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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 2

Updated on November 2, 2012

The Just War, Ch. 2

Note: This is the second installment in novel that I'm writing as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. The rules are: write it! Don't edit, don't obsess, don't chart out notes. Don't worry about spelling, syntax, grammar or continuity. You can go back and fix those things later, but the most important thing to writing the novel is to get it written! It works out to 1,667 words per day. If you do more, great! If you do less, don't worry! Just keep plugging! And hopefully my first draft, with all spelling errors and continuity holes intact, will inspire you that you can do it too!

Chapter 2

“So, did you get the turkey?” asked Janet as Vic walked in the door.

“Yes,” Vic said a little sullenly as he placed the bird on the counter. The door from the garage into the house led directly in to the kitchen, with the water heater, water softener and furnace in a separate room off the kitchen, which also contained the washer and dryer. As he set the freezer-wrapped bird on the counter, even though he tried to be careful, the force made the coffee cup on its saucer near the dish drain rattle.

“What’s wrong?” Janet asked, concerned.

“It didn’t go well, Honey,” Vic responded.

“Tell me.”

“In a minute, after I get Jen in the house.” Going back out, he knew his wife would grab a sweater and follow him. She could not be deterred if she thought one of her children was in trouble. The couple had gained a reputation in the school district which, depending on who you were talking to, was either that of one of the more involved or interfering set of parents in the district. They had managed to tag team every conference since she had been in the first grade. They were in constant contact with Jen’s teachers, using first names with everyone in her school from the cafeteria ladies to the principal. And they were heavily involved in Barry’s school life as well. Vic never missed a conference. They both had been at every band concert while Janet’s mother watched Jen.

“What happened?” Janet asked as they approached the Explorer. They could clearly see Barry sitting in the back but didn’t see Jen at all.

“I was looking over the turkeys, when all of a sudden I hear her banging on the floor. I turned around and saw her on the floor, but I didn’t see Barry.”

“Where was he?” Janet snapped. He couldn’t see it but Vic knew the flash her eyes were showing at that moment.

“Apparently Stacey was with her mom shopping at Marsh at the same time we were there. He got to talking to her. And neither of them noticed when Jen wandered off. I don’t know what she was doing, but she must of gotten frustrated with something.” As they walked up to the vehicle, they could see Jen, wearing a large, red helmet resembling the kind worn by boxers when sparring. Her head was down on Barry’s lap, she looked dazed. Barry was ashen; his eyes wide and looking like a caged animal. The closer his mother got to the SUV, the more scared he looked.

“Honey,” Janet intoned softly as she opened the door next to Jen. “Come on honey. Let’s go in.” With gentle words and motions, the two parents coaxed and lifted their daughter out of the back seat, then Vic carried his daughter into the house, cradling the 14 year old who was as tall as a 17 year old in his strong arms. After a moment she looked up into his eyes, then she smiled slightly and put her head on his shoulder. Her teeth were out of alignment because of all the years that she had drunk from a baby bottle, and because of her autism there had never even been discussion of braces. But her teeth were clean and her smile was genuine. Lovingly, Vic carried her into the great room and set her down on the sofa. While he removed Jen’s helmet, Janet stroked her hair and murmured loving words to her. After a while Jen got up, went to the refrigerator, got out a thermos with Hello Kitty on the side and a straw in the lid, handing that and a can of Pediasure to her mom. As Janet poured the drink into the thermos, Vic went into the kitchen to put away the turkey, hoping it hadn’t thawed too much by then. The counter was clean, the turkey was in the fridge and the coffee cup had been rinsed and put in the dish pan with the saucer. Barry was nowhere to be seen.

Vic could hear the strains of some boy band or other coming from the television in the great room as his wife walked in, looking angry. “What was he thinking?” she asked, trying not to raise her voice (which would have been almost guaranteed to upset Jen) but not wanting to hold back on her anger.

Taking off his pea coat, an out-of-style bit of apparel that had been a gift from Janet, Vic hung it up in the hall closet. He was choosing his words carefully. “He was thinking that he missed his girlfriend and he probably thought, like teenagers do, that he had the situation more under control than he really did.”

“Well, I’m glad you can be so understanding!”

Snorting, he replied, “It ain’t easy, babe.”

“Don’t call me babe,” his wife retorted, leaning towards him. They touched foreheads and looked each other in the eye for a minute. Then she snorted the word, “Men!” and went to move the turkey from the fridge to the freezer. Breathing a sigh of relief, Vic thanked God for being able to get Janet to lighten up a bit. He knew that she had allowed him to pacify her, and they both knew that Barry would still need to be talked to, but for the moment they also knew that allowing Barry to think about what was coming and what might have happened was worse punishment than actually reading him the riot act.

“So what happened to Stacey?” Janet asked.

“I saw her looking like she’d just seen a car accident as we were leaving the store.”

“And you went back into the store and bought the bird?”

