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NaNoWriMo Day 22/23 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoAlthough I made my word count for yesterday, I skipped yesterday’s post because I decided that what I had written needed to come after another scene, which is what I worked on today.I didn’t want to post the story out of order, so I am saving that part for later. That work may be part of tomorrow’s post.


Marshall Cooper

Day 22/23 – 38,597/50,000 words

Chapter 8

Marshall woke up late the next morning. A headache had come in the middle of the night. It hasn’t been a particularly severe one, be he had been unable to get to sleep for several hours. It was past ten in the morning when he finally did get out of bed, and he still felt somewhat groggy. After a quick trip to the bathroom, he decided to lie back down and listen to the radio. He turned the crank for about a half a minute, and then turned the radio on. Rather than music, he heard two people talking. The first was asking questions about locations and times, and the second, for the most part, was declining to answer, citing the fact that it was an ongoing investigation. Marshall had trouble following it. Eventually though, the interview ended and the first person said, “Thank you. That was Pedro Cortes, the under-sheriff. To review what we know now. At just after midnight last night, Sheriff Dwight Weatherly was found unresponsive in his car, parked outside of the Wayfarer hotel. He was brought to the Santa Creda Medical Center, where efforts to revive him proved unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at 1:13 this morning. At this time cause of death is undetermined and the Sheriff’s department has not ruled out foul play. Sheriff Dwight Weatherly is dead at the age of 68.”

Marshall sank into his bed. A feeling of overwhelming darkness came over him. The radio switched to music for a bit. Every song was a tribute: Knocking on Heaven’s DoorKeep Me In Your HeartFire and Rain. The DJ returned to the air and repeated the same basic information, and then he took calls. People talked about encounters with the Sheriff. They talked about his time in the community. Marshall listened, feeling a deep sense of loss. He had only known the sheriff a short time, but he had felt like he was one of the good guys.

Marshall stayed in bed listening to the songs and the calls. There were some callers who talked about not feeling safe in their community, and some who blamed immigrants and a host of other things. The DJ would gently remind people that the police had not made a determination about his death. There was no shootout or gun battle. Whatever happened to the sheriff happened quietly. No one was quite sure what to make of it. The sheriff’s department wasn’t providing many details, so it was hard to be sure what had happened.

Marshall was due to meet his Anne and the family for lunch at noon. He considered texting her that we wasn’t going to come, but he decided that would just lead to problems, so he got up, did his stretches, and shaved quickly before heading out. He headed down to Seaside Espress and ordered his coffee to go. While he was waiting, he bumped into Jacob. They shook hands. Jacob seemed to be in a good mood. Marshall asked him if he’d heard about the Sheriff and Jacob nodded. “It’s sad,” Jacob said flatly. He then immediately changed the subject to the college.

“That was a really good idea you had. I’ve been looking at it, and it turns out there are about a half dozen colleges around the country that specialize in the same basic thing, and they’re all doing quite well. You don’t hear about most of them because, like you said, they really aren’t trying to bring in the natives. Benton has already lined up some additional investors. We’ll run the thing as a non-profit of course, and it will be a nice way to make a tax-free investment in the city. Meanwhile, we build dorms, stores and restaurants for the students. We make our money off of that. They’ve all got to live somewhere, right?”

Marshall nodded. He was a little amazed that based on an offhand conversation over burgers; a multi-million dollar operation was being put into place. He was also disconcerted at how little Jacob seemed to care about the Sheriff. He realized, of course, that Jacob may not have ever met that man. As far as Marshall could tell, Jacob had come to town only a month or so before Marshall, and from all appearances, he considered Sheriff Dwight to be a rival. There was no real reason for Jacob to care in the least. Nonetheless, Marshall felt a sense of disappointment in Jacob, who he basically liked. He got his coffee and said goodbye.

Marshall walked down to the beach and walked along the water’s edge to get to the hotel. The beach was less busy than the day before, but there were still quite a few people enjoying the warm day. Adults and teenagers were spread out on the sand, getting some sun. Children were playing in the water or making sand castles. Marshall thought then of the sheriff’s daughter. Just a couple weeks ago she had celebrated her 11th birthday, and today she lost her father. The thought stopped Marshall in his tracks. He stood there for some time staring out at the water, thinking of his own parents. A pit grew in his stomach. Marshall took a few steps away from where the waves were lapping in, and sat on the sand. He stared out at the ocean, trying to convince himself to get back up, but he couldn’t manage it.

Marshall couldn’t remember the last time he had seen his parents. That day had been wiped from his memory. That made it hard to pinpoint the exact last time he did remember being with them. He was probably with them a couple weeks earlier, on another Sunday afternoon. Whatever that day was though, it was unremarkable. His parents had been getting up in age somewhat, but they were still fairly healthy. His father had been taking high blood pressure pills, but other than that, had been doing fine for a man nearing seventy. His mother had gotten knee surgery at one point, but that was a problem with mobility, not longevity, and she had recovered reasonably well. There had been nothing to make him thing that the end was anywhere near.

Sheriff Dwight was the same age his father had been when he died. Scenarios went through Marshall’s head. None of them were particularly well thought out, because he had so little information. He pictured the sheriff discovering his wife at the hotel, and being overwhelmed by sudden grief, his heart giving out. It was a ridiculous thought though. It was possible, of course, that it was the sheriff meeting someone at the hotel that night, but that seemed even less likely. Just that fact that he was still in his car made the possibility of his infidelity feel remote. The most logical thought was that he was there watching someone, or perhaps looking for someone. He may have been doing it officially or unofficially. If he was watching someone, chances are that person was still at the hotel. He was sure the officers would be looking into that.

