Hammering Out The Kinks
I knew when I took this on that there were going to be obstacles and challenges and I’ve hit a few of them now. The biggest problem with blogging a book as far as the reader is concerned is how easy it is to navigate to other chapters. I’ve added the chapter of the book to each blog title, hopefully it’ll help. I’m also planning on posting each chapter again, without the boring preamble so you can just skip ahead to the story without having to put yourself through the agony of reading about my thoughts and ideas.
Also, I’ve added historical quotes to the beginning of each chapter. I had originally planned on doing it only a few times throughout the story, but because I’m a pompous ass, I’m doing it more. I’ve also discovered my first story flaw. At first Alex was said to be well off financially, but that doesn’t really make sense. He needs to be a broken man. His marriage (and love life) is a shambles, his family life is tenuous, and his job is falling apart. He’s broke. He needs money, and the sting from being disinherited has to reflect that. I also changed the length of time that he’s been divorced. Earlier, it was only 5 years. Now, it’s 11. It seemed like the longer estrangement would amplify the hurt feelings exponentially.
These sorts of changes are going to happen. Normally, they’d be fixed after it’s all done, but as you are reading the first draft as I write it, you’ll find yourself privy to the changes as they happen.
Have a suggestion? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow the blog if you haven’t done so yet and tell all your friends. See you next week
There are memories that time does not erase…Forever does not make loss forgettable, only bearable.
Alex took a booth at the back of the Lionshead which gave him a clear view of the pub’s front door. He hung his nylon Blue Jays windbreaker on a nearby coat tree and slid onto the well-worn naugahyde bench. The waitress took his order, an open-faced Rueben with the house salad, and placed a ginger ale on the table in front of him. His smartphone vibrated in his pocket and he slavishly checked the message. It was from Lorne. It read: Sorry running L8. CU soon.
Alex sighed, placing the phone back in his pocket. He hated that cell phones seemed to be destroying the written language. He was hardly a literary scholar, but he would never dream of sending a text that didn’t contain actual words inside actual sentences. It was a generational thing. He could practically feel the sting of his third grade teacher, Mrs. Buchannan’s ruler rapping his knuckles for writing such trite. What was that expression about old dogs and old tricks? Or was that new tricks? Alex strained to remember but was mercifully distracted when the pub’s door opened and he spotted Jeff. Jeff, still wearing his pale green medical scrubs, slid into the booth opposite Alex.
Jeff flashed his typical affable smile. “Hi Alex,” he said. “How are you?”
“A little hungover,” Alex admitted. “I can’t handle my drink like I used to.”
“You and Lorne had quite a few. I couldn’t keep up if I wanted to,” Jeff laughed.
“How was your shift?”
“Busy, as always,” Jeff replied. “I checked on your father today. He was sleeping. The nurse said he’s been tired lately. I don’t think he has much time left.”
“She said as much to me,” Alex said. “I don’t want to exert him, but he wants to tell me something. Something from the war. Whatever it is, it stresses him out. I’m afraid he’s overdoing it.”
“It’s pretty common. People seem to know when it’s their time and want to clear their consciences before they pass on. My advice would be to just listen to him. He’s not in any pain and it can’t harm him. Let him get it off his chest. It’ll make him feel better.” Alex nodded his agreement.
A few minutes passed by and Lorne arrived, sliding in beside Jeff. The two men exchanged a brief kiss. Alex tried to ignore it. In his rational mind, this minor public display of affection between a man and a woman wouldn’t bother him so why should it between two men. But it did bother him. He pushed his discomfort aside. It shouldn’t matter who Lorne loved, so long as he did love, Alex knew that. He wanted to be happy for him. It was very hard though.
He removed the copy of the will given to him by his father’s lawyer and began to read through it. The kids ordered just as Alex’s lunch arrived. He decided to forgo etiquette, and hungrily dove into his meal while thumbing through the document. It was written in the sort of layered legalese that lawyers love writing legal documents in. He skimmed ahead and read the codicil, stating that all material possessions and properties, with the exception of those with sentimental value, were to be liquidated and the proceeds, as well as any monies in savings or trust to be divided equally between Lorne Allenby and Emily Thorning. Alex put the document down and rubbed his temples. It still made no sense. And it hurt. A lot. Alex tried to take the high ground and honour his father’s last wishes but it was difficult. He was excluded from the will, and whether or not that was the intent, he was also excluded from the family. Was Dad punishing me for leaving? He was always so supportive. He understood Alex’s need to get away, to make a fresh start after the marriage failed. So why would he hold it against him now?
