Hey man – hope you’re staying warm. Quite the storm that nailed us there … it took me about an hour to drive from I.C. to Cedar Rapids for work on Thursday, average speed of 38 mph through blowing snow on a snow-covered interstate. But at least maybe Christmas will be white after all.
Hope you’re staying sane enough man – I know I feel half-crazy sometimes even though I really have no reason to complain about anything, compared to the many people on this planet who have it so much worse. … I’m sure you heard about the Connecticut school shooting, sad stuff, indeed.
But I digress … let me think of something positive. First though, an absurdity – did you see anything about the guy in Florida who died shortly after winning a worm/bug/giant roach-eating contest? Seriously, the guy chomped so many roaches that the undigested parts ended up clogging up his throat (thorax?) and he gagged to death. All to win a pet anoconda. I swear, human reality is always stranger than fiction in the end.
Brittany and I watched “Lawless” recently – it was pretty darn good. Crazy Prohibition days made outlaws out of everyone. Have you read that one yet?
So Atticus is doing good in taekwondo; I’m enclosing a drawing he did for you of a ghostly Christmas tree … I’m hoping to do some sledding or possibly snowboarding with him soon if the weather works with us.
Let me know how you’re doing money-wise – I’m enclosing $20 w/this letter, but will send another check soon. And clue me in to any new reading materials I should be scouting out for you.
Happy 2013 by the way, just about here! The Mayan calendar didn’t end the world on Dec. 21st after all :_
So here’s the beginning of dad’s book that I’ve rewritten. There’s a bunch more, I just need to find the time to type it all in again … the damn computer copies all got lost when my last computer died.
Feel free to send me suggestions, but like I said, this is just the start. I might need to just type shit in more straightforward and have you help me add to it, edit it, or just read it for fun.
By Adam Harris
“Schizophrenia is considered the most devastating, complex, and frustrating of all mental disorders; people with this disorder lose touch with reality and are often unable to function in a world that makes no sense to them … Schizophrenia affects 1 out of every 100 people in the United States and accounts for almost 25 percent of all mental hospital admissions each year.” (Psychology, Lester A. Lefton, Allyn and Bacon, 1997).
CHAPTER 1: ROSE
Randy Harris never knew that he would go insane.
As a teen, if asked, he would have been able to recall hearing the word “schizophrenia” once – a brief mention in his sophomore science class.
He would never have guessed that he had an unavoidable date with mental illness that would forever change him, the outcome of his life, and the futures of those close to him.
It was a pleasantly typical sunny afternoon when Randy strolled down the main street sidewalk to Villardi’s Game Room to meet his buddy Jim. The scent of waffled potatoes and greasy hamburgers wafting from the next-door diner slowed him down as he approached the door of the pool hall. He lingered in the scent, pausing as he pulled the door open.
He glanced back at the sun shimmering in the blue afternoon sky, then let the heavy wooden door close behind him. The Guess Who’s “American Woman” filled his ears as he strolled in.
Jim was standing at the jukebox inside Villardi’s, sipping a Coke as he punched in a few songs. Randy snuck up behind him and tapped his shoulder.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
Jim jerked his head around, then grinned.
“Just playing some music, man … how you doin’?”
“Great … I think I’m ready for a beer.”
“Then get one.”
As they shot pool, and shot the shit, they meandered back and forth to the jukebox, putting hits like Journey’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ a Ride” in as their background music.
Chalking up his cue, Jim said “Man, you should get yourself a girlfriend.”
“I wish it was that easy,” Randy said, envying Jim’s suaveness and the fact that Jim was already dating his second girlfriend, and having sex on at least a weekly basis.
They both were sophomores at Spencer High, but Jim – a year older at 16 – exuded a higher air of maturity with long, brown hair that hung down past his neck. Randy’s dad always made sure he went to the family barber who would trim his hair high above the ears every goddamn time.
The few times Randy had enough gumption to broach the subject, his dad always shut him down with a stern and emphatic: “I don’t want no damn hippy for a son!
Interesting, eh? I don’t remember if or how much of dad’s writings you read. He wrote a little under a hundred’s pages worth. My long-term plan is to rewrite and edit it all until I have a novel’s worth, then eventually try to get it published or at the least self-publish some copies just for the sake of it.
I love you, my brother.
So I’m sending your check now, but will write back in more detail later on.
It was awesome hearing your voice earlier tonight – I’ve been missing you and thinking of you quite a bit.
Life can seem really screwed up sometimes … at times I feel like my head is screwed on slighty crooked.
On a bright note, a NASA telescope has found 451 Earth-like planets … apparently they abound in the nether regions of space … so I guess there might be fertile ground out there somewhere for those aliens you drew back in the day.
P.S. Keep on keeping on man … and soak up the sunshine.
Hey bro, what’s cooking? Good talking to you the other night. Enjoyed our exchange of words. Don’t know why the phone service cuts out like that for a minute or two, oh well.
Hope you like the cartoon I drew. It’s the Return of Sweetcheeks – and he’s piss-ass drunk and he’ll have none of Ricky’s HURLY GURLY MAN swagger!
Andrea’s address is 1234 620th St., Lakeside, Iowa 50588. If you could send her $120 that would be great. Send it in whatever form you think will be easiest for her to cash. She has her dog and cats to take care of and I’m hoping to help her out while she hasn’t got a job.
Yeah, I’m a tad worried about Mom and her being in the early stages of dementia. Have you heard about that? Plus she’s got diabetes and is getting weaker in general. Don takes good care of her and she’s on disability so that helps. Plus she’s got the brothers and sisters from the Kingdom Hall to help support her as well.
