It is the end of day two of NaNoWriMo and so far so good. We are definitely still in the world-building phase of the book, but that is to be expected. In a draft, the first chapter is usually more for the writer than the audience. Most of it is exposition, which can often be done away with, but that is for the editing portion of the book. as an interesting note. my first attempt to tell this story was written in the first person. I decided, this time, to switch to third person. There were a couple of points today where that meant I had to jump through hoops because he doesn’t have a ton of people to talk to yet, but Benton Noro should return soon, and I’m working on the introduction of a third character, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I wrote a short article about Narrative Voice a while back. I should probably expand it, but take a look if you like.
Day Two – 3643/50000 words
Marshall sat for another few minutes, finishing his coffee. He watched the seagulls gliding in to land on the pier, occasionally getting too close to a fisherman who would shoo them away. On the beach, there were a number of families with little kids wading into the water. There were a few teenagers too, now that school was out. some of them were playing an uneven, disorganized volleyball game. Eventually a headache started to come on, and Marshall forced himself to stand up. it was still a bit of a painful process getting started, especially along his left side, where the scars tended to make his skin tight and his muscles would sometimes knot. Once he was in motion though, he moved normally enough. It had taken a long time to get back to this point, so he valued the ability.
it was a ten minute walk back to his apartment. he hurried as much as he could, knowing that once the headache got a firm grip he would be out of commission for an hour or more. The headaches were his biggest problem. muscle aches were an annoyance, but the headaches were what kept him from going back into programming. if he tried to concentrate too long, especially staring at a screen, the headaches would come. They were painful, of course, but they also made it hard to think. he would get confused sometimes, and he hated being confused. The same thing happened if he exercised too vigorously. He walked a lot. he liked to walk. But running was out of the question. Nothing brought a headache on faster than that.
The walk back to his apartment was a gentle climb, but his feet felt especially heavy that day and his progress seemed slow. By the time he got to his apartment, his head was throbbing and he felt clumsy. He fumbled with his keys, dropping them once before getting the door open. Once in the apartment, he was tempted to make a beeline for his bed, but experience told him no. Instead, he went to his refrigerator and took out an ice wrap and a mask for his eyes. The mask didn’t need to be chilled, but he found it was best to keep both in the freezer so he didn’t have to think about where the mask was once the headache took hold. He sat on the side of his bed, took off his shoes and his pants, then reclined on the bed and put on the mask, adding the ice wrap on top.
Once he was lying down, he started doing the breathing exercises he had learned in physical therapy. They were simple enough to follow. He slowly counted to four while he inhaled and counted to three as he exhaled. He pictured the breath going in and out of his body as blue energy. He repeated this for as long as he could. Eventually, the headache would ebb, or else he would fall asleep. The headaches had been very scary a first, but they had been going on long enough that he no longer expected them to kill him. he wasn’t lucky enough to fall asleep during this one. It took over an hour for the headache to mostly subside. he kept the breathing exercise up for another twenty minutes though, until all trace of the headache was gone. He found that was best.
Marshall got out of the bed again and did his stretches. Marshall had added this to his routine a few months back at his physical therapist’s suggestion. Marshall was having at least three headaches a day back then, and stretching after each one had really increased his progress. After the stretches Marshall worked on his balance. he stood on his right leg for thirty seconds, then on his left for the same, before repeating the process. For the third round, he tried to do it with his eyes closed. For that, he was able to do twelve seconds on his left foot, and twenty on his right. “One of these days,” he said to himself.
Marshall looked at the time. It was almost five now, and Marshall put on a pair of shorts. It would be sunset soon, and he felt like he should walk down to the beach. Walking on the beach at sunset was exactly the life he pictured when he moved here, so he hated to miss it, even on a day when he wasn’t at his best. The headache was unlikely to return, at least for a couple of hours, but it was still hard to make himself go out right after one. “This is it,” he made himself say aloud, “This is my life. I have to live it.” As mantras go, it wasn’t particularly creative or inspiring, but it got him moving.