Marshall’s brain continued to sort through the possibilities, but he knew that in the end they would make very little difference to his little girl. Marshall thought about Shelby. Marshall thought back to the texts he had received the night he met her. It seemed likely to him, that she was the one who had sent them. He had ruled out just about everyone else. He felt like there had been a spark when he met her. It was not something Marshall would have ever acted on, but he still could acknowledge it. He wondered how Shelby had taken the news. He assumed she had taken it badly.

His thoughts returned to his own parents, and to his sister. He recognized how hard the situation had been for his sister. She had not only lost both of her parents, but she had been faced with what remained of Marshall, and trying to put him back together. Marshall imagined how much grief and pressure that must have been for her. He couldn’t imagine that the situation had left her much time for grieving. Marshall was lucky that she was the sort of person who could, at least outwardly, handle all of that. For his part, he did not think he would have done so well if the tables had been turned. That would have been a difference situation though. Anne had her own family, who would have been there to look after her. Marshall only had Anne, and her family.

Marshall looked at his iPhone and confirmed that he could not possibly get to the hotel on time. He texted his sister. “Running a little behind, but I’m on my way now.” He did his breathing exercises, and tried to center himself. He listened to the ocean, and the waves coming in at him. Even in the time he had been sitting there, they had crept closer, one wave making it as far as a couple steps from his feet. When he felt like he was able, he got back up and started walking. He felt like he was walking very slowly. Eventually though, he made it to the hotel.

Marshall decided not to bring up the sheriff to Anne and the family. He couldn’t picture them understanding the connection he felt to the aging lawman. He wasn’t sure he understood it himself. It turned out that only Anne was in the room. “Charlie decided he wanted to watch the ballgame,” Anne said. He’s down at the hotel bar. I thought it would be nice if just the two of us had lunch.”

“Great,” Marshall said, trying to push some enthusiasm in his voice. The two of them rode the elevator down and walked out to her mini-van. The van was a bit of a mess, having endured long miles with a full family inside. It smelled a bit sand and sweat. Anne drove, asking him where they should go. Marshall had no idea where to eat, and suggested that they head over to the mall. Anne said she would prefer some local flavor, and Marshall remembered that Catrin had suggested the Salt Grotto. Marshall had never eaten there, but he remembered walking past it and gave her directions until they arrived.

The restaurant was a bit more formal than Marshall expected. They used white table clothes and had wine suggestions that Anne seemed to understand while he did not. Marshall stuck with iced tea anyway. Anne ordered the halibut, while Marshall got the Chef’s Choice Nigiri plate.

Marshall tried to come up with a conversation topic, but the best he could come up with was “How are the kid’s doing in school.” This was enough to at least get Anne started, as she detailed Cassandra’s success in her AP classes, to Caleb’s success at wrestling, to Corrine’s struggles with math. It filled five minutes, before Anne took a turn with a question of her own.

“Do you think this relationship with Catrin is going to get serious?”

Marshall thought about it for a moment. Then he said, “Catrin is nice, and I like being with her. I haven’t been in a relationship in a long time, so I don’t know what serious really even is right now. If you’re asking if I’m in love with her, I couldn’t say. I’ve never been in love with anybody really, at least, not in a way that I see in the movies. That has just never happened for me. It’s a new relationship, and it’s nice that way. I’m well aware that I’m much older than she is. In the back of my mind, I wonder when she is going to figure out that she has better options. But I do think I bring something to the table for her, and I think I know why she likes being with me. It would be hard to explain to you though. You’ve been married for almost twenty years now. The reasons I think this works would probably sound stupid to you.”

“You can at least try me,” Anne said. “I think I know you pretty well.”

“You do know me,” Marshall said. “But you don’t really trust me anymore.” Anne shook her head. Marshall continued. “I understand. You had to sit there with me in the hospital, even with two parents gone. You came every day. It’s hard to let go of that feeling of being a caretaker. But before all of that, I was just your big brother. We had a different relationship. You may not remember it, but I do because it is the relationship I wish we still had. There was a time when you would actually come to me for advice. You may not have taken it, but you wanted my opinion because I was your big brother.”

“I’m sorry if I seem overbearing to you. I only wanted to see how you were doing.” Anne said.

Marshall held his hands out in front of him. “The thing is,” Marshall said, “I want to tell you how I’m doing. I want to be able to share my problems with you and talk about my future plans. Because, I may be the older brother, but I’ve always cared about your opinion too. But I have to know that if I talk about how I’m doing, especially if I talk about my problems, that you aren’t going to take that as a sign that I’m failing. Because I do have problems, but none of them are insurmountable. They are just the things I have to deal with. Yes, I have headaches. Yes, I have trouble eating.”

Marshall pointed to the sushi on his plate. “I’m sure this is quite good, but to me it might as well be plain yogurt. A fine restaurant is completely wasted on me. But I do eat. I make myself eat. I’m not going to starve to death, but on the other side, I’m not going to make myself eat more than I have to because there is simply no point. It gives me no pleasure.”

Anne nodded. “I’ll try to stop giving you grief over your eating. I have a hard time because I know how much you used to love food.”

Marshall laughed. “You think you know. Food was one of the great pleasures in my life. You don’t get to over 300 pounds without loving food. Food was the one thing that could make me happy when everything else was going wrong. Now it’s gone, probably forever. That is why I had to find other things to make me happy. I came here, because being by the ocean makes me happy. Instead of eating an entire pizza, I go and sit by the ocean and drink coffee.”

“I get that,” Anne said. “This is a nice place.”

“The thing is, you’ve spent a lot of time helping me, and I am grateful. I’m annoyed, but I am grateful. The problem is that I completely lost out on the opportunity to take care of you.”

“I didn’t need taking care of,” Anne said.

“How can that be?” Marshall asked. “You went through a horrific event. How did you cope with it? How are you coping with it now? Our parents are gone, and we never talk about it. Do you talk to Charlie? Do you see a therapist? What do you do to cope?”

