Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More, more, more...

More changes to that storyboarding job. Which will have more changes, later, I'm sure. Such is life in the corporate world. After lunch with my sister, I'll be digging into that, having just scanned in the new sketches I made.

I had a part of RIHC6 book 2 slam into me, last night, and wrote it out on my computer. Wound up with 6 pages of the intro, jumping the story a year ahead of where book 1 left off, and in a very disorienting fashion. I know where it's going, now, and just need to let it come out.

With BC-3 I only have a vague notion of what needs to be where and can do sections of it, if I want, but don't have a clear idea of the flow.

With POS, I'm building up the background I'll need to get the first section of the story better laid out. But here's a snippet of Brendan in Houston.


It took me a week after that dinner to be able to even so much as climb the stairs without being exhausted, and a week after that before I ventured from the house, and then it was only because Uncle Owen was working on his car. It had rained and the air was thick and wet, making it difficult to breathe, almost. I was lying in my bed, staring at the blank ceiling, drifting into my usual nothingness when I heard the engine chugging, outside. Over and over and --

-- Jeremiah O’Shea’s Cortina wouldn’t start on damp mornings and he’d had near everyone he could think of check into it, at no small cost to himself, until he let me look into it and I found the problem and --

I rose from the bed and went to the window. Uncle Owen was at the Volvo, under the bonnet -- the hood, as it were. It was a dark blue PV544 and looked like it had the twin SU Carbs to it. A clean-looking car it was but in need of a wash and maybe attention paid to the rust spots developing between the passenger door and front fender. The interior wasn’t quite as good of shape but wasn’t beyond saving, and from here the engine looked fine. But when Uncle Owen get behind the wheel to turn the key, I could hear the car creak a little so it definitely needed lubrication and maybe a fresh set of shock absorbers.

I stood there and watched Uncle Owen try to start the engine and it just chug along, trying really hard to catch. Then he’d go back under the hood, unplug the spark wires and replug them and try again only to get nothing. Then he’d go back under the hood and undo other connections and redo them and try again. Over and over. It was comical, for he didn’t sit easy in that car.

I finally had enough of it and went downstairs and out the back door. The ground was still wet and sticky, and the air felt even more smothering without the house, and I wore only my pajama bottoms, still. No slippers even, so the soaked grass tickled my feet.

“Having troubles?” I asked.

He jumped and looked at me as if I were a madman, which I probably seemed to him. “Brendan, what’re you doin’ out here? You ain’t dressed.”

I didn’t care. “Would you like me to look at it?” I said, motioning to the Volvo.

He shrugged. “Does this every time there’s a fog in the mornin’. Then in the afternoon, it starts up fine. But I need to get goin’ an’ this is the only car left.”

I looked around and saw two dry spots where two cars had been. “When’s Aunt Mari due back?”

“Dunno. Guess I’ll just grab a cab. Lookin’ a buyin’ this bar in up in The Heights and the owner’s due at one. I’ll get it towed into the shop, later.”

In answer, I leaned over the engine and checked the cables. They were on the old side, probably original. Same for the coil and other wires. I pulled at it without gripping the glove and it nearly separated. “Try starting it, again.”

He shrugged and sat behind the wheel and the car creaked; definitely needed lubing but maybe not on the shocks. I pushed both ends of the coil’s cable against their gloves...and the engine fired right up.

Uncle Owen bolted from the car, startled. “What’d you do?”

“You need a new coil,” I said. “It’s coming apart inside the glove, so you can’t see it. Is there an auto supply shop nearby?”

“Up Shepherd. I can stop on the way.”

I nodded. “You might want to think about having all the cables replaced. They’re about due.”

“Damn, Brendan, where’d you learn that?”

“I’ve been at this since I was six. Clocks, TVs and the like. Cars. Made extra money from it.”

“Your mother never told us.”

“She didn’t know, most the time. When I got on with Mr. Green, she thought I just cleaned the shop.”

“Didn’t you tell her what you were doin’?”

I nodded then headed back to the house, feeling sleepy. Uncle Owen let me go.

I fixed a sandwich from the wealth of food available in the fridge -- cheeses and luncheon meats and lettuce so crisp it could cut you and rich red tomatoes and something called Sandwich Spread all piled high on some brown bread that felt as light as a feather -- and found only a couple of Dr. Peppers chilled in the fridge’s door. I took one, opened it and returned to my room. I sat on the bed and ate, feeling very luxurious, and thoroughly enjoyed the Dr. Pepper; it wasn’t as sharp and biting as Coke. Then I dozed a little before rising, again, and deciding I was weary of having nothing on me but pajamas.

