Sunday, February 15, 2015


#NovelSnip is a little bit of my fiction writing project.  This week, I thought I'd try a thing where I post a longer section with the jump-thingy.  It's like a choose-your-own-adventure - read a little or a little more.  Fun, right? This week, Alice is still on that phone call with Frank.  Frank seems to be living in a bit of an alternate reality, and it's kind of messed up.  Here's last week, where Alice realizes her dad is months off on his happy birthday call.  And here's #NovelSnip:

“Yes,” Frank said, weakly.  “Happy birthday.”

Alice felt hollow, and yet the anger shot through her voice. “It’s not my birthday!” she shouted, rising from the computer desk in indignation.  She listened as Frank breathed on the the other end.

“I thought,” he began.

“Well it’s not!” Alice declared.

“I’m sorry,” Frank mumbled.   

“Where are you anyway?” she demanded.  She hadn’t heard from Frank in months, which had become more routine in the years since her graduation from high school.  

“I’m on the run,” Frank said.  

“What?” Alice, dumbfounded, considering flipping closed the phone. “On the run?”  She was walking the length of the room now, traveling parallel to the make-shift cinderblock bookshelves which lined the walls.  “On the run from whom?”

“I’m having some problems with the people who lent me money for the business,” Frank explained, his voice just above a whisper.  A year before, Alice and Ethan had heard from Frank that his tutoring center, situated in a strip mall between a dry-cleaner’s and a Subway, had burned down. “Arson,” Ethan had whispered conspiratorily to Alice when they’d heard.  She’d smiled, picturing Frank with a gas can and a match.
Ok, so now you can click through if you want to read a little more.  Otherwise, that's #NovelSnip!

“Where are you now?” Alice demanded.

“I’m in a phone booth in North Carolina.”

“Okay,” Alice’s felt her eyes go wild, too wide, blood wooshing in her ears.  

“They have some guys on me,” Frank continued.  Alice imagined him peering left and right over the top of the telephone.

“They have guys on you,” Alice repeated, incredulous.  “Why?”

“It’s about the money,” Frank said.

“Dad,” Alice said, “this sounds crazy.  What guys?”

“It’s a branch of the Russian mob,” Frank said.

Alice felt a sinking, the weight from her head and chest migrating around her thighs and into her shins and feet.  She sagged to the floor, kneeling in front of the window.  She reached up and felt the cool glass with her free hand.

“Dad,” Alice said, her voice slow now, “have you been taking your medicine?”  

“This isn’t about that,” Frank insisted.

“Have you been taking it?” Alice asked again.

“No!” Frank whispered forcefully.  “I don’t have any!  This isn’t about that!”

“Dad,” Alice tried again.  “The Russian mob?  That doesn’t sound believable.”  She’d never challenged him like this before, but at this moment it felt responsible, with two psychology courses under her belt and some perspective on normal behavior.  And, she was states away - there wouldn’t be any backlash she couldn’t end by hanging up.

“I wish it weren’t,” Frank tried again, sounding controlled again.  “But it’s true.  I borrowed money, and I don’t have it, and they’re following me.”

“Can you see them?” she asked.  


“Maybe you should call the police,” Alice determined.

There was a pause on the other end.  Heavy breathing.  Alice brought her forehead to touch the window, staring at the dried insects trapped between the panes.  She waited for Frank to respond.  She could hear guttural starts and stops, and the relative silence stretched out to perhaps thirty seconds.

“Dad?” Alice asked, finally. “Are you okay?  Maybe,” she said, “maybe you should see a doctor and get a refill of your medicine.”

Suddenly, Frank was alive and livid.  “I,” he shouted, and Alice jerked back from the window, her spine straightening, weight on her heels.  “I don’t need it!”  Alice felt her own anger reignite as she found her feet and walked back along the bookshelves.

“You don’t need it?” she said, her voice louder.

“No!” Frank answered immediately.

In a rush, she remembered lying in her bed refusing to make eye contact while Frank kneeled beside her, explaining away a recent parenting transgression by telling her about the pills and how he had once again weaned himself off of them. “How can you say that?” Alice shouted.

“What?” Frank asked.

“That you don’t need it!”   Frank uttered sounds, mumbled fragments of sentences, on the other end of the line - “I just, I don’t, well” - Alice’s mind reeled back through the instances she knew Frank had stopped taking his medicine.  The reckless driving through St. Paul while slamming his fist on the center console and shouting. The puppy locked in the laundry room for hours on end, the cast it eventually needed on its front left paw.  The afternoon Alice had his recorded his explosive visits to her room on a cassette tape and contemplated escaping the house via her bedroom window.

“Dad!” Alice shouted over Frank.  “Think about it!”

“I have,” Frank said, more audibly now.

“Dad!” Alice felt suddenly dizzy.  “If you could choose taking your medicine or losing your family, which would you choose?”  Frank breathed hard.  Alice dipped her head and willed him to speak.  “Well?” she demanded.

“What?” Frank asked.

“If you could choose!” Alice yelled. “If you could choose either taking your medicine or losing your family!”

“I guess,” Frank said. “I guess I’d pick the medicine.”

Alice’s breath burned in her chest, her equilibrium shattered.  She shouted, “Then why didn’t you?”  She heard her roommate’s footsteps on the stairs, and she felt something in her head pop.  Bright red blood dripped from her left nostril, and she lifted the heel of her hand to block it, hitting the cartilage of her septum harder than she’d meant to.  Tears seeped in from from the corners of her eyes, blurring her vision.  “Damn it!” she shouted, stumbling into the half-bath, the blood from her nose smearing on her chin and hand, dotting the linoleum floor at her feet.  She was no longer registering Frank’s responses, if there were any.  “I have to go,” she said, grabbing at the toilet paper roll and sinking once again to her knees.  “Dad? I have to go.”  She clicked the phone closed with her right hand, squeezed the bridge of her nose with her left and let her forehead drop over her thighs to the floor.


mm said...

Of course I wanted to read on.

LH said...

Extremely sad.

Anonymous said...

Powerful writing! Love, mom