Anne looked down at her plate. “I coped by taking care of you.” She said, “You and my kids, and Charlie, I take care of all of you. I work as hard as I can at my job. I exercise as often as I can. That’s how I cope.”

“You fill your life with the things you care about.” Marshall’s voice trailed off.

“That’s exactly how I cope.”

“Everybody has their own way I guess,” Marshall said.

Anne said, “I have problems too,” Anne said, “I have trouble sleeping. I lay down in bed and my thoughts race. I’m constantly making lists. To do lists, lists of things I want to remember… lists of your problems. I have a list for everything.”

Marshall thought about that for a second. “I made a list of things to do before you came here. Things that would make you worry less about me.”

Anne smiled. “Mom kept a lot of lists too. I found all sorts of them when I was cleaning out their house. I guess it’s a family trait.”

The two of them set back to eating there food for a few minutes. Marshall managed to finish about half of his sushi before giving up. Anne finished her halibut. “Catrin was right. They really do know their fish.” After lunch they talked about their lives some more. When they left the restaurant, Marshall and Anne drove through the town, and Marshall pointed out the places he had been so far, and well as a few of the places he was planning to visit at some point.

When they got back to the hotel, they met Charlie at the bar and sat around talking some more. Charlie filled Marshall in on his new venture. He was starting to add juices and fruit smoothies to his yogurt shops, trying it out first at his flagship location in Scottsdale. Marshall discussed his idea for a college that Jacob seemed bent on making a reality. At about nine o’clock, Marshall walked back to his apartment. He walked along the edge of the ocean again. There were a few people still out on the beach, but not many. One group of about ten people was gathered around one of the fire pits, drinking beers and roasting s’mores. They waved at him as he walked by, and he waved back.

He was still thinking about the sheriff. He remembered his first meeting with him at the station, and the way he talked about how he had decided to lead his live. Marshall wondered how he felt about it in his final moments. He wondered if he had had time to reflect at all. When he got past the fishing pier, he stopped and sat on the sand again. He closed his eyes and just listened to the ocean, with the sound surrounding him. He reclined on the sand and stated up at the stars. He remembered a conversation he had had with one of his therapists, the one who had taught him the breathing lessons. He had said, “If you learn to be still enough, and quest enough, you can feel the world turning.”

Marshall tried then, to feel the earth turning. He breathed slowly and deliberately. His eyes picked out a particular star, straight above his head, and he concentrated on it, trying to be patient enough to note its progress across the sky above him. He told himself it was like watching the minute hand of a clock. Unless you truly let yourself relax and observe, you can never see the hands of a clock moving. Marshall wanted to see it. He stayed on the ground, looking up, for the better part of an hour, watching the one particular star, watching it trace a very slow path across the ski. For a moment, he felt it. He felt the earth spinning its way across the time and space. In that moment, he felt alive.


NaNoWriMo Day 21 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoI’m still on course tonight and less than 15,000 words from the word count goal. This section may have meandered a bit, but I think it does help identify a part of Marshall’s relationship with his sister that wasn’t apparent before.

Marshall Cooper

Day 21 – 35.008/50,000 words

“Can we just stay at the beach?” Caleb asked. Corrine seconded the request. Overall, the idea of a hike in the woods far away from cell phone connections did not seem like a big hit with Anne’s progeny. After some debate, Cassandra was volunteered to be responsible for the other two. This cleared the way for the Sunday hike and lunch. After they finished eating, the kids headed back to the beach. The Hotel had set up a fire pit and provided free punch and slushes while a DJ played party songs that were mostly rooted in the late eighties and early nineties such as Love ShackThe Sign, and This is How We Do It. The music overtook the patio of the restaurant. It seemed a lot of families were taking their kids here this week, so there was a thriving mass of teens and tweens.

Anne and Charlie continued to sip at margaritas, and began taking a little louder, partly because of the music. Anne was telling Catrin a story from Marshall’s childhood.

“Marshmallow and I had got it in our minds that we were going to fix my parent’s old car. He was fifteen and not too far away from getting his license. The car was an old Cadillac before I was born. It was a 1973 Sedan Deville and as big as a house. The car had a few issues, but I think the main one was that the transmission had to be rebuilt. Neither of us had the least bit of experience fixing a car – none at all. So we go to the library and a check out a basic book on auto repair.”

Marshall interrupted, “I also picked up a Haynes manual from Checker Auto.”

“Anyway, this becomes an epic project. All summer long we are out there working on the car. My mom was convinced we were going to start a fire or find some other way to kill ourselves. But mainly we just kept going out there, and finding one thing after another that we didn’t have.”

Marshall added again. “My father wasn’t big on fixing things, so we really didn’t have any tools in the house beyond a hammer and a couple screwdrivers.”

“Right, so we would work until we figured out that we couldn’t get any further, then Marshmallow would go on a mission to get the right tool.”

“I didn’t have a lot of money. I eventually got a set of socket wrenches from Wal-Mart, but they turned out to be metric, and I had lost the receipt, so then I had to get enough money to get the right set.”

“It literally took the entire summer, but we got it fixed.”

“I got to drive it one time.” Marshall said, “It was just about the proudest moment of my life.”

What happened to it?” Catrin asked.

“What did happen to it?” Anne said. I don’t remember it being around long”

“My dad used it as a trade in to get a new car. He said the Cadillac ate too much gas. So he went and bought a new car for them, and passed me down Cressida. It was a lot newer and more fuel efficient.”

“That wasn’t too terrible of a car either.”

“It was fine,” Marshall said.

Catrin added, “But it wasn’t a 1973 Cadillac that you fixed yourself.”

“No,” Marshall said, “But it was fun while it lasted.”

Marshall spotted Rainman walking along the beach and waved to him. He came over and Marshall introduced him to his family. “This is Rainman,” he said, “The finest harpist in Santa Creda.”