I’m looking forward to your next letter. Hope you’ll still be sending a couple more pages of the book if you got the time. Dad went through hell because of schizophrenia. In the end I think it might of … I don’t know. Now’s not the time to go into it.
NFL playoffs are this weekend. Think I’m going for the Broncos. I was going for the Vikings then the Colts, but both teams lost last weekend, so now I figure I’ll just root for the #1 ranked team.
Remember that they look through all my incoming and outgoing mail, except for letters to and from my defense attorney. I don’t have anything to hide but sometimes I get kind of carried away with joking around. That could reflect badly on my character. Nobody’s perfect though.
Plus laughing and joking around helps keep my morale up a little. After wishing that I was dead for six months straight it’s a relief to laugh and crack a joke or two with my bro. I love you brother, you’re a good man and a good brother and father. Thanks for all your help.
Yeah, I’ve been grieving really hard since being here. The emotional turmoil that I’ve gone through is no joke. This has affected more people than myself though. Mom told me to pray that they be comforted in their deep sorrows. And so I do pray for that.
I’ve noticed that I’m getting more disciplined in just about every aspect of my daily activities. You know, watching what I eat, daily bible reading, exercise, including walking five miles a week. Mood swings are not as bad now but the depression is horrible sometimes.
Hopefully as time goes on I will get better. It’s a chemical imbalance and I think the traumatic nature of this situation may have altered my brain chemistry a little more.
It’s you guys though, that keep me hanging on. My family. Every letter and phone call strengthens my resolve to push on and face this life more positively.
Last night I had a dream that I was in the Army and I partied with the creators of Southpark. Good times!
Love, you bro,
First of all, I gotta say that I love how you re-created my drawing and created a whole street scene comic out of it. The 3-D streetscape is especially enjoyable. Sweet Cheeks and Ricky would make a great series We just watched “Crumb” tonight, a documentary on Robert Crumb, so comics are on my mind. That dude was freaky and twisted, but an amazing artist, and interestingly enough, he came from a family plagued by mental illness.
Yes, good to hear from you – maybe if I stand outside we won’t lose phone contact next time; also, I gotta check into that 641 callling card deal – will do soon.
So I sent Drea some gift/help money – I’m sure she’ll be highly appreciative. I just hope she figures out what she wants to do with herself sooner or later, but it’s cool that her dad’s getting quality time with her, and mom gets to see her regularly again.
Yeah, mom seems to be doing OK but I wish she would care for herself better. You gotta feed your brain something more than watchtower magazines over the decades. And she’s an amazing cook, but I think she indulges in too many salty, fatty foods and rarely exercises. You gotta use it or you’re gonna lose it … I should be more empathetic, but it’s hard to do when she keeps professing her motherly love while refusing to ever spend time with me due to quasi-religious edicts and Don’s overbearing influence now that he’s found god and is a holier-than-thou holy-roller.
I love them both for what they do for Atticus when he visits, but I truly believe mom’s health problems are an indirect result of her passive-aggressive approach to life – she buries all of her true emotions and desires way down in her psyche and is ending up quite unhealthy on the outside as a result.
Not that I don’t do the same to a certain extent … but enough on that subject.
Yes, I completely agree that dad’s mental illness had an intense effect on our upbringing and how we grew up. That’s part of the reason I’ve always had negative feelings about America’s military-industrial complex. Dad chose his own course in life, of course, but his experiences in the Army had a major impact on the rest of his life and basically, our entire lives.
Did you get that Junot Diaz book I sent you? I hope you like it, I got into it a little slowly, but then it caught me up and I thought it was an amazing novel. The author won a Pulitzer prize recently for a newer novel of his.
So emotionally, it sounds like you’re floating around Dante’s seven layers of the Inferno. Just don’t let all the hell bring you down too far, brother, there will be something better around the corner soon … just a couple more months until a change of pace at least.
It sounds like your self-discipline in fine-tuned and helping you keep it together. It’s good to hear that you’re walking regularly – it’s such a simple but highly beneficial activity.
So, partying with the Southpark guys in the Army, eh? Sounds fun! I’ve always loved how dreams can take you away to a wild, colorful world that only exists in your mind. Dreams and the subconscious are so fascinating sometimes.
We’re going to take a letter break here, so I can present to you the latest excerpt of dad’s book, to be followed by a short conclusion 🙂
Marv was a strict father – he’d served his time in the Army as a military police officer. Anal-retentive before his time, he worked as a used-car salesman on a downtown lot, squeezing whatever profit he could out of every buyer. Besides his chain-smoking habit, he was as straight as a razor’s edge.
Randy hadn’t found a summer job yet, and his recreational highlight of every week was to hit the local roller rink on Friday nights. Despite his semi-lucrative line of work, Marv was a tightwad when it came to handing out anything besides a minimal allowance. Besides Randy, they had his older sister and brother to worry about. He would mow his parents’ or his grandmother’s law on occasion to earn his roller-rink dollars.
At Villardi’s that day, he was spending a few dollars that he should have been saving for the weekend. But the excursion paid off in a different way, because Jim told him about a firl he thought Randy could possibly date – a 15-year-old named Rose from Dickens, a smaller town 12 miles outside of Spencer. Randy knew Rose’s younger sister, Connie, who he had made out with once in the front seat of a buddy’s car, but that had been the extent of their relationship besides being friendly acquaintances.
“So how I can meet Rose sometime?” Randy asked as Jim polished off his beer.
“Hell man, we can see them in a little while, we’ll just take my car.” Jim’s casual cursing would render him a ‘bad influence’ from Randy’s parents’ perspective, but it always impressed Randy almost as much as Jim’s ‘rebellious’ hair style.
“I’ve been dating Connie for more than a week now. You’ll have to pay for the gas though, I’m clean outta cash.”