I took a long scalding-hot shower, letting the steam fill my lungs and wipe away the stickiness of the air, then toweled off...and had to towel off twice more, thanks to the combination of steam and humidity bringing out my sweat. No wonder they bathe every day and layer on deodorant, I said to myself, if they didn’t they’d reek.

I dug through a large set of drawers to find y-fronts and socks and undershirts and athletic shorts -- of course, I was in Scott’s room and they’d left me some of his things to wear. I was surprised they fit, but then reminded myself I’d lost a fair bit of weight and was only just beginning to regain it. When I was back the way I used to be, I’d need a size larger.

I found my jeans hanging in a closet with some Levis. My boots sat on a shelf in the back, still covered with dust and --

-- The car vanished and I tumbled back as dust and filth and bits and pieces of metal and engine rained down on me and --

I stepped back. Saw a pair of sandals and took those. They were a bit on the large side, but an extra pair of socks helped them fit just right.

Of course, I was beginning to near weariness, again, but I decided not to give in, this time. I headed downstairs.

No one was about, yet, so I went back in the yard to find the Volvo gone. Uncle Owen must have left while I showered, for I’d not heard him drive off. It felt odd being alone and out of doors, especially in the heat with the damp air carrying the overpowering scent of those little yellow flowers. I went to the vines covering the fences and touched them, found they were thick with velvety leaves and fragrance that smelled like it should be off a jar of jam. It surrounded me and filled me and brought to mind laziness and gentle meanderings. Shafts of light dashed between the branches of the trees to happily land on bits of the foliage, flickering as if to remind me there was such a thing as the sun. I looked up. Saw it winking at me beyond the tree’s shadow. And under it, I was soon sweating, again.

I took in the back of the house. It’s odd, but while the inside felt large, outside it seemed smaller. It was two levels but also had windows cut into the roof, indicating a third level was available. It was done in a hard, gray brick of many tones and softened by vines climbing up its corners. A chimneystack jutted to the sky from one end and trees shaded the sides and front of the place.

I wandered over to the pool house’s covered area to find shades drawn behind the building’s windows and doors. Complete privacy here with a “Don’t bother” attitude about it. The pool’s water had neither wave nor ripple to it...and it bothered me so much, I crouched down to slap the water into motion. Tiny waves whispered away from me and sent the shadows of criss-crossing ripples dancing along its basin, and the chaos of them felt right.

Then I noticed the dustbins resting under a canopy of vines. Atop one’s lid sat a steam iron with its cord frayed and nearly off. I slipped over and picked it up to look at it. Most of the cord was good; it was just one section where it had been burned by accident, looked like. It would be easy to mend, so I kept it.

I headed down the drive to the front of the house, gravel crunching under my sandals and filling the oppressive silence, steam iron still in hand. The fence ended at the middle of the house with a long gate opened by motor to let vehicles through and a smaller gate between it and the house for foot traffic. I slipped through the smaller gate.

The front yard was just as wide and spacious as the back, with a straight concrete walkway leading from a small entry to a wide street, thick green grass framing it. Bushes crouched against the house and trees, laced with flowers I’d never seen before, and angled bricks lined their beds as well as the walk while the gravel of the drive ran right up to the grass. All so neat and proper and feeling like a grand manor, and I wondered how Aunt Mari and Uncle Owen had time to tend it all.

I walked all the way down to the end and looked about. The street curved around and there were a number of other homes in the same general style as ours lining it, all of them thick with shrubbery and trees and green, green grass. And none of it seemed real. An estate car passed, huge and so obviously American and I finally understood I was in a whole new world. And I couldn’t move.

I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know where I was. I’d seen Aunt Mari get in her massive car -- a Chevy Impala Station Wagon, she called it -- and drive off. I’d seen Scott roar up and leave in his six years old GTO. I’d seen how green everything was and known the house I was staying in was massive and watched programs like “The Partridge Family” and “The Brady Bunch” on the telly...and listened to the twins argue over whether David Cassidy or Barry Williams was the cutest...but also noticed they all lived in fine homes and also drove massive cars. Of course, I’d also laughed at “All In The Family” when Uncle Owen filled me in on what the jokes were and enjoyed “MASH” with Scott, who sagely informed me it was the coolest show, now that “Laugh-In” was going downhill. And the uncoolest was one Aunt Mari loved, “Lawrence Welk.” And all of them had this sense of richness to them, subtly filling me with the absolute certainty that America was the wealthiest of nations. But actually standing out there and seeing the reality of it with my own two eyes -- I felt as if I’d been taken from hell and been given to heaven, and I feared if I even so much as moved, now that I knew where I was it would all vanish and I’d be back to the casual dreariness of Derry.

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