Rainman smiled. “I’m the only person in the city who owns a harp,” he said.  “Trust me, I’ve checked.”

He nodded at Catrin and she said, “Sorry about the other night. I didn’t mean to snap at you.” This led to Catrin telling them the story about how the cove got closed off. She managed not to mention her family’s involvement, just saying that it wasn’t considered safe.

“You can hike all the way there though?” Anne asked.

“Yeah,” Rainman said, “The trail head is on the east end of Weatherly Park. It’s not a bad hike. You have to scramble over rocks a couple of times, but it’s worth it. The cove is beautiful. You should go while you’re here. I can take you if you like.”

Catrin looked uncomfortable, but said nothing. The server came by and she ordered another beer while Anne and Charlie ordered margaritas. Rainman hopped over the railing and sat with hem, ordering a La Rainman about how he came to play the harp.

“Good question,” Rainman said, “The simple answer is Tia Marisol, my grandmother, played one. She had it in her house, and every time we went to her house, I would play with it, just on my own. I have a really good ear for music, so without any lessons I was managing to pick out some basic songs. So, she sat down and started giving me lessons. I picked it up really fast, or so she said. She had pretty bad arthritis though, so it hurt her to play. One day she told me that I should have it. My parents arranged for me to have more lessons, and I eventually ended up playing in a couple of orchestras. I got a music scholarship to Emmerit University, so I spent four years studying music there. I can actually play several different instruments, but here I mainly play the harp and sometimes the piano or the guitar is somebody needs me to fill in for somebody. Like I said, I have a really good ear, so I can usually hear a song once and figure out how to play reasonably well. On Monday nights one of our local bars, Happy Dave’s, has an open mike jam, and I usually go over there so that I can have a chance to play my other instruments. You guys should come by while you’re in town. I can’t promise you everyone will sound great, but it is a good time.”

That reminds me, Rainman said, “There’s another gig at the Sheriff’s house this week. I’m actually going to be playing guitar at this one, with a couple other guys. Anyway, I think I can get you back in as bartender if you like.”

“I would,” Marshall said, “But I’m actually going to be attending. Sheriff Dwight wants me there to meet some of the council members before they have their vote on me next week. Apparently they have to approve any management level hires.”

Rainman gave him a confused look, and Marshall filled him in on the job offer.”

“That’s very cool,” Rainman said after hearing it. “I didn’t know you knew how to do real things.”

“I’m not actually positive that I do,” Marshall answered, “We’ll find out though. The sheriff says the vote will be a formality, but he wanted to make sure.”

“It should be easy enough,” Rainman said, “He has a brother and a cousin on the council, so that’s two votes out of seven right there.”

I didn’t know that,” Marshall said.

“Might be different come November.” Rainman said. “The whole council is up for reelection. But for now, I’d say you’re set.”

A few hours passed and they continued to sit at the restaurant. It was nice, with the sound of the waves as a constant background, and the nineties dance hits playing. Every once in a while one of the kids would show back up at the table, usually asking for money to do something. The sun had set and the air had cooled. The restaurant moved some heaters out onto the patio to keep the temperature at a nice level. Marshall started to lose track of the conversation. At one point he thought they were talking about him, when it turned out that they were discussing Anne’s administrative assistant. One of them was most definitely not to be trusted. Catrin noticed that he was flagging and said, “Honey, let’s go for a walk on the beach.” This gave them their change to make their excuses and head out.

Once you got close to the water, the light from the hotel seemed to die. They held hands and walked on wet sand near the water’s edge. Marshall knew that if they walked long enough, they would be back in his neighborhood. The fishing pier was about a half mile off, and then it was about another half mile to Seaside Espress. The beauty of the town was that everything was close. It was one of the reasons he had chosen to live here. You could get virtually everywhere on foot if you were patient enough. Marshall could still drive, but he didn’t fully trust the experience. He knew that he would need to tonight. Catrin had consumed at least four beers that he could remember, and he wasn’t sure he had caught them all. He would have considered just walking home, but she still had to get back to her parents, and to do so without her car might not reflect well.

They walked as far as the pier, and then turned back. As they headed back, someone on the beach ahead set off a string of fireworks, and they exploded in the sky above their heads. Marshall had heard they did that sometimes here, especially around the fourth of July, but he hadn’t seen them before. Seeing them gave him an otherworldly feeling, as if he had stepped out of his old life into a different one. He felt the disconnect between his current life and the life he had led before the accident. This was both exhilarating and sad for him. He had never been satisfied with his old life, but nonetheless, it had been his life. Now he was somebody different, walking around in the same body as his old self.

Marshall squeezed Catrin’s hand and she squeezed back.

NaNoWriMo Day 20 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoYesterday was a bit light on words due to a busy day at work and a fun night with friends. I am only four words above baseline at this point. The good news though, is that today is the first day of my vacation. I don’t have to work again until NaNoWriMo is over, so I feel pretty confident I can get the 50,000 words in. I’m not sure if I can finish the actual story, which probably won’t conclude in 50,000 words, but I think I have a chance at that too.

Marshall Cooper

Day 20 – 33339/50,000 words

Anne continued to look doubtful, but Marshall gave her smile. “I’m fine.”

Catrin came over and put her arm on Marshall’s back. “I heard you like fish, she said to Anne. There’s a really nice place just up Flagler Avenue called the Salt Grotto. They only use locally caught fish, very fresh. It’s a nice place.”

“Sounds good to me,” Charlie piped in. “I’m not sure how the kids will feel about it.”

There was some debate back and forth. Anne’s kids were 12, 14, and 16. They didn’t need to be coddled too much, but Anne was also pretty sure that they would be happiest just staying by the beach. After some discussion, Anne and Catrin settled on the little Mexican restaurant next to the hotel called El Raquero. It was a small, casual place with a reasonable seafood menu and a lot more choices for the kids. Even better, it overlooked the beach, so they were able to sit on the patio and let the kids go back to the beach after they finished eating. Anne texted the kids to come meet them at the restaurant.

