Video Excerpt of The Lion's Den:
Excerpt of my current work seeking publication:
Chap. 1 (partial of novel) Against That Day
The argument of our lives turns out not to be with God, or other people; against their politics or worldviews versus our own. The argument of life, it seems to William, ultimately comes down to no more than one main contention; an argument against that day.
That day, or for some, that night. For none of us can escape the reality that on some unknown day or night, our lives will end. Some people had a brief glimpse of their last day earlier than others, he knew; some trauma in their lives had clued them in and made the rest of their time on this earth, however long it was, gloomier and bigger than all that had come before. These people are his patients. He talks in the abstract with them about death every day. “Oh doctor, I want to die.” “I’m so afraid of life as it is now, every day’s so hard.” At least once a week, usually more, he tackles the subject in depth and not in the abstract, leading someone through the extreme notion of life without them present in it, like Capra’s fine movies, or someone’s pastor at a wake. Gives them their eulogy in advance so they’ll have something to hang onto, be proud of, even if he is only inventing as he goes along.
But now Bree is, again, facing the reality of that day with no reprieve. And William cannot be sure how, in either one of them, the arguments will resolve themselves this time round.
The night before had been punctuated with the normal spate of bad weather predictions on the news, and Bree trying to be normal too, mostly because she was so exhausted with being otherwise. Last night she’d been quiet, demanding thoughts and space of her own; rubbing the last vestiges of hand cream soft across her elbows; pushing over to the far left corner of the bed to be away from his reach. The blankets moved with her and far from him, same as a low-pulling tide.
To such assaults, William is only mildly indignant. For even without her, he can claim the lamplight, an open book across his chest, as some kind of protection against promised insomnia. Of course he knows this joint pretense at any normalcy will fail; that in the morning, with sleep or without, they will both come up from their exhaustion to receive all the world’s bad news.
But does that mean each morning, and for every morning until her final days, that he is doomed to fail her? Or would they both fail, fail each other, by not speaking more of this returning diagnosis? That each night spent pretending to read books, or clicking off lamps and merely holding hands in the newly-grim dark, are not only moments lost forever, but utter failures of nerve?
In the morning, the phone rings before six a.m.; it is a call routed by the service, from a patient who cannot handle his own anxiety, whose mind has crawled along so many corridors all night that now he feels just like a rat, just as fecal and small-boned. After William talks with him for ten minutes or so, schedules him in for an emergency hour at four that day, he feels dirty himself and tries to crawl back into bed for quick repairs. But suddenly, he is crying so much and so hard, he leans up against Bree, spoons her, until she lets him in.
Afterwards, William comes into the bathroom, only able to mumble, sorry, sorry. This is his new posture with her and hers also, with him, since weeks before, when they’d heard from her oncologist.
She turns around, the toothbrush poking up in her mouth. A bit desperate, he searches for better clues than this, off her reflection in the mirror. Is she worn out by how he’d approached her this morning? Resentful? Blond-grey curls up along the brow seem thin, not being brushed yet, and no other signs of red come off the cheeks or chin; just minty white paste. She won’t tell.
“Sorry about,” he starts, then revamps, “That call before the alarm.”
“No, just a new patient. Testing me, probably. Don’t worry.” He dares another look, but she has bowed her head over the sink to spit. “I’m going to talk to the service. I think I have to. We’ll need sleep whenever we can get it now.”
“It’s not the service that pissed me off,” she says, turning. “It was when you came over to me afterwards.”
He smiles. He’s been trying to hide his worry, that he’d been more aggressive than usual when he should’ve been the opposite. “That’s me being a selfish pig, right? I should’ve asked.”
“That’s not it, either. I was-glad.”
This surprised. “Whatever you want. You tell me. From here on out, you just tell me and whenever, however, you want. I just don’t want to hurt you. This morning I wasn’t careful, I’ll admit--.”
But she is tired beyond tired with his apologies, slams a wrist on the counter to let him know.
“Shut up, why can’t you?” she shouts. “And stop making me say yes or no about everything! Like I know what’s going on any better than you do. Like the doctor’s told me anything about how we should be together! Look, it’s not on my chart yet, so I don’t know!”
Now she is crying again, as if the tears weren’t used up after this past week, as if the supply hasn’t yet emptied itself.
“Sleep’s what I wanted most!” she says. “So why couldn’t you just have started your day, when the call came?”
Bree looks and sounds so childish with that toothbrush still dangling, all her words garbled, that suddenly, his guilt grows beyond reasonable bounds. Although William knows better, he feels like he’s done something terribly wrong, molested a girl in bed only moments ago, not his wife of thirty-two years.
This isn’t a feeling to take on, accept along with everything else, so he doesn’t. He shakes off the strangeness of the moment even as she moves back to the mirror and accuses,
“So don’t blame the service for getting me up, or anyone else. When you were the one.”
-end of excerpt-