“Here Dad,” Lorne said, pouring his father a frosty mug of beer from a pitcher. “You look like you could use this.” Alex thanked Lorne and, against his better judgment, took a long draught, savouring the bitter but refreshing flavour. Alex returned to the document, picking up where he left off. There was one exception, a bequest left specifically to Alex. Alex, curiosity piqued, read on. There was an old cigar box that Brennan kept on a shelf near his desk in the den of the family home. Alex was to have its contents. Alex muttered to himself and finished his beer in one long, exasperated mouthful. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“What is it? The will?”
Alex handed his son the document, drawing his attention to the pertinent clause. “I meant it when I said you can have my portion.”
“I know, son. That means a lot and I do appreciate it. It just feels like I’m being excluded.”
“I know the feeling,” Lorne replied.
Alex exchanged a look with Lorne and a wave of silence washed over them.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t there for you…”
“That’s not what I meant. As a gay man, I know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in.”
“I should have been there for you. You shouldn’t have felt alone. I can never make that up to you.”
“Sure you can. You’re here now.”
“I’m here now,” Alex repeated. He held his empty mug aloft. “To new beginnings.”
“To new beginnings.”
Alex returned the will to his briefcase, and ordered another ginger ale. One beer was enough for him. He was far too old for hair of the dog to have any sort of positive effect on him.
“When are you going to the hospital?”
“I’m not sure. Later in the afternoon or tomorrow morning.”
“Just to let you know Mom will be there tonight. She visits the same time every week,” Lorne said.
“Does she? That’s very nice of her.” There was a slight catch in his throat, and Alex did his noble best to ward off tears. For some reason, this simple act, this gesture of kindness on behalf of Genie, touched him. He hadn’t expected her to care. They were together a good, long time. Of course she would visit. Still, it wasn’t enough for him to forgive her. “I’ll go tomorrow morning then.”
“She wants to see you, Dad,” Lorne said. “She wants to talk to you.”
“I have nothing to say to her,” Alex replied, a little more harshly than he intended. His irritation faded quickly. “I’m not ready to see her.”
“It’s been eleven years,” Lorne said. “Surely you can be friendly, for my sake and for grandpa’s?”
Alex sighed heavily. “We’ll see. I’m not promising anything.”
“Fair enough.” Lorne took a drink from his mug.
Alex’s phone buzzed. He read the message on the screen. “It’s Emily.”
Lorne’s heart skipped a beat. “What’s the matter? Is it Grampa?”
“No. No, it’s not that. She’s at Dad’s house. They are going through his stuff. She wants to know if there’s anything you or I want. She’ll put it aside.”
“Those vultures!” Lorne said. “They’re going to clean him out!”
Alex passed his Visa card to the waitress. “We’ll head over there right now,” he told them. “I’ll straighten this out.”
The waitress returned a couple minutes later. “I’m sorry sir,” she whispered conspiratorially. “There’s a problem with your card. It came back declined.”
Alex’s face flushed. Flustered, he opened his wallet, remembering too late that he’d spent his cash on parking. Embarrassed, his eyes sought out Lorne, “I’m sorry, son. I’m a little short.”
“It’s ok, Alex,” Jeff interrupted. “I’ve got it. Don’t worry. These things happen.” Jeff flashed his trademark smile, but it did little to put Alex at ease. He was mortified. Mercifully, they all piled into his rented car, and not another word was said about it.
Brennan’s condo was just off the shore of Esquimalt Harbour, affording a breath-taking view from the balcony. Brennan and Esme bought it after retiring. It was close to the grocery store and the doctor’s office. Everything else was a close drive. Occasionally, they’d take a forty five minute drive along a curvy, wooded road into neighbouring Sooke just to buy farm fresh eggs. It became something of a joke to Emily and Clive. But the elderly couple enjoyed the drive, taking in the scenery. They kept at it right until Esme got sick. Brennan never went back. The ride just wasn’t the same without her.
