Jerry Seinfeld is a Lousy Gift-Giver

Last night I dreamt that we lived next door to Jerry Seinfeld. I think it was Jerry Seinfeld the Seinfeld character and not just Jerry Seinfeld the person. Anyway, he gave us a present (Christmas? Birthday? I don’t know) but instead of wrapping it or wheeling it in he had just left it in the middle of our floor.

And so we were sitting there, in our apartment, talking with Jerry, and eyeing this elephantine gift and I was torn about whether or not to call him on it. Because, here’s the thing, he gave us a TV.

A very, very small TV.

It had maybe a 10 inch screen. It was, in his defense, part of a whole entertainment center on a big piece of furniture, but the other parts of said entertainment center were a cheap plastic all-in-one dorm room stereo system, a big vcr, and an old, beat-up stereo receiver/amplifier.

And he had apparently had this thing delivered to within several feet of our existing, plenty-big tv and stereo and dvd outfit.

I mean, c’mon, Jerry Seinfeld, what the hell?

Surfacing for Air

I think I need a little break.

I’ve spent the last week doing very little writing on the novel, while doing not a whole lot of anything else because I’ve felt guilty about not working on the novel. Not a real smart move, I don’t think. So I think I’m going to just absolve myself and take a breather. I’ve been largely a-musical for three weeks now; I haven’t done any work on the website or a couple of other small coding projects that have occured to me; I haven’t pinned Wilder down for that documentary interview I was planning; I haven’t even pissed away a healthy amount of time on video games, though on that front at least I’ve made a token effort.

I really like this novel I’m working on. The story isn’t broken out of the gate, the characters aren’t useless. I can see it going to 50K words, more; I can see being satisfied with the results, and editing it and rewriting it and working it into something that could be very readable. But the well is fairly depleted at the moment, and I’ve been exhausting myself trying to figure out how to get more water from the bottom.

So the well is getting a chance to refill a bit, and I’m getting a chance to rest myself up. I’ve got some ideas bouncing around in my head for Nyx, and Rorie, and Tom, and even Stripe and his pimp friend Chromo and that awkward kid Terry who seems to have a crush on Rorie. The ideas are starting to bounce off each other and give me some sense of what the hell happens next. So the story is very much kicking, a sentiment that will hopefully comfort all three readers of the novel-in-progress. But I don’t think we’re seeing a November deadline.

Bear with me.

Slouching Toward 30k

Just limped across the 30K mark this morning. Rorie has gotten herself a brand new flavor of problem, which I hope to use to drive toward a more thorough self-examination (with maybe some help from a new charater). Nyx is effectively homeless at the moment, and presumably just about completely broke beside. And Tom is casting about a bit for a sense of just what the hell he’s doing with his life. All of this should, in theory, blend together in a fascinating and emotionally stirring manner in the next 20K words.

And the fact is, what’s written in the above paragraph may not be so much an accurate reflection of what’s been written so far as it is a reflection of what will be rewritten in the long run. I’m trying to let the distinction between the two blur so as to avoid going completely batshit. I know in my head what the story is supposed to be shaped like, and what the characters are supposed to be thinking and feeling and going through, and if that doesn’t get out in the ridiculously-paced rough draft, so be it. It’ll get there.

I’m going to keep pushing for 50K in November, but that’s only a matter of discipline at this point — the allure of doing it just to have done it, to Write a Novel in a Month for the sake of having done so, does not drive me so much anymore. I did that. It was messy and I haven’t gone back to it. So here I am — I happen to be writing a novel in a month, and that’s all there is to it. I might take more than a month to finish the story. I might not hit 50K in the month. These cannot be primary concerns. My concern needs to be, well, writing the story that I’m trying to write.

I’ve had similar thoughts every year for five years now. There’s something about this whole crazy process that clouds one’s judgement and makes one crazy. But maybe some of that up there is true anyway.