They made their way down to the restaurant. Corrine, the youngest, was already standing outside the door. She gave Marshall a hug, Catrin a look of assessment, and then declared “I am starving”. Corrine was a thin girl, with long brown hair dyed green and purple and pink in spots. She wore shorts a white t-shirt that said, “My brain is 80% Song Lyrics”. Her thin exterior was deceptive, because she was an eating machine. She had the ability to put down an entire medium pizza in a single session. So far, it had not caught up to her. Marshall dreaded the day that it did.

Caleb was still wearing damp swim trunks with an over-sized t-shirt that hung almost to his knees. His hair was cut short and he looked like he needed a shave. It was a few more minutes before Cassandra arrived. She had gone back up to the suite to change. Cassandra wore a dark blue summer dress with red and white rose print. Cassandra was already taller than her bother, and busty. Her hair had been long, liker her sister’s hair, the last time Marshall had seen her. That was gone now though, in favor of a pixie cut. She made no move toward Catrin other than to say a quick “hi”.

They at a long table near the edge of the raised patio. They started with appetizers of cheese crisps and queso fundido, as well as a mound of the free chips and salsa. The kids stuffed themselves. Marshall made sure to have some chips and a slice of the cheese crisp. He forced himself to finish them, washing them down with tea. The tea was strong and bitter, which made it the best thing about the meal for Marshall. He tried the queso fundido, but found the texture disconcerting.

Anne and Charlie both drank margaritas. Marshall was pretty sure that one would lead to another for them, and that made him think about his mother again. Anne looked a lot their mother, except physically fit. Gardening had been about the most physically demanding thing she ever done. His mother had been a fairly avid gardener though, mainly growing practical things such as vegetables and herbs. His mother had also liked to cook, and was always proud of anything she made that came out of the garden, although then should also be even more frustrated if the results were bad. Marshall had tried helping her in the garden when he was young, but getting up and down off of his knees had been difficult. In the end he mainly stuck to eating the food.

Marshall excused himself and headed to the bathroom. He went into the stall and closed the door. He shut his eyes for a few moments and did his breathing exercises. He didn’t feel a headache coming on, but he felt like he needed to calm himself. If he stayed stressed for too long, a headache would definitively come anyway. For about five minutes, he centered himself. The beauty of the exercises was that they allowed him to push just about everything else out of his head.

When Marshall got back, they were just putting the food on the table. He had ordered the carne asada plate. It was essentially small chunks of grilled beef with beans, guacamole, tortillas and lettuce. He ate slowly and deliberately. His goal was to always be in the process of eating so that he did not call attention to how much he was actually eating. The important thing was never to look like he had stopped. Marshall chewed very carefully. C. He took a drink everything time he swallowed a bite. He reminded himself that this would be over soon enough.

Catrin and Anne spent time discussing what the family could do while they were in town. Catrin recommended that they go to the galleries, hike one of the trails, and visit the wharf. “We’re actually a pretty relaxed town,” she said. “It is about twenty miles to Deer Point. It’s a nice little mountain tow with about 1000 people. It’s pretty. There’s a hot spring and a few B&Bs up there. There’s a lot of hiking up there too, but the only restaurant is the Brass Lantern.”

Anne thought about it. “Why don’t we all drive up there Sunday? We can make a day of it.”

NaNoWriMo Day 19 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoMy word count is a little low tonight. It was a long day and I was tired. I even considered just letting it go for a day, but I haven’t missed a day yet and I didn’t want to start now. I managed to add another 850 words, which keeps me above par. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can pick up the pace again tomorrow.

Marshall Cooper

Day 19 – 32420/50,000 words

Anne had slightly darker and curlier hair than Marshall.  She kept if at shoulder length, which nicely accented her roundish face. She had always been the athletic one in the family, and even as she approached her forties, she still ran three miles every day. Dressed in shorts and a light blue t-shirt, she looked ready for a run right that moment. She even had on her Nikes. Marshall pictured her running along the beach, right where the sand was wet and reasonably solid from the waves. Marshall could not picture himself running on the beach. He liked to walk along the beach, but there was never a single point in his life that he could remember, in which he looked forward to the idea of running. It was a speed that Marshall was not Comfortable living at.

Charlie shared her basic philosophy, but he was not a runner. Charlie played tennis. He liked to talk about how, when he was a teenager, there had been talk of him playing professionally. Marshall tended to doubt that, but Charlie had managed to win his country club’s doubles tournament three years ago, and he proudly displayed the trophy in his den. Marshall also never played tennis by choice, doing so only when assigned the task in school. The only sport that had ever attracted Marshall was bowling. At one point, he had been a reasonably good bowler, and played in a league for a few years, but that had tapered off long ago. The league he was in had switched nights, and the new night had interfered with Marshall’s television watching. Marshall had been a very avid TV fan. He not only watched the shows, but would go online and debate the episodes after they aired. He had been a big fan of Breaking Bad. Marshall missed television a little, but not as much as he had thought he would. He missed movies more than TV, but even then, he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Charlie complimented him on his weight. “You look like you’ve lost a few more pounds,” he said happily.

Anne was not quite as approving. She asked him what he weighed not, and Marshall said, “Around 200.” This was actually not too far from the truth. 10 days of forcing weight gain drinks into his body and pushed his weight back up a few pounds. He didn’t have a scale, but he felt like he might be back at 200.

“That’s too fast,” Anne said. She turned to Catrin. “Does he eat?”

Catrin had been coached about answering questions like that. She knew not to discuss the food poisoning or even the weight gain powder. She said breezily, “Last night we went to the Olive Garden. We had the endless soup and salad. I’m pretty sure we got our money’s worth.”

Anne didn’t seem particularly satisfied. “You need to keep an eye on him,” she said. “He won’t let me do it anymore.”