“No problem,” Randy said, “why haven’t you told me about you and Connie yet, you lucky dog? Are you two pretty serious?”
“Sorry man, it’s just not my style to kiss and tell. I don’t know, I guess it just never crossed my mind … I’ve only seen you about twice in the last week anyway.”
As they walked out of Villardi’s, Jim said “Hey man, just meet me over at my place on an hour or so, and don’t forget some travel funds, OK?”
“Sounds good – see you then.”
Randy inhaled the evening air and grinned as he strolled back home, pondering the possibilities that the night might bring. If Rose looked anything like Connie, she was bound to be cute, and the summer night’s air made it seem like anything could happen.
After he showered, threw on a fresh shirt, sprinkled some of his dad’s Brut on his wrists, and ate a bologna sandwich, he headed over to Jim’s place.
Jim had a ’57 Ford that was jacked up in the back with a couple of 2x4s jammed somewhere near the rear shocks. Randy always felt cool and stylish cruisin’ around in it, but on this night, riding in the Jim’s muscle car had an extra sheen to it, just as he did, all slicked up and ready to go meet a new girl, hair blowing in the window’s breeze.
Jim hit 100 miles per hour at one point on the drive. After they slowly rolled into the driveway, they sauntered up to the door, which opened as if on cue, Connie peeking out, Rose looking over her shoulder.
After greetings and flirtacious glances – and Jim stealing a kiss on Connie’s cheek and a swift pat on her ass, the girls invited them downstairs, where they shared a bedroom with walls adorned with their own scribbles, writings and random psychedic doodles.
Randy heard “She’s a Lady” emanating from the record player at the same time he noticed Tom Jones and Janis Joplin rocking out in performance poses on the posters covering the walls.
The room smelled of incense and musty perfume. The four of them sat down in pairs on the two beds in the room.
“Aren’t your parents upstairs?” Randy asked.
“Oh, they went out for dinner,” Rose said, “so Connie’s in charge for now. They’ll probably be back in an hour or so.”
Connie took her mouth off of Jim’s long enough to say, “It’s cool, we can just hang out for a while,” and Rose got up and put Janis Joplin’s “Pearl” on the record player.
When she sat back down next to him, he thought she smelled like spring flowers, and told her so. Next thing he knew, they were kissing just like Jim and Connie were, and he tried to hide his jitters as he reached out to touch her, hoping his breath smelled all right. His body quivered and he thought he could feel Rose shivering a little bit, too.
They kissed and touched slowly, Randy feeling more excited and nervous as he noticed Jim and Connie reclining on her bed. It seemed like an hour passed as he slowly worked up his courage, the kisses growing more passionate and less awkward. Just as he was maneuvering his sweaty right palm underneath Rose’s bra strap, heavy creaking footsteps sounded from the upper floor.
“Oh no!” Connie said, jolting up and pulling her shirt back down over her head, “they’re back from dinner!”
The four of them immediately straightened up, smoothing out their hair and clothes, taking deep breaths as they tried to wipe the wry smiles from their reddened faces.
“Who is down there with you girls?” their mother Dorothy demanded from the top of the stairs. Randy concentrated intently on Janis howling out “Half Moon” as he listened with dread to the sounds of Dorothy heaving her way down the stairs and shoving open the door. Her girth filled the doorway, oblong bits of light shining from behind her silhouette.
“It’s just Jim and his friend, mom,” offered Connie, “we’re just listening to some music and talking.”
Dorothy looked the boys over, her right hand planted sternly on her hip.
“Well, that’s nice.” She folded her arms across her chest. “But I didn’t hear much talking going on and it smells a little fishy in here to me.”
“Oh mom, we’re not doing anything,” Rose said.
Dorothy waved her hand at they boys. “OK, time to go guys.”
As she followed them up the stairs, she warned them: “I never want to see you boys in this house again when I’m not here.”
As they drove away, after catching a glimpse of Rose peeking out the window as Jim peeled out of the driveway, Randy said “Wow man, that was awesome! Rose is great!”
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” Jim said. “Too bad her mom came home … we probably could’ve gotten lucky.”
“No shit,” Randy slurred, thoughts of sex gleaming in his eyes.
Rose had made him whisper her a promise that he would get a hold of her again soon, and he had readily and eagerly agreed.
And the two of them stayed in contact, meeting at the roller rink on Friday nights, skating hand-in-sweaty-hand to the beats of Blondie and The BeeGees.
Randy hitchhiked the 5 miles to Dickens when he had the time, sticking out his thumb and taking rides with farmers or workers headed home. After they had been introduced, Rose’s stepdad, Mel, ended up being the one who picked Randy up on these journeys.
Mel always treated him with civility, acting slightly surprised at first, but then would speak positively about Randy and Rose’s budding relationship.
One time, he even nudged Randy with his elbow and said, “So, when are you two going to go on a real date, a dinner date?”
And Randy, embarassed, said “Soon, I hope. Maybe this weekend.”
The visits started more innocently than you might think. Randy would help Rose make cookies in the expansive kitchen, stirring sugar and butter together as she blended the flour, salt and whatever-the-hell else.
Once they’d stirred in the chocolate chips, they would sample the dough, stuffing small chunks into one another’s open mouths.
They would sneak downstairs sometimes when Dorothy was outside or on the upper floor, and make out as they listened to Rose’s records.
They talked about school, what classes they liked, which kids they liked or thought were jerk-offs, and always about music and bands and who they liked to listen to and who was groovy or totally rockin’.
(Back to the letter …)
So I’m hoping to keep working here and there on the book, I’ll send you more as I type it up.
