insisted she admit that she didn’t really love Ron, she just was angry at me. I tried to grab her and settle her down. She grabbed a vase to hit me with and in my struggle to get it away from her, I knocked her down. Her head hit the edge of the coffee table and her body fell limp. I lifted her head up to see a small trickle of blood dripping down the back of her neck. She had gashed her head. It was not life-threatening, but the bump had been hard enough to knock her unconscious.

I panicked. I was sure the incident would be misunderstood. I picked up her limp body and carried her out to my car. Moments later, I was carrying her up the stairs to my apartment. As far as I knew, no one had seen us.

Once in my apartment, I realized she would be hysterical when she became conscious. The only way I could get her to listen to me was to keep her from getting away for as long as it took to get my point across. I bound and gagged her and tended to her gash.

When Laura awoke, she looked terrified. I desperately tried to talk some sense into her, but she was stubborn and wouldn’t listen. Night rolled around and she still wasn’t cooperating. I decided to keep her there overnight.

The next morning she looked weary. I asked her if she was ready to be reasonable yet and she shook her head in agreement. I told her I would take off the gag so we could talk, but she couldn’t start screaming. I didn’t want anyone else to think something was wrong. I didn’t want to hurt her if she started screaming.

Laura agreed. I removed the gag and she began pleading with me. “Noah, please. You have to let me go. You can’t keep me here. Please, Noah, please.”

“Laura,” I insisted, “I never wanted to do this. I have to make you realize that you aren’t meant to be with Ron. He isn’t right for you.”

“What do you want from me?” She started crying.

“Laura, I just want you to tell me you’ll leave him. You can’t stay with him.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll leave him. I’ll do whatever you want. Just let me go.”

“Laura, this isn’t for me. It’s for you. I want you to be happy.”

“Noah, you’re right. You’re right. I don’t belong with Ron. I never did. I was just angry at you and wanted you out of my life. I resented you trying to take care of me. I wanted to lash out at you. I’m sorry. Noah, you were right all along. Let me go. I’ll leave him. I promise. I’ll leave him, Noah.”

We drove back to her house so she could get some of her things. It was decided she would stay with me for a couple of days until she figured out where to go from here. I was very happy to see that Laura was now taking control of her life, that she was doing the right thing.

We had not been in the house more than a few minutes when I heard police sirens. Within minutes, there seemed to be cops surrounding the house. I told Laura she had to explain it to them. I looked at her standing in the kitchen. Suddenly she lunged for a knife and I grabbed her wrist, trying to wrestle it out of her hand.

“Freeze!” I heard from behind me. I turned to see a police officer behind us.

“Officer, it isn’t what you think!” I yelled. “I haven’t done anything wrong! You have to let her leave her husband! She just wants to leave her husband!”

The officer stepped forward and took the knife from Laura’s hand. She fell into his arms, sobbing as a second officer approached me with a pair of handcuffs.

As they marched me out to the police car, I begged and pleaded with them. “Just let me talk to Laura. She’ll explain it to you. She just wants to leave her husband. I’m just a good friend! I’m just a good friend! I would never do anything to hurt her!”

No one understands, though. No one realizes that she doesn’t really love him. I tried to make Laura realize she didn’t really love him, and for that I am in prison. I hate to think how miserable she must be. I’m her friend. I just wanted to help her. I was the only one who could save her - I used to be her good friend Noah.