Nanowrimo novel, chapter 053

Rorie hand-railed her way down the stairs, blinking and stumbling, and eased into her chair at the kitchen table. Christine sat consuming grapefruit and coffee and reading the paper, dressed and groomed to a sales-ready shine in her weekday fashion — bathrobe and hair pulled back loose and frazzled for the weekends, but still coffee and grapefruit and the paper, always that trifecta. Rorie poured cereal, poured milk, scattered sugar over it all. She ate slowly in the quiet of the kitchen.

“Those goddam dogs were at it again.”

Rorie nodded. “Yeah, I heard ’em.”

“Noise violation. I should call the cops on ’em.”


Christine looked at her daughter, set her coffee down. Rorie’s face was hanging, bags under her eyes, only half awake over her cereal. “Rorie, how did you sleep last night?”


Rorie’s eyes jumped wide, and she started in her seat. Her spoon clattered against the side of her cereal bowl; small flecks of white milk sprayed on the surface of the kitchen table.


“Uh. Not very good.”

Christine put her hand on Rorie’s, squeezed gently. “Are you alright? Are you feeling sick?”

Rorie shook her head, pulled her hand away, took another bite of cereal. She chewed and spoke. “I just couldn’t sleep. I dunno.”

“You look awful.”

“God, thanks Mom.”

“I just mean you look exhausted, honey.”

“I’m okay, I’m just–”
“–um, I’m–”
“–I’m sorry I have to go to the bathroom.”

Rorie jumped up from the table and ran upstairs to the second floor restroom. She closed the door behind her and locked it, and planted her hands on the sink. She watched herself in the mirror, and whispered low.

“What are you doing?”
“Stop it!”

Dripping, shrill mockery. Obnoxious. Sneering. Unfamiliar.

“Emmy, stop doing that.”
“Who the fuck are you?”

A knock on the bathroom door. From the other side, Christine said, “Rorie? Honey? You okay?” She spun toward the door, eyes reeling around.

“No, Mom, I’m–”
“–I’m, I’m fine. I’ll be down in a minute.”

“You sure?”


Rorie turned the faucets on the sink and splashed warm water on her face, speaking quietly into the splatter and stream.

“Who are you?”
“I don’t believe this.”
“Just shut up. Go away.”
“Go away!”
“Get out of my head!”

Rorie stood for long moments staring her self in the face, water dripping off her nose and chin and lips, waiting for a response.

Nanowrimo novel, chapter 052

In her bed, Rorie laid staring at the ceiling. She listened to the wind nudging her bedroom window; to the slow rattle and rev and tire-whisper of cars moving down the street; to the quiet steady ticking of the clock hanging on her wall; to the creaking and popping of the house’s old pipes; to the quiet murmur of cable news filtering up from where her mother sat watching in the living room.

The collage of small sounds was ordinary and terrifying. Sleep came very slowly.

On his couch, in his small house, with his feet up on the coffee table and crossed at the ankles betwee Roscoe’s bowl and an empty bottle of wine, Tom McEllroy dozed. A yearbook lay open on his lap, several more sitting beside him in a stack on the couch cushion.

In an all-night franchise diner, in a corner booth by herself, Nyx smoked and drank burnt black coffee and read Dostoevsky. The book was a weathered paperback edition of The Brothers Karamazov on loan from the library, where she’d spent a big chunk of her day. Her hand crept up to her right cheek now and then, poking gently around the bruised flesh on that side of her face. Nothing broken, she’d decided. Cheekbone intact. Teeth a little sore but not loose. The inside of her cheek had been mashed against her teeth hard enough to cut it in a couple of spots, but there was no real damage. Just aesthetics–looks from people all day, on the street downtown, in the library, from the dead-eyed waitress who’d been slow refilling her coffee all night.

Around two o’clock, the drunks had started filtering in in force, immigrating on the wings of last calls and you can’t stay heres and driven by hunger or boredom or the simple abstract to desire to not let the night end. They crowded noisily into booths, flanking Nyx in her quiet solitude. In her head, she thanked them: obnoxious business to distract the otherwise idle waitstaff from the girl with the bruise who wouldn’t leave. She listened for a while to their conversations, the loud laughing retellings of the night and the recitals of old stories and dirty jokes, and then went back to Alyosha’s troubles.