Emily was rooting through the china cabinet, carefully wrapping the porcelain pieces carefully in brown postal paper and placing them ever so gingerly into a cardboard box. Clive was unhooking the television set, and untangling the myriad of cables connected to it. Alex unlocked the door and went inside. His sister and brother-in-law stopped dead in their tracks like cat burglars caught in a spotlight.
“What is going on in here?” Alex asked calmly but through gritted teeth. “The will said that all possessions were to be liquidated.”
“Except those with important sentimental value,” Emily retorted, clearly ready for a fight. “These were mom’s bone china, and grandmother’s before that. It’s only right that they go to me.”
Alex felt some of his anger ebb away. She made a pretty good point. He had no use for them, and it was fitting that it stayed with the women in the family. It’s what mom would have wanted. “Fine,” he agreed. “But what about the TV? That has no sentimental value.”
“Come on, Alex,” Clive said. “It’s just the boob tube. How much is it really worth?”
“That’s not the point.” Alex said, but knew he was defeated. He walked into the den, followed by Lorne and Jeff. “Lorne, help me find that cigar box.”
“Sure, dad. It’s supposed to be in here.” Lorne searched the bookshelf. It was replete with old Louis L’amour paperbacks, a vintage transistor radio, and various hockey memorabilia, including a puck signed by Bobby Orr. Lorne picked up the puck and traced his fingers along the signature. He was with Brennan the day he got this. Bobby was at the sportsman show in Saanich, signing autographs. Brennan was a huge fan, and Lorne convinced him to go and meet him. Bobby was polite, and made time for everyone. He signed the puck with a silver sharpie; Best of luck Bobby Orr. It probably wasn’t worth very much, or was it? Who could say what sports collectibles were valued at? Lorne looked at his father with plaintive eyes.
“Go ahead. He’d want you to have it.” Lorne slipped the puck into his jacket pocket. The he turned on the radio, and Johnny Cash sang So Doggone Lonesome, and it seemed somehow appropriate. Hanging on the wall beside the bookshelf was a largish shadowbox. Inside, displayed prominently over old photos of Brennan in his military uniform, were a rack of nine medals. Each was polished brilliantly, gleaning proudly, and decorated with various, multi-coloured ribbons. If only they could talk, Alex thought. The stories they could tell. There was a space between them, room for one more. Alex remembered it went missing when he was a boy. He played with the medals, fascinated by what they represented; a war hero. That particular one, the missing one, was never found, not even when his parents packed everything and moved into the condo. Alex felt a twinge of guilt. He’d always felt bad about it, like he’d lost something of irreplaceable value, though his father was never angry about it.
Alex opened the bottom drawer of the desk, and found a thick, unsealed envelope. He looked inside and saw a wad of twenties. There must have been close to five hundred dollars inside. Brennan’s pin money. He always said that he was saving it for a rainy day. The cash would surely come in handy, but it felt wrong. Despite the looting going on in the living room, taking his money felt like stealing. He replaced it in the drawer.
“Here it is,” Lorne said, pulling a dusty cigar box hidden on the top of the book case. It was covered in a thick layer of dust and tendrils of cobwebs hung from it. Lorne handed it to his father. Alex rubbed it off with the sleeve of his shirt. The label had a heavy greenish discolouration and featured a woman wearing a crown looking rather forlorn. In large letters running across the top of the label it read: Onze Koningin. Alex looked at it for a moment, trapped in a fit of déjà vu. He’d seen this box before. It was a long time ago, when he was just a boy. There was a man, a stranger. Alex concentrated, trying to remember that day. The stranger showed up unannounced and gave his father the box. His father cried. He remembered that. It unnerved him now as much as it did then.
“What is it?” Jeff asked. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Alex replied. “I’ve seen this before.”
“What’s in it, Dad?”
Emily and Clive, sensing the commotion stood in the office’s threshold. “Open it,” Emily said. It was killing her not knowing. Whatever it was must be important, or valuable, for it to be Alex’s sole inheritance. Alex opened the box and a gasp escaped his mouth. He hadn’t even known that he was holding his breath.
“I don’t understand,” Lorne said.
“What is it?” Jeff asked.