“I’m doing fine,” Marshall said. I even start a new job next week.

“What?” Anne said.

“Well,” Marshall said, “Pending approval from the city council.”

The offer had come two days ago. Sheriff Dwight had called him again and asked him to come by the office. This time, with his ankle healthy, Marshall had simply walked to the police station. Once he was there, Dwight had sat him down and made an offer. “Look,” he said, “I get that you can’t spend all day staring at a screen. Hell, I can’t stand to do it either. What I need though, is for somebody to be in charge of this thing. I need somebody who can keep things running, and not just the databases. What I want is for you to be the IT Manager.”

Marshall, had of course, said no. He said no once, and then twice, but the third time he said, “We can give it a try.”

“Are you sure you can handle a full time job,” Anne said after he explained the position. “That sounds like a lot for you to be taking on.”

In this particular instance, he did not hold his sisters doubts against her. Looking back at the decision, Marshall could not quite figure out why he said yes. He knew it wasn’t a particularly good idea. He was not under the illusion that it was less stressful to be the boss, or that he could manage to do the job without stating at a computer for more hours than he could handle. In the end, it boiled down to the idea that he felt needed, and he liked that feeling. The sheriff wasn’t giving him a job for any other reason than that he thought he could make a difference.

“I’m giving it a try,” he told his sister. “You may well be right, but they really need somebody, and even if I can’t handle it forever, as manager I can recruit some people who might be able to keep them on track. If necessary, I can even find my own replacement.”


NaNoWriMo Day 18 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoToday finds Marshall preparing for his sister’s visit in more ways than one. The conversation with Catrin was especially challenging to write. It’s one of those scenes that I eventually had to just write even though I know I’m not satisfied with it.


Marshall Cooper

Day 18 – 31,573/50,000 words

Marshall sat there for another twenty minutes, just enjoying being outside of his apartment. He looked up weight gain powders on his phone, and then decided to head to the CVS where he could just pick some up. It was about a half a mile walk to the CVS, and it was a good test of his ankle which seemed to be pain free, although still just a little tight. He promised himself he would ice it down when he got home. The CVS had several options. He opted for something called Naked Mass Builder, which had no artificial flavors or colors. Taste was of absolutely no concern to him anyway and he figured it was healthier to go that route. He picked up a Blender Bottle to go with it. While he was there, he also bought a copy of Men’s Health magazine. He had no real intention of reading it, but he figured it would look good for that to be displayed somewhere in easy view.

Once he got home, he fired up his computer for the first time in weeks and got on He bought a set of plates and glasses. He also ordered a set of pots and pans, a new set of sheets for his bed and a new set of towels for his bathroom. He considered picking up a couple of Van Gogh prints to put on his wall, but decided instead that he would hit one of the local galleries. He told Siri to remind him to do that the next morning.

The weight gain powder mixed up with his water relatively easily. He drank it as quickly as possible, and told Siri to remind him in two hours to do it again. He was a little annoyed that he had to do these things just to avoid being hassled, but he pushed that out of his brain. There was no point on swelling on the negative. New sheets and towels were not an unpleasant thing to have, even if they were unnecessary. He realized that to have the life he wanted, he needed to project some success.

Marshall looked at the rolling bar cart in the corner and tried to decide what to do with it. He came to the conclusion that the easiest thing to do was put the liquor in a cabinet no it wasn’t so prominent. Without the liquor, the cart was just a cart. He could put his books on it.  He set to work doing that. He also spent some time cleaning up. Even though he still had a week and a half, he decided that it was best to get his habits set now. He didn’t want to spend that last day in a scramble.

He spent most of the rest of that day cleaning the apartment. It wasn’t terribly big or really very dirty, but he spent time scrubbing clean his stove, his microwave, and his bathroom. He had to work extra hard because he had little by way of actual cleaning supplies. The scent of ammonia or other strong cleansers was a trigger for his headaches, so he made due with just a sponge and a bit of dish soap. Once he was satisfied, and sufficiently tired, he got in bed. Happily, he noted that he had gotten through the entire day without a headache. He worried that he was tempting fate by even thinking about it, but he still allowed himself a little hope that they would decrease once again. Within five minutes of getting in bed, he fell asleep. That night, he slept peacefully and deeply, Fate, if tempted, held back this time.

Catlin and Marshall went to the Chili’s for lunch the next day. Marshall was already full, having drank two of the weight-gain drinks that morning, but he forced himself to eat the Southern Smokehouse Burger with Ancho Chile BBQ because of its legendarily high calorie count. He also ordered a chocolate milkshake to go with it, doing his best to put his sister’s gift cart to good use. Catlin, sill a bit wary of food, just ordered French fries and an iced tea. Marshall told her about his sister’s coming visit, trying to convey a sense of dread.

“The rooms at the Hyatt are nice,” Catlin said, “Let’s just hope they don’t get any food.”

“Actually,” Marshall said, “it turned out they did use an outside caterer. It wasn’t the Hyatt’s fault.” The local news had reported on the food poisoning for several days. Apparently, over two dozen people came down ill, and because most of them had more than their share of wealth and power, they made quite a stink. Most of the talk in the papers was that this had torpedoed Guerrero’s chances at election.

Catrin shrugged. “Either way, I’m not eating there any time soon. Every time I think about it, I get a little sick. I’m sorry I talked you into going. You paid a lot of money just to get sick.”

Marshall thought about it for a moment. “It was an interesting night,” he said finally. “It may not have ended well, but there were some good moments.”

“That guy Jacob keeps calling me,” Catrin said. “He wants to take me out on his boat.” Catrin said, making judicious use of air quotes.

“He is a bit of a letch,” Marshall said. “He seems like a decent guy underneath it though. I liked some of his ideas.”