Nanowrimo novel, chapter 051

“You shoulda seen the look on his face, Rob.”

Rob mm-hmmed, cocked an eyebrow, worked on his third hefeweizen.

“I mean, this is a guy who had to have grown up in the 60s, right? Probably went to Woodstock when he was fifteen, for god’s sake. But he’s just sitting there staring at me like I’m some sort of novelty. I think the hippie generation is way over-hyped. Ron Mailer doesn’t seem very peace and love and understanding these days.”

“What do you expect, Tom? Give a hippie twenty-five years and a couple of investments and you get a button-down conservative. It’s not exactly rocket science. Hell, I know gay punk rockers who grew up to be button-down high school guidance counselors–”

“Hey, be nice–”


“I don’t know if Peggy wants my ass in a sling or just wants to cover her own. I really don’t know where she’s going to go from here.”

“You said she dropped it.”

“No, I said she let it slide. She was pretty clear that she was never going to drop it. That wouldn’t be Peggy. One of the girls in the office spilled coffee on her once, like six months ago, right? And apologized, and it was this stupid little spill anyway, didn’t end up staining it. And Peggy said it was okay, apology accepted, all that, but she hasn’t once let that girl forget. Drops little coffee jokes constantly. She just needles and obsesses and weilds this little grudges. So, no, I doubt she dropped it. Mailer could so much as sneeze and she’ll be on me like a wolfhound.”

“Is he gonna sneeze? Do you expect that he’ll–”

“Oh, I don’t think he gives a shit. He just wanted to send his little nastygram to Peggy. Just wanted to stock a little ammo. I swear to god, Rob, I’m lying to these kids every day. I see them living out their drama, learning to socialize, getting in fights and all that and I tell them, look, that’s not going to fly out in the real world. You’ve gotta act like adults. You’ve got to be respectful and restrained and treat other people with consideration, and blah blah blah. And they mostly look at me like I’m just full of it. And they’re fucking right. Jesus, the whole faculty is a bunch of overgrown teenagers. Petty, clique-ish bastards, except they have cars and suits and wrinkles and that makes them somehow legitimate? I just, I don’t know.” Tom knocked away the rest of his wine. “It’s like the kids are rubbing off on the adults.”

“Way of the world, brother. It’s like that everywhere, kids or no kids. You know a prosecuter actually stuck his tongue out at me one time? In court. When the judge wasn’t looking. And the guy wasn’t kidding at all. I almost laughed out loud.”

“I feel like I’ve poured twelve years into a bucket with a hole in the bottom. You know? The kids come and go, the administrators come and go, and then like a decade has gone by and I’m right where I started, trying to help kids get over the same stupid problems and watching the latest principal play the same stupid headgames as the one before her, and the one before him.”

“No one’s holding a gun to your head, Tom.”

Tom shook his head. “I like these kids. I mean, I really like them. Every year a bunch graduate and it breaks my heart to see ’em go, and every year a new crop shows up and make me pull my hair out, but christ if I don’t like watching them grow up.”

“How’s that chick, the girl from Aster’s?”

“Nyx. Hell, I don’t know. Stubborn as all hell. Doesn’t want to show a chink in the armor.”

“Sounds familiar.” Rob gave Tom a sly look, eyes dancing.

“Get me some more wine, smartass.”