On a light note, Atticus and I went to Kmart the other day and he bought, with his holiday money, a Nerf dart blowgun, which he’s become an expert at, and a “Doctor Dreadful” kit with which you make your own “spider egg” sugar candy – should be fun, though I’m not sure how tasty the end product will be.
OK, brother, stay strong, and I hope to talk to again before long.
Well it’s fucking Monday already. ‘Twas good chatting with you. And you’re completely forgiven when it comes to the check, bro. You’ve been patient with me, so the least I can do is be patient with you.
What I have read from “The Book” thus far is really good. You’re a great writer putting words together into ideas and characters in powerfully unique way. I really like the statistics and quotes you’ve used so far. Shows you’ve done your research and educates the reader as well. I think you could do that throughout the entire book. At your discretion of course.
So great work thus far and I’m looking forward to the next segment of “The Book” you’re able to send.
I’m sending the soccer ball model along with this letter. It’s pretty easy to put together but I’ll draw you some visual aids. My idea works like this:
I finally broke it down to a 20-sided Polyhedron that I think is called a Dodecahedron. Then I noticed I could separate it into 3 parts, top, middle, bottom. The cool thing about this is that the top is the same shape as the bottom, just flipped up and rotated 180 degrees. And the middle, if we assume the Dodecagon is hollow, is just a ring of 10 triangles.
After a while I found you can kind of “unwrap” it as well, and after you unwrapped it, it could look like this: [Drawing showing Top (1-5), Middle (6-15) and Bottom (16-20). Now this is the basic blueprint I referred to when I started folding the paper.]
Well, here’s some visual aids for folding and connecting the 3 pieces of paper to make the model.
There you have it bro. I hope I didn’t confuse you. Use the numbers and letters carefully, and good luck. Maybe send me a picture of it when you get it together.
Hi Atticus! Hi Brittany!
Love you all,
Hey, what’s happenin’?
Sorry I missed your calls the other night – I was in Rochester hanging with Eric Froiland – remember that crazy old coot? I kind of interviewed with his wife’s company. Remember Nicki Loats? Anyway, my interview kind of flopped, but I might do a little basic copy writing for them. Hanging out with them that night was plenty of fun though, that’s why my phone was being ignored that night. It hates me when I ignore it, won’t talk to me for a long time, gives me dirty looks, then finally forgives me after I get it flowers, and then I can make and take calls again 🙂
The soccer ball totally worked man! (I’ll be enclosing a pic w/this letter.) And thanks for the visual aids – they totally helped Atticus and I figure it out. We might have been able to on our own, but it was a little complicated. Pretty freakin’ amazing that you could create such a cool item out of virtually nothing … nothing but your fascinating mind, my brother; we loved it!
20-sided polyhedron? A Dodecahedron? Simply amazing my man. In my opinion, a great work of art.
Speaking of art, I’m going to start getting a back tattoo from Bob in a few weeks here. It’ll be a weird-looking tree with “Atticus” spelled abstractly in the middle, kind of like Atty painted his name in a little painting when he was 5. Should be cool – painful maybe, but cool.
Good news on the job front: In a few weeks, I’m starting a temporary job as a Project Coordinator at Pearson here in Iowa City, a big education testing company. So at least I’ll get my foot in the door, and the pay is pretty good.
And get this – Brittany scored a job as an Assistant Professor in Spanish Literature at a small private college in Davenport! So her college education has paid off. It’s nice that she got a job close by and doesn’t have to move to a different state or something.
We actually went to Davenport and stayed with Al the night before her interview a few weeks ago – it was fun hanging out with Al, listening to music and shooting the shit for a while. We shared a few childhood memories, and it’s always nice to hear memories from someone else’s perspective, whether it’s friends or family.
So call me again sometime soon, and hopefully I’ll be paying closer attention to my poor, neglected phone. I’ll plan on sending you another money order in a week or so after I send this letter, but I’m sure we’ll chat before then.
In the meantime, here’s the latest excerpt of the “book” (and thanks for your input and compliments, much appreciated):
Once in while Rose would manage to make it to Spencer after school and would meet him at his house, where they would hang out in his room and make out when his parents weren’t close.
One afternoon when his parents were both at work, they were kissing and groping on his bed. The sunlight poured in on them through the window, and Randy felt beads of sweat dripping off his forehead as they removed each other’s shirts. They fumbled around clumsily for a few minutes, awkwardly removing clothes, panting heavily as they tried to maintain the kissing the whole time.
“Oh god, you’re so beautiful,” he uttered frantically.
After a few heaving minutes, Randy laid back, twitterpated by the first-time fireworks receding in his mind.
Rose laughed, her arm slung over his chest, as the sun rippled through her hair like waves of ember.
Randy wanted to ask her if she had ever gone all the way before, but he was worried the question might upset her, so he stayed quiet and reveled in the glorious moment.
At the roller rink that weekend, Rose’s friend, Ann, told them that Murl’s Log Villa in Spirit Lake, a vacation town about 20 miles away, was looking for summer workers.
Randy scored a dishwashing gig, and Rose ended up waiting tables.
“Don’t worry, I’ll share my tips with you,” she said as they drove to their first night shift.
“Great! I’ll have more money to spend on you then,” he said, and they laughed.
Ann helped show them the ropes, and the three of them covered for each other as they took turns stealing smoke breaks in the bathrooms.
On the second night they worked together, Ann locked Randy in the walk-in cooler as he was fetching a little extra salad lettuce.
“Hey, let me out of here,” he said, grinning. He heard them giggling outside the door. He waited a minute as they went silent, then said “Seriously, let me out here!” and banged on the cold metal.
He heard rustling, and then Rose said “OK, we will, but first you must pronounce us to be “The Most Grandest Restaurant Princesses of the Universe.” His fingers and face pressed against the door as she paused. “And you must declare that you are unworthy to work with our Grandness.”