Getting a glass out of an overhead cupboard, Vic poured some distilled water out of a plastic jug. “After we got her into the Explorer and the helmet on her head, I put on some Alvin and the Chipmunks for her. She calmed down enough that I could run in and buy the bird.” He took a long gulp of water, remembering without meaning to the looks of some of the cashiers and customers who were obviously not thinking nice thoughts. But they had been shopping at that Marsh for many years; most of the workers were used to Jen and her occasional outbursts.

He almost remembered something else.

“What would you like for dinner tonight?” Janet asked. Vic was aware that she had said something, even that it was directed at him, but something was pulling on the back of his brain. “Hey, Earth to Vic? Hello?” She was waving her hand in front of his face. “Where are you, Honey?”

Blinking a few times, Vic replied, “What? Sorry.”

“What were you thinking about?”

“I don’t know. Something happened, or something, at the library. It had something to do with Marsh, but I can’t quite think of what it is.” Looking out the window over the kitchen sink, Vic tried to think of it, but it wouldn’t come.

“Well,” Janet said, “if it’s important you’ll remember it.” Opening the refrigerator again, she asked (again,) “So, what would you like for dinner?”

“Steak Tartar?” Vic grinned.

“You know how I feel about that!” Janet retorted. The two used to watch Julia Child reruns, Vic making fun of her speech while Janet deplored her hygiene and her habit of eating raw meat. One time Vic had joked he wanted steak tartar and Janet had lovingly unwrapped a porterhouse they had and threw it at him, hitting him in the eye. While she washed her hands she commented that at least if he had gotten a black eye, he already had the steak to put over it. After that he never made the joke without preparing to duck and catch.

A weak voice came from the entry to the hallway, “Mom? Dad?”

Janet turned to see their son, looking small and afraid. Vic’s first instinct was to yell at Barry; Janet’s first instinct was to take him in her arms. Vic calmly asked, “What is it, Son?”

His brown eyes rimmed with red, Barry said in a small voice, “I’m sorry.”

Opening her arms, Janet received Barry as he ran to her. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated several times through sobs. “I know she could have run out of the store and gotten hit by a car, or someone could have grabbed her.” As his mother stroked his hair, Barry said, “I’m sorry. I know I should have paid better attention to her!” Then he muffled his sobs into his mother’s embrace.

Afterwards, they sat down at the dinner table in the kitchen. “I’m glad you understand these things, so please be more careful next time,” the Dad said.

“I know, Dad. I will.”

“Okay,” Vic said, then embraced his son. They all looked up to see Jen standing next to them, handing a DVD to Vic.

“What does she want to see?” Janet asked.

Taking the disc, Vic made a face. “Justin Bieber,” he answered.

Chuckling, Janet said, “Well, go put it on for her.”

“I’ll do it,” Barry volunteered, taking the disc and heading for the great room, followed by Jen. They could hear one of the stations weather report, predicting cold and possible snow for the day and the next day.

“Funny,” Vic said.

“What, Honey?”

“Well, Channel 13 is saying possible snow, but I heard Channel 8 say this morning that it would rain but definitely not snow.”

“You know they always disagree a little,” Janet said, a little absent-mindedly. Vic wanted to joke that no, he would sue them for messing up his day, but he could see that she was thinking about something. “Vic,” Janet said, opening another conversation.

“What is it, Honey?”

“The last time I took her to see her neurologist.” she started.

Vic knew where the conversation was going. “I don’t want to talk about it” he snapped.

Janet would not be silenced. “Look, Vic, we have to talk about it. She’s entering puberty, she’s actually gone pretty much through it!”

“I’m sorry, I just can’t right now.” It was something that he knew he would have to deal with, that they would have to deal with together, but he just couldn’t bring himself to think about doing that to his own daughter.

“When, then?” she asked, a little annoyed, a little concerned, a little exasperated.

Vic didn’t answer, he just let his face show his emotions. Sighing, she turned back to the fridge and repeated the earlier question, “What do you want for dinner tonight? Is chicken okay?”

“Yeah, chicken’s great,” Vic answered. “Do we have any corn?”

“Only in the cans. If you peel the potatoes I’ll make mashed tonight, okay?”

“Yeah. Do you want me to do that now?”

“As soon as possible,” Janet said. “Have you checked the emails lately?”

“No,” Vic replied. “I’ll do that after I peel the potatoes.”

“Great,” Janet said. She looked at Vic who still looked distracted. “Are you sure that fried chicken and mashed potatoes are okay?”

“Yeah!” Vic intoned. “You know it’s my favorite meal!”

“Second favorite,” Janet reminded him.

“Okay, second favorite. But I’m hardly expecting barbeque tonight.” He could hear Jen singing along with Justin Bieber in the great room. Barry sometimes joined in. Getting a five pound sack of potatoes out of the pantry, Vic put the plug in the sink, got out the peeler and started whacking at the spuds. Quick, smooth motions away from his body. He used to cut himself regularly that way, but he’d gotten better about it. After peeling the initial one, he realized he should have filled a pot with water first so that he could slice them and put them straight in. While he was filing the pot with lukewarm water, he looked out the window at the dreary, overcast sky. The storm was still threatening, but it hadn’t arrived yet.

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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