Nanowrimo novel, chapter 050

(why would you do that)
“Emmy, you’re being rid–”
(that was terrible, she’s terrible, she’s–)
“She’s just a doctor–”
(why did she ask those questions–)
“It’s what she does. Why are you so upset about this?”
(oh Rorie please don’t go back promise me you won’t)
“That’s rich, Emmy. The voice in my head telling me not to see a psychiatrist.”
(please she’s awful she’s terrible)
“Emmy, calm down, you’re upsetting me.”
(oh Rorie I’m scared I’m so sorry but I’m scared and I don’t know–)
“Hush. You’re freaking me out. You’re making me upset.”
(oh Rorie I’m sorry oh Rorie)
(please don’t go back)
(promise me you won’t go back she doesn’t like me I can tell she doesn’t like me and she wants to hurt me)
“Emmy, hush up.”
(promise me you won’t go back, Rorie)
“You know I can’t do that, Emmy.”

The silence of a crowded moving Tri-Met bus in rush hour. Not a pause, not a sense of momentary quiet or thought or contemplation, but silence. Absence?Rorie’s heart skipped a beat. She almost smiled, almost cried. She put her notebook and pen into her bag and tucked her chin down into chest above crossed arms, and spoke quietly to herself.


Silence, and then, she thought, something, faint, distant.

The sound of weeping.

Corner Painter

Spoiler alert: self-pity and whinging below.

As of chapter 49, I’m feeling kind of lost. Putting Rorie into a frank and open discussion of the voice-in-her head may have been a bad idea. I don’t know. Here is, once again, the inspiring gimmick for a story failing to stand up under my own scrutiny. I don’t know what to do with Emmy. Or with Rorie-and-Emmy. I feel like the relationship between these characters is muddled and without the sort of intrigue and tension that I want to build into the story.

And I feel like I’ve got three narrative threads for three characters, and each one is occupying a different stratum of the Give A Crap scale. Rorie is having her drama with the voice in her head, but setting aside how weird and tramautic that should be, I’m not sure how big of a deal it actually is for her. And then Tom is maybe worrying about his job, and futzing about trying to figure out how and to what extent to be openly gay, and that seems kinda trivial. And then Nyx is just having a shitter of a time. Psycho violent sexual predator drug-dealer ex-quasi-beau trying to pimp her. Drunk and mysteriously contentious dad, dead mother, doesn’t even know where she’ll sleep tonight. Kinda makes Tom and Rorie seem like big babies.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. At just under thirty thousand words, I’m starting to feel some serious strain. Cracks are starting to show in the foundation of the story, and that’s driving me a little crazy. I want things to work, I want the characters to make sense and the story to proceed in a satisfying manner, and yet in my head I can’t help but tie back everything that happens going forward to everything that has happened already in the story. And every ten thousand words I write is ten thousand more words to worry about tying back to.

I know it’s a rough draft. Intellectually, I can look at what I’ve done and what I will yet do and say, look, this is raw material, this is the stone from which a later, more well-considered version of the telling will be carved. For all the difficulties and frustration and unexpected misbehavior of character and plot, I am, yes, generating ideas and developing an understanding of who these fictional folks are. Even my lamentation over how something in the story-so-far is wrong is a useful thing, because it will let me consider what, instead, would be right. Yes? Sure. Intellectually, I can say this.

From an emotional standpoint, though, I am feeling pretty burnt. Lost. At odds with my own narrative. And, as a consequence, I type out long, incohesive blog entries in the time I could (should?) spend writing out the next chapter that, frankly, I haven’t any idea how to start.

Nanowrimo novel, chapter 049

“How may I help you?” The receptionist smiled: a cheerful, plainly dressed 20-something behind a desk in that occupied a third of the small waiting room of the practice. An engraved plastic nameplate read “Tia Brown.” Rorie let the door close behind her.

“I, uh, I have an appointment?”

“Oh, Aurora, right?”

Rorie nodded. “I’m a little early, I guess.”

“That’s no problem at all. Have I seat, I’ll let Dr. Lysik know you’re here.” Rorie sat down in one of the several padded chairs that sat against another of the waiting room’s walls, and began picking through a small stack of magazines. The reception girl, Tia, spoke briefly into her headset, nodding. She looked over at Aurora, smiled, nodded once more. “Aurora, Dr. Lysik will be right with you.”

“Oh. I mean, it’s not four yet, is it?”