He ran the phrases through his head and shouted, “You two are definitely the most grandest and spectacular restaurant princesses of the universe of all time! And I am obviously too vile and far too unworthy to work with your ultimate grandness!”
Randy heard them laugh, and rapidly shredded the head of lettuce in his hands as Ann opened the door, her and Rose peeking around, then he tossed the lettuce at their faces in a burst of light green as he pushed his way out.
“Happy Birthday, princesses!” he shouted gleefully as he shoved between them, their hands slapping at his shoulders.
A cool, wet glob of something hit him between the shoulders, breaking his cocky stride in half-step.
“What the … ?” he uttered as he turned around and saw them clutched over, guffawing their asses off, Ann lifting the ketchup container in an uproarious display of victory.
“Take that!” she yelled between laughs. Rose stood there with a half-moon smile, her cheeks oozing flushed red like a crimson sunset. Randy reveled in the spontaneity of the moment, sponging the red blob off his back with a dish towel.
And so began their summer of young love.
A few nights later after Mel dropped them off at work, Randy exacted his revenge, stalking Rose as she walked back to the cooler to grab some more bread. Once she was in, he shoved the door all the way shut and waited.
She pushed on the handle, then pushed against the door.
“What the hell?”
“What’s the matter?” he shouted, grinning.
“Let me outta here dammit, Randy!” she yelled. “It’s not funny!”
He laughed. “Now you know what it feel like! Just promise me you’ll love me forever and I’ll let you out.”
Silence ate up a few moments of their lives.
“OK fine: I’ll love you forever.”
He opened the door and she shoved it open. He tried to hug her but she pushed him aside, muttering “that wasn’t funny.” But he grabbed at her again from the side and she relented, turning to kiss him as they walked away.
After work that night, Ann walked with them the two miles from Murl’s up to the Roof Garden dancehall in Arnold’s Park, another township in the summer tourist mecca known as “The Lakes.”
Ann pulled Rose aside as they strolled toward the sparkling lights of the old-fashioned amusement park near the lakeside.
“We’ll meet you inside in a few,” Ann said, nodding at Randy, indicating that he should keep moving.
“Sure,” he said, “no problem.”
Inside the The Roof Garden dancehall, Randy ordered a coke at the counter and watched the half-dozen couples swaying as a cover band played mediocre versions of Frank Sinatra songs.
Rose and Ann swayed their way through the door as Randy was puffing on his second smoke. They walked up to him, tittering and smiling goofily.
Rose leaned in and kissed him heavily on the lips, smiling, her cheeks as red as her name.
“I love you, baby.”
“I love you too,” and he got a second kiss. “But you could’ve shared some of that booze with me.”
“Jesus!” Ann said, throwing her hands up. “We only had a little bit, like two splashes that I stole from my dad’s bottle at home.”
“It was just a tiny jar,” Rose said.
“That’s cool,” Randy said, “I was just sayin’ … ”
Ann swayed alongside them as they danced hand-in-hand to the recycled Sinatra.
“I did it … my waayyyy,” Rose sang as the two of them swung around in a slow circle. He fully enjoyed her leaning on him, leading their dance in a slightly sloshy sashay.
By the time Dorothy pulled up out front to pick them up, Rose was mostly sobered up from the dancing, but was still a little wobbly.
“Get on in … did you two have a good time?”
“Yes we did, and thanks for picking us up,” Randy said as he settled into the back seat.
“Yeah mom, it was nice,” Rose said, plopping into the passenger side.
“Are you all right Rose?” Dorothy said and glared for a moment. “Have you been drinking? You know better than this, young lady!”
Randy sunk back into his seat, wishing he could be invisible.
“I told you that you were not to be drinking alcohol again!” Dorothy yelled
“I’m sorry, mom, I only had a little!”
“Well, if you want to end up dead, you’ll just keep doing this I guess.”
“You’ll be sorry when you don’t get to go out with Ann or Randy again anymore … I guess that’s what we’ll need to do.”
The three of them stewed in a tense, awkward silence for the rest of the drive. Dorothy uttered a “good night” that sounded more like a curse as she dropped Randy off at his parents’ door. Rose sat so still in the front that he didn’t even attempt to say good-night.
He felt deflated, as if he had done something wrong, though he knew he hadn’t, and his dreams later that night were filled with vague and unpleasant visions.
As Randy walked into Murl’s the next afternoon, he grabbed a pickle from the salad bar and munched on it as he turned into the kitchen. Rose was loading up a tray with dinner salads.
“Hey, how you doing? Was your mom real hard on you last night?”
Rose turned toward him, frowning.
“Listen Randy, I just don’t want to be your girlfriend anymore.”
She placed the last salad on the tray. “It’s just not working out.”
He stood there stunned, not knowing what to say. He tried to look at her but she kept glancing down at the tray. He wanted to say something, he wanted to profess his love, but all he could do was stand there with his tongue caught in the back of his throat, feeling like he was a too-small fish that was being thrown back into a murky pond.
“But … well … what?”
She kept her back turned toward him.
He slowly walked away.
As he trudged toward the bathroom, the kitchen manager Kirk peeked around a corner, flashed a fast smile and said “Hey, just in time. There’s a load of dishes ready to go!”
Randy tried to smile back, but only managed a skeletal grimace as he slunk through the bathroom door.
A month earlier, he had borrowed a rudimentary tattoing needle from Jim and bought some Indian Ink and etched a capital “R” on his wrist. After drinking a couple beers, Chicago’s song “Vehicle” had gotten stuck in his head that night, and every prick of the needle had further convinced him of something he believed knew would always be true: that he would always love Rose and act as the main vehicle in her life, guiding and supporting her, and that she in turn would always be a part of him.
