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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 4

Updated on November 4, 2012

The Just War, Pt. 4

Note: This is the fourth 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!

Janet Marie (Devlin) Lawless believed in feelings. She had premonitions. She believed in angels and demons and spirits roaming the earth. She had been subject to sudden attacks as a child, lasting into her teenage years, where she would become almost unable to move for minutes at a time, then come out of it and announce that something was going to happen. At first her family laughed at her, but after the fifth time they started to take her seriously. Janet’s mother, Florence, was not the most intellectual person but she was a person of strong convictions. As heartily as she had disbelieved her daughter, once she decided that Janet was telling the truth, she never left the house without asking her if she’d had any “funny feelings.” Janet tried to explain to her mom that it didn’t work that way, but to no effect.

Janet was a Christian, and although she was not the most intellectual Christian, she took it seriously and never doubted that her feelings and premonitions, whether for good or ill, were from God. She didn’t tell many people about them, she found that they would either laugh at her and mock her or hold her in awe and almost make her an object of worship. She didn’t like either case. Vic was one of the few people who took it in stride, or seemed to at any rate.

Saturday morning dawned clear but bitter cold. Janet woke up and made coffee for her family, and started making coffee cake. She looked out the window in the kitchen, which faced east. Clouds were gathering on the horizon, she could see, but she didn’t think much of it. It was November in the Midwest. And there was an old saying about Indiana weather: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes. Saturday looked cold but sunny in the early morning, and Janet was not feeling anything unusual.

Victor Steven Lawless had never believed in premonitions before he started dating Janet. His family had been firmly rooted in the idea that if you couldn’t see or touch it, then it didn’t exist. He himself had never had premonitions, forebodings, bad feelings or dread. He tended to walk into situations believing that he could probably handle anything that came up. His father had worked for NASA and would tell him about space missions, even ones that he’d had nothing to do with.

Vic had found Jan’s stories about her feelings and premonitions fascinating, not because he believed them but because she so obviously did. She didn’t seem like a fanatic or a religious kook, even though she was a committed Christian and he was not when they met. When he had discussed it with his mother she had started coming up with reasons for him not to see Jan any more. His father, who lived in a different state than his mother, was equally skeptical about their relationship and seemed to want Vic to break it off. But he couldn’t help it, her blue eyes and quick mind had captivated him from the first, and every new thing he learned about her only made him more determined to be with her.

Vic’s Christianity came hard for him. He firmly believed in the existence of a personal, omnipotent God but it did not translate into the sort of rock-ribbed confidence that Jan had. Although he never doubted the existence of God, he struggled with how to interpret and apply what he read in the bible. He read several theologians and historians, but what they wrote didn’t always make sense to him.

On Saturday morning, Vic woke up feeling that something was terribly wrong. His stomach was in knots, and his chest was tight. But it wasn’t physical. He did his normal exercise routine and everything seemed fine. Jan noticed what was going on, how could she not? But when she asked him what was wrong, all he could tell her was that he didn’t know. He would tell her if he could.

Barry Donald Lawless woke up and wondered if he’d see Stacey at the library that day. He seldom worried about what was ahead. A good student but not straight A, he found school to be easy enough that he sometimes coasted his way to a “B.” This did not make his parents happy. He’d suffered through more than one lecture about wasting your potential. He didn’t get it, he was doing well enough, he would be able to go to just about any college he wanted to, and he didn’t want to go out of state. He’d never gotten caught up in whole IU versus Perdue thing; he knew that both schools had good points and bad points. He thought Ball State had potential as well.

His parents had told him some of the stories about Mom’s premonitions. He thought they were interesting but he didn’t know whether he really believed them. Part of him believed everything that his parents told him, part of him filed the stories away with stuff he read as a kid about séances and stuff like that. He never told any of his friends about it. He never had those feelings himself. Saturday was bright and sunny, but there was a storm on the horizon. He didn’t feel like anything was out of the ordinary.

Jennifer Lawless had no middle name. Vic had no feelings about it one way or the other, Jan had waffled between “Sophia” and “Victoria.” Vic didn’t actually want her to have his first name, he had suggested Marie as a middle name, but Jan didn’t like that at all. As a result, no middle name was listed on her birth certificate. They sometimes called her Jennifer Sophie, but they had never made it official.

On Saturday, Jen woke up early. She usually woke up early on days when she didn’t have to go to school. She did what she usually did on Saturday mornings, turned on the television in her room and stuck her favorite DVD in the player. Her favorite disc these days was the original “Gremlins” movie. Vic had not been in favor of buying it for her, but she had started to melt down in the store. For all his firmness with Barry, Vic was a soft touch with Jen. Although Barry used to complain that it was because she was autistic, but even Barry had to concede that it would have been much the same if she’d been typical. Mom was more strict with her, which is why she usually gravitated toward Dad. But she loved them both.

The Lawless family lived in a two story house in a subdivision near the intersection of 116th Street and Allisonville Road in Fishers, Indiana. Zip code 46038. Almost every Saturday, Vic would leave the house with Barry and Jen and drive to the Hamilton East Public Library. It took them about ten minutes. They passed two gas station, two drug stores, one Mexican restaurant and several pizza places. These were all places that they frequented.

The Ford Explorer had nothing special about it except for two things. Vic had once bought a set of those stickers you see on some vehicles, where one represented each member of the family. The kids had been several years younger, so the stickers representing them were still of preteens. The vehicle also had a handicapped license plate, which Jan had asked their doctor to write a note for. The clerk at the BMV had looked suspicious, but the whole family had been at the Fishers branch that day, and Jen had an episode. It still took a little talking even after that, but it happened.

The Fishers branch of the Hamilton East Public Library was a very nice building. When you walked in the front door, there was an area with benches on either side and circular windows. It was a kind of anteroom; you had to go through a second set of doors to enter the library proper. Once inside, if you turn to the left, you walk a few feet to a bin where you can return materials. If you turn to the right, there’s a hallway which leads to another set of doors. You go through that and you enter an area where there was a common area, a bathroom, and then doors to three rooms that were public rooms. They could be reserved and used as meeting rooms. Jen liked that area because it was a place where she could run around without bothering anyone. Girl Scout troops often met there. This sometimes caused problems, as Jen wanted to hang out with the girls. The girls were nice and polite, but they ignored her. Vic couldn’t fault the girls, but he still felt sad for his daughter. They had looked to see if any troops accepted special needs children, and although there were some, the special needs usually were either physical, or perhaps something like Down’s Syndrome. Autism Spectrum Disorder, especially when accompanied by self-injuring behavior, or a tendency to lash out, was not accommodated. At the other end of it was a door leading outside the building. It was the public entrance and exit when the library was being remodeled.

It was also connected to the rest of the library by a door that led to the children’s area. Jen liked to look at the childrens videos.

The Ford Explorer slid into a handicapped space close to the library. The sky overhead was sunny, but the clouds were forming. It was cold and the wind was whipping. When getting out of the SUV, Vic scanned the parking lot, looking for any vehicles that might be in motion. He had the iPad out, pulling up the Sandtimer. He didn’t notice anything unusual. He asked Barry about his phone, and the exasperated teen affirmed once again that he had it. Vic started the timer. While Jen watched the little pixels moving from one side of the screen to the other, Vic made sure everything was as it should be. The vehicle was locked; he had the backpack with the diapers, wipes and extra clothes. His phone was in his pocket. He watched Barry join the small group at the front door, waiting for it to be unlocked. As the timer ran out, Vic shut the door and followed his daughter inside the library.

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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