Marshall put on his shoes and was getting ready to leave when there was a knock at his door. It took Marshall a moment to process the information. There hadn’t been a knock on his door for three weeks. it flashed in his brain that perhaps Benton Noro had tracked him down. That seemed absurd though, and sure enough, when Marshall opened the door, it was just a delivery person waiting for him to sign for a package. Marshall signed the electronic pad, then took possession of a three foot by two foot box. Closing the door, he went to the kitchen and took his only knife, a razor-share all-purpose kitchen knife, and sliced open the tape along the top of the box. Then he sat at the table and began to unpack the box.
On top of the other items was an envelope. he opened it to find a card from his sister. The outside of the card had a picture of Dory from Finding Nemo. On the inside it said, “Keep on Swimming.” It was signed by his sister Anne, her husband Charlie, and their three kids Cassandra, Caleb, and Corrine. His sister had written, “Here are a few housewarming gifts to get you started in your new adventure. Please remember to eat. Things will get better!” The card also contained fifty dollar gift certificates to each of the chain restaurants in town.
Marshall set the card and its contents to the side and looked through the contents of the box. At the top was a framed picture of her and her family. They were standing outside of her home in Scottsdale. Anne was an associate vice president at an investment bank, and Charlie owned a chain of yogurt shops throughout the Phoenix area. The house was a 3900 square foot split plan stucco home the construction company named the “Kingsgate”. They lived in a gated community. Even with three kids, there was so much space that they had offered to let Marshall move in there. Marshall liked his sister. She had always been the driven one in their family. In high school she had been the best player on both the volleyball team and the chess team. She had graduated college a year early, and had since acquired an MBA. She seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm. It was a little intimidating.
Marshall was older by two years, but she had crossed most milestones before him. She dated long before he did. She graduated college before he did. She got promoted three times before he ever moved past junior programmer. She got married at 26, an achievement Marshall had never managed and no longer really expected to accomplish. Her children were even good kids, for the most part. Her son Caleb seemed destined to follow in her footsteps, managing straight A’s and excelling at track and field. The other two kids seemed normal to Marshall. He identified more with them.
Marshall had done relatively well in school too. He had always been smart, but not particularly driven. In college he had first majored in English Literature, then Sociology. Eventually he had settled into the business school, and got a BA the same year as his sister. he then went back to a community college, where he got a certificate in computer programming, because he had finally figured out that it was the best spot for him. Programming has given him a solid living over the next fifteen years or so. He worked for one company for five years, then the credit card processing company for ten. He was a senior programmer before the accident, and they had dangled the possibility of making him a lead. After the accident though, he just couldn’t concentrate long enough to code. Staring at a screen for more than a few minutes at a time would bring on the headaches. That was when he gave it up and decided to concentrate on his recovery.
There were three books in the box: The Year of Magical Thinking, The World According to Garp, and Stress Management for Wellness. Marshall looked them over. Below that was a pair of Keen water shoes in his size. Marshall wondered how she knew his size, but realized that was just the sort of thing Anne would know about him, and exactly the sort of thing he would not know about her. Below the shoes was a Stanley home toolkit. It had all the basic tools a person would need, if that person were the sort who needed tools. It seemed like a handy thing. The other big item was a hand-cranked flashlight/radio. Marshall took a liking to that. He spent a minute cranking it, and then started looking for stations. It turned out there was only one radio station he could get. It was the local radio station, coming in at 87.5. It appeared to play classic rock. Marshall thought he might be able to get more stations out by the beach, rather than in a basement, but at least there was one. Marshall, when he listened to music, tended to use Pandora on his iPhone. Still, there was something nice about being able to power your own radio.
At the bottom of the box was another envelope. It was plain white, and heavy. Marshall opened it to find a stack of $100 bills with no note. He didn’t bother to count them, but he estimated that there were at least fifty of them in the envelope. Marshall shook his head. “I’m not broke” he said, but no one was listening. He took the envelope with the money and put it on the top shelf in the cabinet above the sink. He put the tool kit under the sink, along with the hand-crank radio and flashlight. He didn’t have a shelf for the books, so he left them in the box, and put the box next to his bed to serve as a makeshift end-table. He put the picture of his sister and her family on top of the box.
By the time he finished putting things away it was almost sunset. Marshall put his keys and wallet in his pocket and walked down to the beach to watch the sun sink into the water.