And now he sat there on a restaurant toilet, smelling fried grease and stale urine, feeling utterly alone. Hurt welled up from deep inside his chest. He felt as if his soul was turning into charcoal. So he pressed the tip of his cigarette into the “R”, trying to burn a little bit of it away along with every smoky exhale.
He didn’t know what stung more that evening, the burning pangs of a lost young love or the smoldering scars of burnt-out adoration on his wrist. As he washed dishes and she avoided his furtive glances, all he knew was that he had somehow lost the only girl that he could ever fully love.
After he punched out, he walked over to Arnold’s Park and plunked down on a bench in front of The Fun House. He could feel the marquee clown’s big face peering down at him, jeering unsympathetically.
He stared out at the stars shining on the lake’s surface. He quelled a dark urge to walk to the end of the dock and jump in. How could Rose just suddenly stop loving him? Had he done something wrong? It had to be her damned mom, but shouldn’t she still want to be with him? The whole thing made him feel sick inside, even though he couldn’t really figure out what the hell had happened.
He wallowed in heartbreak in bed that night, thrashing and wiping his tears away with his pillow, giving in to the gloom.
He moped around the house the next day, watching crap on TV, smoking too many cigarettes, applying salve to his wrist. He thought maybe Rose would call him, but the phone only rang once and it was his older sister, and they never really talked about sensitive stuff to each other.
He finally broke down after sunset and dialed Rose’s number. Dorothy picked up, and after a sigh got Rose on the phone.
(Back to letter) … Whoa, I just realized I’ve got a few pages written there, eh? At least I’ve been a little productive between jobs here, I guess.
Well, take care of yourself man – I hope to talk to soon.
Hey bro. Thanks for the money order and sending it here in timely fashion. They just brought it by and had me sign it a few minutes ago. Now I can order coffee and stuff on Sunday.
“The Book” is coming along really good and starting to take shape. You’ve sent me about 10½ pages in the past couple of months.
It’s really starting to get interesting. We’re still in Chapter 1 and Randy and Rose are on the rocks. Randy just burnt the “R” off his wrist with a cigarette and calls Rose. Rose picks up and that’s where you left off.
Now that’s an interesting place to pause. As the reader I want to know what Rose is going to say and if Rose and Randy will get back together. But the darker side of me wants to see how this “Rose” character plays a role in Randy’s inevitable descent into schizophrenic-induced madness.
Remember brother, this is not a love story. But I’m not tryin’ to say that it sounds like a typical love story either. In fact, thus far there is a real nice balance to the elements involved, like the narrative and the third-person perspective. The references to the music playing at different points in the story is nice. It adds kind of a dreamy feel. I think it also helps me visualize things that are happening and places they happened at. You should keep intertwining quotes and statistics on schizophrenia with the rest of the book. This could be easily adapted into a screenplay.
Question: What happened to Jim? He’s your responsibility now that you’ve developed him as a character. You could kill him off, or just give him a little farewell kiss goodbye and tell us where he’s at in 20 years. But don’t leave him hanging. Maybe I haven’t read far enough yet.
A few other things now: You wrote that Randy and Jim “were both sophomores at Spencer High.” I’m thinking maybe you should describe to the reader more of what Spencer is like. What you have so far is sufficient though, and like I said, maybe I’ve not read far enough.
Let’s see here … in the preface you wrote “… the voices that spoke to him in his head. Voices from people far away from him. Voices from people who may already been dead.” Now right here! You remember Dad yelling and cursing at the TV? We were like, “What’s up?” Then he would say something about how “Jones” was talking to him through people on TV.
Oh yeah! First you wrote “… Dickens, a smaller town 12 miles outside of Spencer.” Then later you wrote “Randy hitchhiked the 5 miles to Dickens.” Sorry bro, but it’s only the 5 miles and it’s directly east and there’s a 45 mph curve that takes you south to a road that takes you another mile into Dickens. Here’s a little map: (Note: Illustration was drawn on letter.) I just caught your minor error a minute ago as I was writing this.
One other quick note: I thought it was cool in a funny kind of way when you wrote “Randy would help Rose make cookies in the expansive kitches, stirring sugar and butter together as she blended the flour, salt and …”, right here, “…whatever-the-hell else.” Whatever-the-hell-else? I like that because it shows a little of your personality as the writer. It’s like you want the reader to get to know you, and that’s pretty cool. Not sure if it was your intention but little things like that work because they help your writing become more of an artwork. Expressive rather than just informative. You’re finding a good balance. I’ll discuss a few other minor points when I call you again tomorrow.
Other than this, not too much is going on with me. I’m reading a few “Sherlock Holmes” stories after finding a book called “Six Great Sherlock Holmes Stories.” Tonight I’ll start another story before bed.
One of the stories is called “The Final Problem.” The author might have Sherlock die in this one but I’m not sure. I look forward to finding out.
The other day I was watching “Futurama” on Comedy Central. The episode was something about dark matter and anti-dark matter. Well, the dark matter in the cartoon could only be made with a certain key. Anyway, the key was the same 20-sided shape I used for the soccer ball.
And then I saw “Workaholics” and they had the same shape and it was a die, or “dice” plural, used in Dungeons and Dragons. So what I sent you is also a 20-sided die.
Back to “Futurama”: The anti-dark matter was a 12-sided die. Each side looks like a pentagon. It’s this 12-sided object that is a dodecahedron. The “do” in dodecahedron means 2, and decagon is 10. Now I wonder what a decahedron looks like, and what this 20-sidede object is called. Find this out for me please if you can. It’s been a long time coming if you know what I mean.
