When people find out I write books, sometimes they tell me they are trying to write one themselves. When I ask how far along they are, the most common response is a tap to the forehead. “It’s up here,” they say.
That’s not a book. That’s a thought. Books go on paper. If you’re not moving your pen across paper, you’re not writing a book, nor are you trying to do so.
I bring up that example because I never though of myself as TRYING to do anything. I write books because that’s what I do. I must confess, however, that the catchy title written in my biography on the ABOUT page, as well as at the end of “Confusing the Seasons,” has been TRYING to claw its way out for almost three years. Trying still.
It seems, however, that I am not trying as hard as the story may be.
Look, I’ll be honest. I haven’t touched the manuscript for “Men Waiting For Sleep” for almost three months, not because I don’t love the story or because I’ve lost interest, but because something that used to come easy to me now only comes out when I claw at it, goad it, pitch it, scream at it, kick it, punch it…
That’s not the kind of writer I want to be.
Lately photography has been coming to me much more easily. I don’t try. I just do. Set up lights, set the scene…perfect. It’s been working for me. And hell, I’ve created some great STORIES that way.
One of my favorite recent shots...
*Copyright ©2011 D2 Photography All Rights Reserved
But those men, those pesky men, still waiting for sleep, still staying up bleary-eyed, waiting for the sun to fall below the horizon and the pillow to greet their weary heads…those men rarely leave my mind. In my efforts to figure out how to get out the rest of the first draft, I’ve sort of forgotten an important point about writing:
My day job requires that I write about 5000 words a day. None of those words are fun to me. By the time I finish writing them, I have no desire to continue staring at the computer screen or move that pen across a page. This is a dilemma, but not an impossibility. I will finish the draft of “Men Waiting For Sleep.” It’s now just a matter of when. And how.
Let me tell you a bit about the story. I haven’t told anyone about it yet, except for the privileged few who have read the first 50,000 words or so (those privileged few are my dad, my de-facto editor Cat, and my wife, who has only read a few early pages). I haven’t even written a synopsis yet, so I can’t just copy and paste. This is the real deal. Here’s a sneak peak, just for your eyes.
Abe Jordan has been alive for far too long. Long enough to see his fishery fail at the hands of his once-partner, Morris Levant. Long enough to see a young, innocent, and inquisitive boy grow up to be a lousy drunk. And long enough to feel responsible.
That boy turned drunk is Joshua Levant, and when he’s not sinking boats or crashing pickup trucks, he’s ignoring the infant daughter who adores him, the wife who can no longer touch him, and the mistress who no longer wants him. Behind his stupor, however, Joshua is a man in search of something greater than himself.
Before the tourists arrive in throngs from cruise ships and the interstate just a few miles inland, the town of Key Harbor, Maine slumbers beneath an early spring fog, a cataract between a seemingly unforgiving god and the tired people so often looking up to him, wondering, hoping for something better, settling for the mystery, and getting away with whatever they can before the fog lifts.
Good deeds and evil ones often cross paths within that fog in Key Harbor, and farther south in Levant Harbor. When the fog lifts, the deeds that need doing before sleep comes are readily apparent in the harbor where a boat sinks slowly; on a back road where a car and a deer will meet fatefully; and in the neglected mind of a young girl with a shotgun and a plan.
Abe had once owned his own red pickup truck, one in which Joshua had been a passenger almost nightly. In those days, Morris was often preoccupied with his various business dealings—interactions that were rapidly interfering with his primary business, which was the fishery he ran alongside Abe—and so Abe would often volunteer to take the boy home. Morris’s house was not far from Abe’s anyway, so he would take Joshua to his own small house, cook the boy dinner, and let him watch a bit of television or poke around in the garage if the weather was warm enough. As Abe sat in his office chair looking out at the ocean shortly after Morris left, he was thinking about one ride home in particular.
He remembered the feel of the iron railing that night, cool and damp from the rain that had stopped only a half hour earlier. Night had fallen as he drove Joshua home, and on the way, he spotted the flames up ahead and thought to slow down to see what it was. Abe had been delayed at the Fishery and Morris was caught up with some meeting or another, and so night had fallen and Joshua had fallen fast asleep in the passenger seat, more likely out of boredom than exhaustion. But Abe thought it might be okay to wake the boy up for this: the East Shore Kid’s Hospital was on fire. Abe saw no harm in it, since the hospital had been decommissioned about five years earlier and was therefore vacant, and when he woke Joshua, he saw he had made the right choice. The boy’s face lit up with curiosity and overwhelming awe.
Abe pulled the truck into the parking lot of Gemma’s diner, which had been closed since noon, since its parking lot was set up high above the road, offering a fantastic view of the fire below. The fire must have just started—no fire trucks had come yet, and Abe heard no sirens approaching. When he pulled into the parking lot, he opened his door, but Joshua did not open his. Instead, he sat in his seat, peeking over the dashboard in an attempt to get a better look.
“Don’t worry, it’s okay to get out,” Abe said. Joshua looked at him, his face distinctly uncertain, which made Abe laugh a gentle chuckle. Abe got out, and just a few seconds later, Joshua followed suit. The boy climbed up onto the lowest rung of the iron railing that bordered the outline of the parking lot, and Abe sidled in behind him, putting his arms on either side of the boy’s shoulders.
“Why is it on fire?” Joshua asked.
“Don’t know,” Abe said. “Vagrants, maybe. Gettin’ to be that time of the year.”
“Time of year for what?”
“Gettin’ cold, boy. Vagrants go inside to get away from the wind and rain. Sometimes they build campfires inside.”
“What’s a vagrant?” Joshua asked.
“A homeless person.”
“They don’t have homes?”
Abe thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to explain this to the boy softly. “Some people just don’t have homes.”
Joshua said nothing in response to this for several minutes. He watched the flames dance into the air, his hair rustling slightly in the breeze, his cheeks getting colder but his fingers grasping the cold iron railing despite their numbness. Then, as if assessing the validity of Abe’s explanation, Joshua said, simply, “like me.”
Abe almost did not hear it. He second guessed, in fact, for a moment that he had heard it at all, and then he decided he had to respond. He had to tell the boy he always had a home, if not with Morris, then with Abe himself. He would never go without—this was what Abe wanted to tell him. He wanted the boy to know that Abe would take care of him if he needed caring for, he would watch him for the rest of his life if he wanted it. He wanted to tell Joshua that he may not be the boy’s father, never would be, but he would treat him like a son anyway if the boy wanted it and needed it.
Instead, Abe said nothing.
And for the rest of the night, he heard that moment of nothing in his head over and over again. Like a break in the radio reception during a favorite song. Abe Jordan could not stop hearing it.
He counted that moment as a failure, one he would not forgive himself for, even as a ninety-two year old man sitting in his office, mostly forgotten by the very boy of which he thought so fondly.
COPYRIGHT © 2011 DANIEL CAVALLARI ALL RIGHTS RESERVED