Catrin seemed to think about this. She took a long drink of her iced tea. “Maybe I’ll go then,” she said finally/ “It might be fun.”

“I didn’t say you should go,” Marshall said. “I just said he’s probably not a bad guy.”

Catrin was quiet for a while longer. They both took uninterested bites of their food. “Do you care?” Catrin said. “Would it matter to you?”

“Yes,” Marshall said. “I care. Of course I care.”

“Then quit pushing him on me,” Catrin said. “Just stop with that.”

Marshall tried to think of a way to put his thoughts into words. Everything in his head sounded stupid. He wanted her. He knew that he did, but a part of him just wanted to push her away. It seemed like he was putting her at unnecessary risk or at least giving her a burden that would eventually find very cumbersome. He refused to let the opportunity evaporate though. Instead, decided to say something, even if it came out badly. “I want you to be my girlfriend,” he said.

Catrin smiled. “Ok then. Let’s do that.”

Marshall felt a shift inside of him, as if one weight had been lifted, but another had come right on its heels to replace it.


Chapter 7

His sister wanted to come to his apartment straight off, but Marshall arranged to meet the family at the Hyatt, once they had gotten checked in. Catrin drove him to the hotel. For several minutes, they sat in the parking lot holding hands while he psyched himself up to see his family again. Finally, they got out of the car and walked hand-in-hand up to the hotel and took the elevator to the top floor. They kissed once before knocking on the door to the suite.

Charlie, his sister’s husband, opened the door and they came in. Marshall’s sister Anne was on the balcony. The kids were nowhere to be seen, having quickly headed out to the beach. “Sorry” Anne said, “I was just looking at the view. This place is even prettier than I remember.” Marshall introduced Catrin to them. Anne was gracious, and complimented Catrin on her blouse.

The suite was large, with multiple bedrooms, a living room, a wet bar and a wide table capable of seating six. The TV was relatively unimpressive, for a room of that level, just a normal flat screen that was probably about 32 inches. Marshall could imagine the kid’s disappointment at seeing this. They had a 60 inch TV in their home. The TV was on, tuned to the Bloomberg channel, where a talking head was going over the day’s closing bell report. .


NaNoWriMo Day 17 – Marshall Cooper

Randy Johnson 20kToday was a pretty good day. I managed to pass the 30k mark and for the first time I am actually a day above par in word count. I spent today delving a bit into Marshall’s past and what he has been through. I have gone back and forth about how explicit to make this. In some ways, I feel it is better to mention these events more in passing than to directly address them, but because this is a draft I have the luxury of trying the direct approach. I can always cut it out later.

Marshall Cooper

Day 17 – 30,184/50,000 words

Chapter 6

It was several days before Marshall ventured out of his apartment, beyond a couple trips to his mailbox. Between his ankle and his stomach, he decided to take enough time for both issues to clear up as much as possible. Because couldn’t really feel hunger, it was easy enough for him to just avoid eating for a few days. He drank a lot of water, and stayed in bed. He bought a couple audio books and listened to them on his iPhone. He picked longer stories, he picked longer stories. Steven Ling’s The Stand, and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Between them, that was almost seventy hours of listening materials, and kept him occupied.

He occasionally texted back and forth with Catrin, who also was navigating her way through the recovery process, but had a bumpier road due to an actual desire to eat food. From Catrin he learned that the food poisoning had made the local news, and that there was some talk of the damage it may have done to Guerrero’s campaign. The candidate released a statement, claiming that testing was being done on the food, and that he could not rule out malfeasance on someone’s part. “There are a lot of people who want my campaign stopped. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I think this was a deliberate act.”

Marshall wondered if that could be true. He didn’t actually suspect the sheriff of being involved, but there definitely seemed to be a darker side to the politics in this town, and it would not have shocked Marshall to learn someone had done this on perfect. In the end though, he was pretty sure it was just some under-cooked meat. Either way, Marshall felt like he had had his fill of local politics. He had never cared about them before, so he didn’t see why he should now. Still, a part of him liked the fact that somewhat powerful people were seeking his opinions about things.

By Wednesday, he felt like both his stomach and his ankle were as good as they were going to get without some use. He headed down to the coffee house to get his iced coffee and stare out at the ocean, and activity that seemed innocuous, but which he severely missed while he was cooped up in his apartment. The day was particularly warm, with the afternoon temperature hovering near ninety. The air felt wet and sticky as he got near the ocean, but he was pleased to see that the beach was as full as he had ever seen it on a weekday, with dozens of people out enjoying the water or lying in the sun.

Marshall promised himself that he would get back to serious walking the next day. He missed walking on the beach. Today though, he just wanted to have a coffee and enjoy the sunlight and the heat in a place that was not his apartment. When he got up to the balcony, he found that it too was fairly busy, although he did not recognize any of the patrons. His usual seat in the front corner of the building was taken, so he settled for a smaller table closer to the doors. For several minutes, he simply sat listening to the ocean.

In addition to his coffee, Marshall had ordered a roast beef sandwich. It was the first solid food he had eaten in three days, and while he ate it, he honestly felt like he was enjoying the sandwich. The flavor still wasn’t right, but at this piing his body had a deep craving for food that went beyond hunger, and every bite was enjoyable. It took him less than five minutes to completely finish the sandwich. Marshall couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten with that much enjoyment, although Catrin’s banana muffins had come close.

Marshall was afraid to weigh himself again. If he had been 199 at the urgent care, than he was probably close to 190 now. He tried to remember when he was 190. He figured it was his freshman year in high school. Marshall had gone out for football that year, lasting all of two weeks before dislocating a shoulder and being forced to quit by his mother. He had needed a physical to join the football team, and he had weighed in at 187 pounds. He assumed then, that sometimes during that first semester in high school, he had passed the 190 mark.