Time for me to sign out for now. I’ll be talking to you soon.
I love you bro,
How the heck are ya? Fine and dandy, I hope. Just enjoying the springtime snowfall here – biked downtown and back through the snow/rain muck just to do it – a ride you would have enjoyed in all of it’s misery, I’m sure.
Thank you for all your comments and insights into the writing I’ve been sending you – it’s all greatly appreciated, especially the detailed info on Dickens and such. Nice drawing of Dad walking to Dickens by the way – I loved it! And your question of Rose’s character was great – you’re right, it’s not a love story … but there is a short love story embedded within. And good point on Jim, I need to get him back into the picture at some point in time.
I’m including the rest of what I wrote lately … but now that I’m working 9-5 again, my time to work on extracurricular writing will be diminished. I love it as a hobby though, and hopefully will have more time this summer to dive headfirst back into it.
I’m glad to hear you found some good reading material; the “Sherlock” stories sound intriguing. Classic tales, indeed!
To answer your soccer-ball question, I guess such a 20-sided object is called an Icosahedron. A dodecadren is a 12-sided object. So you created an Icosahedron out of paper and ink – job well done, sir!
Not a whole lot new here – just trying to stay sane while working the new temp job and dealing with the kid and the insanity of life in general. We might finally get some decent weather this weekend – I need some sunshine dammit! And I’m sure you can relate in a far greater way.
So I’m including a money order with this since it’s so close to April already, and I’ll be sending Drea your good tidings.
Here’s the latest bits of the book; hopefully I’ll find time to work on some of it again soon …
He finally broke down after sunset and dialed Rose’s number. Dorothy picked up, and after a sigh got Rose on the phone. Randy heard her breathe into the mouthpiece.
“Hey,” she said, “just give me a second.” It sounded like she was moving the phone around or something.
“Hey.” He tried to think of something smart to say, but couldn’t. “Listen Rose, I really miss you and I’m not sure if I understand what happened … or what exactly went wrong … ”
“Well, you could have said something to my mom, you know, to help me out.”
“I’m sorry! You were kinda drunk, and she’s so, so … well … scary sometimes.”
“What do you think: She’s gonna beat you up?” Rose laughed a little.
“No, but … Well, I can’t really talk back to her, is all.”
“Well, she doesn’t bite … not too hard.”
This sort of thing was why he loved Rose so much, he thought to himself.
“Listen,” he said, “I just want you to know that I love you a lot … like a ton. I think I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved, or anything I’ve ever loved. Even my dog when I was a kid, you know what I mean?” He immediately thought that sounded stupid.
“Well, I love you a lot too, Randy.”
His heart melted. Everything seemed to be OK again, maybe.
“I just really hope we can keep seeing each other, Rose.”
He listened intently as she uttered a small sigh.
“You’re right, I want to keep dating you, too,” she said. “My mom’s OK again anyway, she was just mad at me this morning and now everything’s fine.”
Randy grinned like a stoned fool as they shared good-night wishes and planned to meet each other in a few days.
Their favorite places to go dancing on the weekends were the Roof Garden and a similar hangout right on the edge of Spencer, The Woodcliff, where great tunes always blared out of the jukebox and decent bands rocked out on the stage.
That night at The Woodcliff, Rose wore a short blue dress that she had sewn together herself. They were hanging out with Jim and Connie, and Jim was ordering rounds of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
When that night’s band kicked off their rendition of “Devil with a Blue Dress On,” Randy glued himself to Rose like a magnet. A they flew apart and back together again, whirling to the music, he would steal kisses on her cheek, reveling in each heady moment. For the rest of his life, whenever he heard that song on the radio, the image of Rose that night would pop back into his head.
After dancing to a couple more songs, they stepped outside the front door for some fresh air and a smoke.
“You are on fire tonight!,” he said.
Rose giggled and kissed him on the neck. “You’ve got some moves yourself, big boy.”
They started making out, leaning against the coarse outside of the bar. He slipped his hands up underneath the back of her dress as she pulled him in close. His eyes were closed, but suddenly everything seemed all lit up.
“Um … Randy,” Rose said, slowly pulling back.
He blinked his eyes into the bright, rude gleam of a police officer’s flashlight.
“Ahem! What are two doing out here?”
“Uh, we’re just hanging out,” Randy said as Rose adjusted her dress.
“Well, you better get back inside if you’re here for the dance, or you should be moving on home.” The cop swung his light back and forth impatiently. “You two haven’t been drinking, have you?”
“No sir, we were just dancinga little, and now we’re going home.”
“Well, you better do that then.”
Randy gripped Rose’s hand tightly as they walked to his car. He had picked her up earlier in the new-but-used, blue 1960 Chevy Impala that he had bought from his dad’s lot the day before.
They watched as the cop meandered into the bar’s entry, and Randy said “Let’s get out of here.”
“Good idea,” Rose said, “let’s just go for a long drive or something, I don’t feel like going home yet.”
They drove around on back gravel roads for a while, drinking some beers Jim had bought for them earlier, listening to whatever the radio had to offer. They ended up parked in a tree-covered entryway to some farmer’s field, where they ended up starting a new weekend ritual.
They stared up into the stars as their mouths and hands began to move all over one another. And right there in the front seat of Randy’s new ’60 Chevy, they slowly (and clumsily) but surely went all the way.
The Impala was Randy’s first car, and Rose was impressed when he showed up in it to pick her up that night. It had cost him $150 – most of the money from his first Murl’s paycheck plus everything he had saved up from washing cars at his dad’s lot.
One guy at the lot had asked him to clean the inside of his car, too, then tipped him $5 after he had left the dashboard gleaming and the floors meticulous.
