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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 3

Updated on November 4, 2012

The Just War, Pt. 3

Note: This is the third 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!

Thursday morning, and Vic was doing what he always did before work. He was down in the finished basement, one half of which had exercise equipment. He did fifty push-ups, fifty stomach crunches, fifty pull-ups, fifteen minutes on the heavy bag and fifteen minutes on the speed bag before work, then took a shower and put on the clothes that Janet picked out for him. Vic had never been in the army or any armed service, but his father had and had instilled in him an exercise ethic as a way to keep sharp, both physically and mentally.

Thursday morning and Janet was doing what she always did before Vic went to work. She was making breakfast for her family and thinking about what clothes her husband should wear when he walked out the door. Barry wouldn’t eat anything but English muffins (scones to Vic’s Irish cousin) with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Vic used to get so angry about that, giving Barry lectures about what a growing boy needs. Barry would tune out and not eat anything before driving his little Nissan to school. Janet had managed to get the two of them to make peace. Vic would eat whatever Janet set in front of him, but it was usually two eggs over easy with a piece of wheat toast and a cup of black coffee. She used to enjoy black coffee but it had started ripping up her stomach when she was pregnant with Jen. She still enjoyed one cup a day, loaded with heavy cream, no sugar. She would sit with Vic and sip her java while he ate, then they would get Jen up. Janet sometimes missed having a job, although the company she had worked at was smaller than the one Vic worked at, she had been in a higher position and therefore drew a bigger salary. When it became beyond obvious that one of them would have to stay home to take care of Jen, Vic had offered to quit. But she said no, saying that it was because his company had the better insurance. That was true, but it wasn’t the whole story. She had known Barry in the womb, had become fiercely bonded with him. She had felt every kick, to be sure, but had also felt when he was happy, when he was scared, when he was comforted. When he came out and was put on her stomach, she already knew every inch of him, had pictured him and known what he would look like. She’d had none of that with Jen. She had felt coldness, almost like a wall had been put between her and her daughter. She had fantasized about her and her daughter, doing girly things together. Going clothing shopping, trying on makeup and perfume, talking about boys. Jen had hardly moved in the womb, and when she came out she hardly cried. Although both of them had worked hard to get through to Jen, she had seemed to gravitate more toward Vic, at least as much as she could. Vic picked her up, rocked her, sang to her, called her endearing nicknames. Janet had trouble with that. But over fourteen years she had forged a relationship with her daughter that was as fierce as it was fragile. And she treasured everything in her heart, and she examined her treasures every morning while fixing breakfast and picking out clothes. The family might have been better off financially on her salary, but no one could take away what she had traded that for. It was more important than gold, than money, than anything.

Thursday morning and Barry was doing what he did most mornings before going to school, or even if there was no school. He was on the computer, talking to his friends. Most days that meant talking to Stacey, usually on Facebook. Although other friends would try to break in from time to time, most people knew that this was their time and waited until after he left for school to get hold of him. Although his parents didn’t know this, he texted while he drove to school. He kept it to a minimum, telling himself that since most of the roads he drove were straight lines, he could tweet a few times between home and school. His friend Josh would usually tweet him about something that had happened at a party or something stupid one of their friends had done. They would laugh together, then meet up at school and go in together. He used to help his parents get Jen up for school, but since she was getting older he didn’t really want to see her while she was getting changed and dressed. Initially his dad would get upset, but Mom had calmed him down and gotten him to see that it was embarrassing to see a guy’s sister like that. He’d always felt a little closer to Mom than Dad, although he loved Dad. His family was closer than most of his friend’s families, and he was one of the few guys he knew whose parents were still married to each other. And he was grateful for that.

Thursday morning, and Jen was still in bed. Her parents had developed the habit of not getting her up until the very last minute, because if she had to wait for her bus too long she would often get upset and start melting down. She would have long periods where she slept through the night, from about 11:00 p.m. to six o’clock in the morning. But she would also have long stretches where she was up at two, three or four o’clock in the morning, her diaper full and then unable to get back to sleep after she’d been changed. She would demand one DVD after another be put in the player, having Vic take her from one area to another without usually watching the actual movie or show. Special Features, Chapter Selection, even Setup were explored in depth, multiple times. Or she would bring up the computer and have someone put YouTube on for her, where she would flip back and forth between her favorite videos over and over. But if she was in bed when it was time to get up, even if she’d only been in bed for a little while, the routine was same. Her parents would wake her up and give her the morning dose of Risperidone while she was still in bed. Vic would lift her up and put a pad (actually a folded sheet) under her, then change her diaper while Janet picked out her clothes for the day. After getting her lower body dressed and her shoes on, her teeth would be brushed and her face washed. They rarely offered any food or bottle because she rarely took any, and never if she was awakened. Then they would put deodorant and clothing on her upper body, then brush her hair. This was always a hard time. Jen’s brown hair had at one time been down below her shoulders, almost halfway down her back. But it got tangled easily, a state not helped by the fact that she was constantly playing with it. So they had taken her to a Cookie Cutter’s and had it chopped back to a bob. It was a lot easier, a lot less painful and didn’t take nearly as much time. Then they would put her jacket or coat on her, put her backpack on her back and that was usually the time that her bus to Hamilton Southeast High School would arrive. Shelley, the bus driver, had been driving Jen for years, and Donna, the aid, had been with her for a long time as well. Jen wasn’t always happy getting on the bus, and wasn’t always happy getting off, but it was a routine that more or less worked.

Thursday morning in mid-November, and the sky did what it usually did. It was dreary and overcast, with cold, gusty wind coming in from the north. The local stations all agreed that it would be cold and gusty, overcast and not very pretty. They couldn’t agree on whether rain was coming, snow was coming, or neither was coming. The sky off to the east still looked darker than the sky in the west.

Barry was already off for school. Briefcase in hand, Vic took a travel mug of coffee from his wife and kissed on the lips. They said their goodbyes, and waved to each other as he backed out of the driveway. Their house was on a slope, the driveway had to be kept clear during winter because it was steep enough that if he wasn’t careful, even the Explorer might slide. It had done that once, the first winter in the house. He had never felt panic like that behind the wheel, even as a kid he was a careful driver and although he’d had a couple of accidents, they truly had not been due to his negligence. He had been fortunate that he hadn’t hit anybody, and that the vehicle had stopped before sliding into a parked car or a mailbox. Vic put on WIBC to get the weather and traffic every ten minutes, hoping that I-69 southbound would be clear enough that he could take it to Binford Boulevard and from there head downtown. He exited his neighborhood onto 116th street, passing the Kroger and the Marsh on either side of Allisonville. As he passed the Shell gas station on the corner, something he saw out of the corner of his eyes made him turn to look. It had been a flash of white, but when he looked closer he saw that it was a van for a local plumbing company. It was nagging at the back of his head. This was the Marsh they had been shopping at five days earlier, something from that had nagged at him. He had seen something there, but only out of the corner of his eye as he’d had to focus his concentration on Jen when he was taking her out to the SUV. A flash of white.

With a start he realized that if he didn’t slam on his breaks he was going to hit the car in front of him. As the vehicle stopped abruptly, he was glad that his travel mug had a good top, so that none of the coffee would spill out over the side. Checking his rearview mirror, he was glad that no police were behind him.

The eastern sky, the one in front of Vic, got darker.

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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