Well, we’re now arriving at the one-quarter mark of this painfully slow novel, and I think it’s about time for some good old-fashioned c. a.-signature novel-bashing, don’t you agree? I mean, at least three fellow CW guinea pigs are reading along and even they must admit I’ve been pretty good about not bashing so far. I deserve a little leniency this time. Let me bash, just this once.
This chapter was even more painful than the last couple…I tried to keep in mind what several of you have mentioned about whiney or emo characters and in addition, what others of you who “got” what I was going for have said about the characters making sense and feeling real. Hence, a very slow, rather short, altogether sad little chapter that needs a lot of work still but that I am by now too sick of to do anything with.
On a different note, I’ve discovered that my numbering system for these chapters makes very little logical sense. The first editation is blank.0 and the second draft is blank.2. Whatever happened to blank.1? Good question. I could switch to doing blank.1 for the first editation (not to be confused with first edition), but I like the clean look of blank.0 better. So then would the second editation have to be blank.1? Nah, that’s silly, because it’s not 1, it’s 2. So let’s just say that the numbering system is of the same brand as the intricate workings of c. a.’s mind. That is to say, completely random.
Now my bashing is complete. Enjoy! =)
The Foolish and the Weak 3.0
Inside the screaming ambulance he sat with Matthew’s mangled hand wrapped tightly in his own, carefully guarding against the crowding specters of that other time so long ago. Only once before had he been the passenger in an ambulance, seated next to dying love and unable to do a thing. Beneath the oxygen mask and a veil of blood, the face at his side kept changing…
It’s a rainy night, Brian
the roads are slick.
He pushed the memories back into the dark corner of his mind, the corner haunted by his former self. Very soon they would reach the hospital and there would be papers to sign and Jenn and Christian to convince that everything would be ok. And right now Matthew needed him, all of him, even the part of him that died out there in the rain.
They were making good time for a Saturday evening. Brian didn’t recognize the driver, but he was good.
It’s a rainy night, Brian, and the roads are slick. I think we should slow down.
Memory sideswiped him again. Brian shook the salt from his eyes and focused all his attention on the medics. One of them he knew well, the older one, Mike…he was a good guy. The best. Years ago, as his green partner on an ambulance in the city, Brian had decided that. Those gnarled hands hovering swiftly, tenderly over Matthew’s body knew their work well.
“Hey, Tracy,” Mike Bentley yelled over his shoulder. “You ok?”
“Yeah, Mike. I’m ok.”
The older man twisted around and Brian knew that he knew what “ok” meant. “Hey, Tracy…your kid’s tough. He’s gonna be ok.”
Brian did not know what “ok” meant. And the siren wailed on.
When the screaming finally stopped somebody threw open the door of the van and the familiar explosion of hospital hubbub swept Matthew away. Brian started alongside the gurney but a hard hand clamped down on his shoulder.
“Hold on, kid…you can’t go in there with him.” Mike’s gravelly voice was very gentle. “You should know that.”
So. So it was as bad as Brian had known all along. Otherwise Mike would not have called him “kid” or have spoken so tenderly. Otherwise they would have let him in. For Matthew’s sake he had tried not to know, tried to believe his trained eye had somehow made a mistake. But there was no mistake and “ok” meant bad.
Somehow the release from self-woven lies unlocked the inherent strength that had carried him through the last time. And the phantoms retreated to their distant corner.
I can handle ok. As long as there’s a chance, I can deal with ok.
Mike misinterpreted the look on his face. “Tracy…hey, Tracy!” The pain of Mike’s grip on his shoulder made Brian wince. “Listen, kid, you can’t do anything for him in there. You get a grip and you go be strong for your wife, you hear me?”
Brian eased Mike’s hand off of his shoulder. “Mike, I’m fine. Really. But thanks anyway.” He wrung the older man’s hand and hurried away.
There were signs all over the walls prohibiting sleeping, eating or drinking in the waiting room but it still smelled stale, like an unaired kitchen or a teenager’s bedroom. Brian twisted around in his seat to jerk open one of the ancient windows. Guilt flowed over him with the breeze, guilt that since that first numbing horror of the hit and run he had not felt a single thing, and fear that maybe this time the stone was here to stay.
I should be pacing the room in terror right now, not sitting here staring at my shoes.
God knows I love you, Matthew. Did I ever tell you how much?
See, I’m a lot like you. We don’t say much of tender things. To your mom and brother, maybe, not to each other. But I need you to know. I love you, my son, I love you more than anything. I want to be afraid for you, but right now I can’t…do you understand that?
A young couple shuffled into the waiting room. The guy led his obviously pregnant girlfriend to a chair in the corner. Her face, streaked with mascara and tears, was scratched and bruised like his. Brian, watching them, forgot to breathe.
No, Brian. I don’t understand. You are leaving me here alone and I don’t understand…
Even though the afternoon was warm, Brian shivered and shut the window again. The phantoms had, indeed, retreated to their corner – and that corner was spreading, spreading and bleeding like the dye on a garment.
He licked his lips nervously, checked his watch and half pulled out his phone. Jenn would arrive soon with Christian. More than anything, Brian needed to put his arms around her, to love her and to know that she was safe.