That five bucks had bought him six packs of smokes, which he would smoke during his breaks, sitting in an empty boxcar on the traintracks behind the car lot where no one, in particular his dad, could see him. He would fantasize about climbing on the boxcar at night with a packed bag and a blanket, letting the train carry him west where he’d surely find fun things to do and some sort of decent job. He would send Rose money to travel out to meet him, and they could get a little house together. For some reason, doing all this in a distant place seemed far more exciting than thinking about a future in Spencer. Anything had to more exciting than settling down in his small, industrial hometown.
Randy had started smoking behind his parents’ backs, even though his dad puffed down at least two packs a day. He didn’t really care what they would think or say since they had stopped giving him allowance and told him that he needed to start working to make his own spending money. He figured if he was earning his own money now, he could spend it on whatever the hell he wanted, and it was really none of their damned business.
One afternoon Marv randomly popped into Randy’s bedroom, pushing open the door with his shoulder, asking if Randy could work that Saturday afternoon. Randy was crouched by the open window, finishing up a cigarette as he dreamed about meeting up with Rose later that night.
“What the hell?” Marv said, “you’re smoking in here? I thought I smelled it before.” He looked out the open window.
Randy paused, exhaling. “Well, it’s my room, I can do what I want.”
“That’s fine,” Marv said, “but it’s my house, so I’m the boss.” He pulled out a check from his back pocket and handed it to Randy. “Here’s a little money for you to take Rose skating this weekend, you’ve been working a lot lately so I thought you deserved a little extra.”
Randy didn’t know what to say, except “Thanks, dad.”
“So can you be at the lot Saturday?”
“Sure … sounds good.” Randy dropped his butt out the window.
“And if you’re going to smoke, fine, but do it in front of my face and not behind my back.”
Randy smiled. “OK.”
“And we have ashtrays, you know.” Marv smiled back and walked out of the room.
CHAPTER 2: TIME TO GROW UP
Two months after Rose’s 16th birthday – they had celebrated with cheap steaks and a birthday cake at Murl’s – she broke the news to him.
He was dropping her off after they had gone to a movie, and he was stealing as many kisses as possible in the front seat in the driveway when she pushed him back and said, “Randy, I’m pregnant.”
He looked at her, staring into her green eyes, caressing her long brown hair, looking down toward her stomach and admiring every inch of her body. He felt utterly and completely drawn to her, magnetized. He knew right then that he would marry this beautiful woman.
“Well, I love you Rose, and I guess this means we should get married.”
She looked at him, smiling. Her cheeks glowed red, living up to her name.
“Well then, I’m yours.”
Randy realized the next morning that he would need to update his parents on his and Rose’s relationship.
After washing cars in his dad’s lot that afternoon, working a little too exuburantly, he sat down back home in the living room. His dad was kicked back in his recliner, chain-smoking as he watched “Star Trek” reruns. He lit up a cigarette himself and took a puff.
“What is it?”
Randy took another puff. “Can you handle some kinda big news?”
His dad looked straight at him. “Sure. What is it?”
“Well, Rose is pregnant and I think I want to marry her.”
“Oh shit!” Marv jerked up, then looked down at the floor for a second. “I mean, wow, that is really some big news! You two haven’t even been dating for a year yet.”
“I know, but I’m really in love with her and I want to take care of her and the baby.”
Marv turned down the volume on Captain Kirk and starting outlining Randy’s options. Spencer didn’t have a lot of great long-term career options, he said, so he should think about joining the service. He would earn good money, be able to get his family set up nicely, and maybe even have more opportunities once he was out.
“And don’t worry son, your mother and I will sign whatever papers you need to enlist.”
They sat face-to-face, elbows on thighs, browed fully furrowed.
“Well then, I guess that’s what I should plan to do then,” Randy said.
He called Rose that same night, reiterated his amateur proposal, and explained how by joining the Army, he would be pursuing the best option for all of them. She officially accepted, agreed with the basic plan, and said she was ready to start planning their future right along with him.
Randy drove to the Army’s recruiting office in the Northpark Mall the next day. It was down the hall after the Department of Transportation office and The Spencer Cafe. The best part of the mall was the bowling alley on the lower level: The staff served beer to anyone plus they had two pool tables, twice as many as most of the town’s bars.
The retired sergeant behind the desk had him fill out a bunch of paperwork as he politely answered Randy’s nervous questions. The sergeant made him an physical examination appointment at the Army Recruiting Station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which was a convenient two-hour drive from Spencer.
As Randy pushed out of the mall’s doors, he felt as if he was graduating from something older into something newer. It was as if he was taking a big step forward in life, and he felt like he was opening the door to something greater in his future. Something that he couldn’t quite make out, but that would lead to a place better than where he was at now.
A couple days after he was checked from top to bottom at the Sioux Falls station and passed everything, including a written test meant to determine if he was crazy or not, his dad drove him back to the recruiting office in the mall.
The sergeant showed them lists of different jobs available and maps of the various locations he could be stationed. Since Randy was signing up voluntarily, rather than waiting to be drafted into the war in Vietnam, he was able to pick out his choice of station.
Marv pointed to Germany.
“You should go to Germany. That’s where I was stationed, and we’re half-German anyway,” he said.
Randy nodded in agreement. And since he had some experience working with cars at a car lot, they ended up deciding that “helicopter mechanics” would be a good line of work for him to pursue.
The sergeant looked him square in the eye, shook his hand, and said, “Welcome to the Army, son, you’re enlisted as of today. You will be officially inducted on August 16th, 1971.”
And so there we are, brother. Take care for now, and I hope to hear your voice again soon. I’ll be looking forward to your next letter as well.
P.S. Atty and Brittany say “Howdy!”