“About a quarter of still, but her three-to-four was empty.” Tia shrugged.

The only other door in the waiting room creaked a little and swung inward. A tall, tanned woman with dark hair and sharp cheekbones stepped out and nodded at Rorie. “Aurora? I’m Sue Lysik.” She held her hand out. Rorie stood up and shook it.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Come on in, will you?” Lysik turned back into her office, moving with a loping confidence that was more athletic than elegant. Rorie followed, and shut the door gently. She glanced around, her hands folded in front of her. The office was small but not cramped. A nearly bare desk with a rolling chair behind it; another chair, a simple wooden one, next to the desk; two padded lounge chairs across from and facing the desk and chairs; a bookshelf spanning on of the shorter walls perpendicular to the desk; several pieces of art hanging variously on the remaining walls.

Lysik sat herself down in the wooden chair, and motioned toward the lounge chairs across from her. “Would you like to have a seat?”

Rorie nodded and planted herself in one of the chairs, crossed her jeans-clad legs at the ankles, and looked across at Lysik.

“Have you ever talked with a psychiatrist before?”

Rorie shook her head. “No.”

“Are you nervous?”

“Uh. Yeah. I don’t really, I mean, it wasn’t really my, y’know. Idea. Totally.”

“You’re one of Tom’s kids, at Adams, right?”


“He said you had something on your mind and you wanted to talk to someone about it. So that’s all we’re doing here. Just sitting back and talking.” Lysik nodded at the office in general. “Anything like what you expected?”

Rorie glanced around again. “I dunno. Kind of. I mean–” She glanced at the lounge chair she was sitting in. “–I guess I expected a, y’know, a”
“leather couch or something. And an old lady with glasses hanging off her nose.”

Lysik laughed, and smiled broadly. “Well, I’m trying not to get too old. As for the couch, people seem to fall asleep too much when they’re laying down. I figure comfy chairs are a good compromise. I can scribble conspicuously on a notepad if you like, though.”

Rorie laughed too. “No, I. I just, I didn’t know what to expect really. Books and TV, y’know.”

Lysik nodded. “So, Aurora. Do you go by Aurora, or…”

“Rorie. Either one. Most people call me Rorie.”

“Rorie. Okay. You can call me Sue. Or Dr. Lysik. Or whatever you prefer. So what’s on your mind?”

Rorie looked at her hands and at Lysik. “I just–I want to, I want to be sure that you aren’t going to tell anybody or like call the guys in white coats or whatever if–”

“Rorie, don’t worry. In this office, everything you tell me is confidential. My lips are sealed. Psychiatrists would be out of business if we didn’t respect the privacy of our clients.”


“So what is concerning you, Rorie?”

“I. Um.”
(You don’t have to, Aurora.)
“I, I mean. I have, there’s
(You’re upset, honey.)
this, there’s this, oh christ how do I
(Hush, hush)
fucking put this–”

Rorie trailed off. She bit her lip to try and stymie the tears starting to well up in her eyes. Lysik grabbed a box of kleenex from off her desk, held it in both hand, and leaned forward in her chair.

“Go ahead, Rorie. It’s okay. It’s safe here.”

Rorie wiped her
eyes with her sleeve, took a
(hush, now)
deep, rattling breath. She met Lysik’s gaze, looked down, back at Lysik. Her mouth opened, closed, opened again.

“Go on. Just get it out there. You’ll feel better, Rorie. Trust me. Go ahead.”

Rorie took another deep breath, let it out, and stared at her hands where they lay folded loosely in her lap. When she spoke, it was soft and slow.

“I hear a voice in my head.”

Lysik sat up a little. “When did you first start hearing this voice?”

“Since. Um. I guess since forever, basically. As long as I can remember.”

“Just one voice, or several?”

“Just one.”

“Does the voice, does it tell you to do things?”

Rorie shook her head. “No. Not really.”

“what does the voice say?”

