Today 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. 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.

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