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Fragments resembling accidents

In writing a story about accidents and trauma, I had the challenge of insinuating these themes into all areas of the narrative. I had to. Victims don’t have a choice. The memories of events are there for them everyday, in every waking moment, even disturbing the somnolent ones–encoded in the insignificant details of life. I sought to embed these elements into my characters, both central and supporting, but somehow let ’em leak out. There are leaks in Crystal From The Hills, my tale of an itinerant drug addict and trauma victim wandering the milieu of Oakland after falling down its idyllic hills. An accident. Chris Leavitt never meant to hurt anyone. He doesn’t mean to trigger the phobic response of those who understandably associate the sounds of ringtones and doorbells with disaster. He doesn’t intend to stir a chill in those who crave truth but are surrounded by secrets and liars. Accidents happen. That’s what people once said to Chris, trying to make him feel better. Feeling better: it never made him better. Observe a few revealing fragments:

“Have you spoken to your mother recently?”

“No,” Chris answered, suddenly robotic.

“She understands more than you think.”

“I don’t want to talk to her.”

Aunt Jenny held a napkin to her mouth, suggesting an emergent revulsion. She quickly eyed Magdalena, who was hovering about the table, not quite waiting upon them; seemingly undecided as to her role. Jenny nodded, uttered hints about forthcoming stacks of clothing including all that Chris had brought with him. Between them they communicated a solution: an ironing board. Old clothes of his ought to be unearthed from the guest room closet, she also directed.

The angelic, chiming sound of the doorbell stirred them all out of this quiet, embarrassed arranging. Magdalena shot a glance in the direction of the front door, as though the sound were one that triggered old, traumatizing memories. Fleetingly, Chris noticed her wide-eyed bearing and speculated that it was borne of full-moon nights when doors were knocked upon, delivering bad news, illness and violent death—or accidental death—of prodigal loved ones. Aunt Jenny, startled, gaped expectantly at her obedient servant.

“I wonder who that could be,” she said, surprised. Magdalena marched dutifully and solemnly to the door, whispering in Spanish some ominous imprecations. Aunt Jenny turned her puzzled, yet vaguely inquiring expression towards Chris. Shrugging, he suspended his fork over his half-eaten omelet, and indulged a nameless foreboding. He looked down upon his food, upon the raped shreds of congealed egg and frayed greens. What an accident this all resembles, he thought.

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My novel, Crytal From The Hills, is looking for a place to live. Give it a home, readers. Or give it an agent, or this blog a directory. Otherwise, it might become a rejected story of rejection, about a guy named Chris Leavitt who’s left home, looking for a place to stay in the aftermath of an accident, a disappearance, a trauma, and a mystery–the novel’s pitch. Irony? Actually no–it might be apt, this quiet response, this absence of yours. You see, this is a tale of disconnection/rejection; disconnects and rejects; relationships with the absent highlighted by absent relationships with the present. Longings: dream about longings, why don’t you. I thought about all this when I started this thing three years ago. That’s planning, I say. That’s contrivance, some might think. Anyway, I sought feedback. Really. I made calls, wrote e-mails, did what you’re supposed to do–I connected, and asked what others thought. But phone calls get dropped, and e-mails sometimes land in junk. Sorry, says the world: we didn’t get that.

Here’s another passage from CFTH:

“So, what are you gonna do after you check your phone.” Chris thought for a moment that she was mocking him, referring to his phone task like it was his major chore of the morning. Jill flung her purse on her bed—the only major piece of furniture in the unit—and stepped over to a desk to check messages on her land line. Almost simultaneously she pulled out her IPhone and began checking its messages; multitasking, like she was showing how it was done. To her left was a several square foot space she’d created against a wall. She gestured towards it, indicating several of Chris’ belongings. Chris had already moved in, it seemed like; he’d colonized her space with his motley collection of goods, things he’d once thought he couldn’t live without: a backpack made of hemp; a Nick Drake CD sticking out the top. Inside, there were several smaller items, such as another Ziploc bag, filled with Percocets. There was an IPhone that had been “blown up” several times, such that its memory was now full. Taking up the most space was an oft-malfunctioning laptop and a seeming trail of electronic dependency: wires, cords, stray flash drives. Somewhere in the backpack were a toothbrush, a bottle of arnica gel, and a thin squib of a soap-bar. His clothes, which included two shirts, a spare pair of jeans and one extra pair of socks, were strewn in a pile, looked aged and stiff. Chris appeared to be aiming for a staleness wherein some items would soon be able to stand by themselves, encrusted with dirt, dust, the curled up lint that hovers above tufts of carpet.
It all came back to him now, the minutes he and Weed had spent here the night of the accident. Chris and Jill had one argument that night amid the flurry of plans and excitement. To her he’d seemed manic—spun, in all likelihood, despite his subsequent denials. Weed stood in the background, grinning, watching them bicker, and staring at Jill especially. Greasy strands of hair stuck out from beneath his baseball cap. They actually looked like weeds, thought Jill, catching sight of him. Chris had a poster of James Dean which he’d plucked from a tube that he wanted to place next to the bed. Jill vetoed the plan, said it didn’t go with anything. Chris stared in protest at the sparsely decorated walls of her apartment, and appealed vainly for “logic” on the matter. Jill was having none of it, either the poster, or the premise. Logic? She’d swat that notion away easily enough. But the real issue, the underlying divide, was something else. She didn’t want him to feel at home.

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