Marshall tried to think of what he looked like in the 9th grade. There weren’t a lot of pictures of him. He had been notoriously camera shy, and had managed to avoid every school picture day since the 7th grade. Looking back though, Marshall was pretty sure that he had looked a lot better than he thought he did at the time. He hadn’t missed out on all of his father’s good looks. They had just gotten hidden under a few pounds of fat. Marshall had his father’s hair, and his eyes. His nose was more from his mother, and had always seemed too small for his face, but Marshall wondered now if that had only been the fat making his normal-sized nose look bad. Without pictures, it was hard to tell.

When he had looked in the window this morning though, he had seen himself as a bit of a different person. The nose never stops growing, so his seemed the right size now, His hair would never be as perfect as his father’s but he otherwise had a lot of the look down. Marshall liked the idea of looking like his father, especially because Marshall was single. By this age, his father had married and fathered both he and his sister, He had given up modeling, but he still spent more time on his looks than Marshall had ever even considered.

Marshall’s best memory of his father came fairly late in life. It was 2001, and the Diamondbacks were having a good year. It was only May, and nobody had even considered the idea that they would go to, and eventually win the World Series. Marshall had decided to treat his father to a game, and had spent fifty dollars a ticket for spots right behind home plate, where you could order your drinks and snacks off of a menu and have them brought to you.

Randy Johnson was pitching, and he was striking out just about everyone who came to the plate. Nonetheless, the game was very close. In the end Randy struck out 20 batters to tie a major league record. He didn’t get the win though. The game went into extra innings, and although the Diamondbacks eventually won the game, a rookie pitcher nobody had ever heard of got the credit for the win.

His father had grown up a Dodgers fan, and had not yet warmed up to the Diamondbacks, but after that game he thanked Marshall. He said, “I can’t image a better gift of a day than that.” They had gone to the gift shop after the game and bought matching hats. His father had fully converted to a Diamondbacks fan. It seemed a little silly now, but it was the best day Marshall could remember ever having. Mostly it was just the idea that he was sitting next to his father for the best seats, at the best game he had ever seen. It was even more special because it was one of the few times he had ever been in the position to treat his father to something,

Marshall had thought of that memory again that morning, when he had looked in the bathroom mirror to see something resembling his father’s face. He would never have all of his father’s good looks, but for the first time, he felt like there was a strong link between them.

Marshall had no real memory of the accident that had killed his parents and derailed his own life. He knew the basics. He and his parents had been on their way to Monti’s. He had come by for a Sunday visit, and they had all decided to go there, where they were going to meet his sister and her family. He didn’t remember this, but he knew this because his sister and her husband and children had sat at the restaurant waiting for them for over an hour before investigating what happened. Marshall didn’t even know why he had chosen to ride with them instead of take his own car. It seemed like an odd choice for him. Marshall could not remember anything from that day, or the day before. He only remembered waking up in the hospital with no idea what had happened to him or why he couldn’t move.  He knew the details. He had been in the passenger seat when the truck rammed into them, killing his parents on impact and leaving him with a long list of injuries to deal with. There had been insurance claims, and threats of lawsuits before an out-of-court settlement. His sister had handled almost all of it. He had still been in the hospital when the funerals took place, so he never got to take part in any of that. By the time he was even relatively himself again, it seemed like months had passed. He then spent months living at his sister’s house, because nobody trusted that he could be alone.

Nobody talked about what happened in any real sense. There was no moment where somebody sat down and explained to him what he had been through, and what had happened to his parents. People made assumptions, because they had all been through it from the other side. Marshall pieced it together fairly slowly. Realizing first that his parents were dead, then later that he had been in an accident with them, and even later that he had traumatic brain injuries and that was why everybody was treating him like he was broken and that he couldn’t take care of himself. It had taken quite a fight to get back out of their house and back into his condo. There had been discussions of a receivership, and turning over his finances to his sister.  It has taken a lot to prove to them that he was still a functioning human being, and at times they had managed to make even Marshall doubt it.

Marshall knew his sister loved him, and he knew she had no ulterior motives but what she thought was best for him. That was what made the situation so difficult. He refused to believe though, that he could not take care of himself. Marshall had trouble telling his sister no. That was why he had stayed long after he felt like he could handle being on his own. It wasn’t until he broached the idea that he realized that they had determined to make choices for him.

It hadn’t been a big ugly argument, but it had been a hard discussion. Marshal had explained that he was an adult, and he was used to living on his own, and that whatever difficulties he faced by going back to that, it was his decision to make. His sister tried in the same way to convince him that he wasn’t as far along as he wanted to think he was, and that he was better off with them. She used the headaches as her prime argument, but Marshall had made up his mind, and in the end she had to either drop her arguments, or try to have him declared incompetent, which would have created a rift they would never have recovered from. That was when she backed down.

Marshall spent another eight months in chandler, living on his own. He slowly weaned himself from the barrage of medications the doctors seemed to think would help him, but only seemed to cloud his thinking. In the end, the only thing his sister could noticeably hang over his head was that he didn’t eat, but in that case, being overweight worked in his favor. Even at 190 or so, he was above what doctors considered his ideal weight, although not by much now.

In a week and a half, his sister would be there, and he would have to work one more time to convince them that he was fine. Marshall realized that he needed a plan. He pulled out his iPhone and started making a list of the things he needed to over the next week and a half.

  1. Put on as much weight as you can.
  2. Decorate apartment.
  3. Fill cabinet and refrigerator with food
  4. Figure out relationship with Catrin
  5. ???

He stopped typing and reviewed the list, He knew there should be more, but he figured that was a good start. It felt good to have a plan though. In a way, he decided, it was good that his sister was coming now. Looking at the first item on the list, he had to smile. He could not remember a time in his life when gaining weight was a goal. Marshall put his phone back in his pocket and looked out at the beach again. He watched the waves draw in and out of the sand. The sight brought a certain meditative calm.

Poetry Prompts