Rorie looked up and stared at Lysik, eyes filling up again and overflowing this time. “Am I crazy? I don’t want to be crazy but oh my god it’s, I, I’m insane, I’m losing my fucking mind aren’t I, I’m, I’m, I’m–” Rorie buried her face in her hands and sobbed in the chair.

Lysik stood and moved to the empty chair next to her, and put a hand on her back, rubbing gently. “It’s alright, Rorie. It’s okay. Calm down, it’s–”


“–alright. Here.” She proffered the box of tissues. Rorie snagged a couple and wiped at her eyes, her nose. The sobs racheted down, and she tried to steady her breath. She look at Lysik unsteadily.

“Am I crazy?”

“You don’t seem very crazy to me, Rorie. Just upset.”

“But I’m having paranoid delusions! I’ve got voices in my head! That’s what crazy people–”

“Rorie, auditory hallucinations can be caused by any number of things. Trust me here, okay? I want you to tell me more about what you hear and some of the details, but my first impression is that you seem like a very normal girl who is just very scared. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Can I ask you some more questions?”

Rorie nodded, grabbed another kleenex and put it to use.

“You said it’s just one voice, and you’ve been hearing it for a long time.”


“Has it always been the same voice? Has it always sounded the same?”

“I, I think so. Yeah.”

“What does the voice sound like.”

“Like. I dunno, it–I’m not sure it really sounds like anything, I mean it’s more in my head, like I don’t really hear it. I feel it. Does that make any sense?”

“More like when you’re thinking something to yourself?”

“Yeah, but a lot more, I dunno, organized. Coherent, I guess. Like someone really talking to me, not me imagining a conversation I had with someone or anything.”

“How would you describe the voice?”

“It’s, she’s, uh–”


“Yeah. she’s a girl. A woman. Or, I mean, she seems like it. The voice seems like it.”

“Young, or old?”

“I dunno. Older than me, I guess. She sounds like someone’s mom.”

Lysik nodded. Rorie was calmer now, her eyes wandering as she spoke. She sniffed now and then, wiping her nose occasionally.

“Does she sound like your mom?”


“When do you hear the–when do you hear her? Is there any particular time of day? When you’re waking up, or falling asleep, maybe?”

Rorie shook her head. “No. Just all the time. I mean, not constantly, but a lot. Just whenever.”

“What does she say?”

“Just, she talks about what’s going on. I mean, y’know, she comments. She talks to me about what I’m doing. What I’m thinking about.”

“Does she criticize you? Does she say mean things to you?”

“No.” Rorie looked at Lysik, frowning. “No, she doesn’t.”

“Not at all?”

“Never. She’s, she’s really nice, I guess.”

“Does she ever tell you to do things? To say things?”

Rorie shook her head.

“Things you might not want to do?”

“No. She–mostly she tells me to, like, calm down if I’m upset. Or that I don’t have to do something I’m worried about. Or just nice things.”

Lysik stood and walked to her desk. There was a glass pitcher full of water, and several empty glass; she filled two glasses with water and handed one to Rorie, who drank a third of it straight off.

“Rorie, do you ever have any thoughts that surprise you? Thoughts that you don’t like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Just unusual thoughts. Impulses to do something unpleasant, or violent. To hurt someone, or hurt yourself.”

Rorie shook her head, frowning.

“Have you ever ever thought about suicide? Felt, even for a short while, like you should kill yourself?”

“No! Christ–”

Lysik held a hand up, apologetic. “I’m just trying to cover the bases. Okay. The voice, she–Rorie, does the voice have a name?”

Rorie nodded. “Uh, Emmy.”



“Why Emmy? Does she call herself that, or did you give her that name.”

“Both. I mean, I sort of made it up a few years ago, I guess, but she says she likes it.”

“Do you talk to her?”

Rorie nodded, glanced away.

“You said she talk a lot but not constantly. Can you make her go away?”

“Sometimes. I mean, like, short term. If I tell her to shut up a few times she usually will.”

“Can you make her start talking whenever you want?”

“Uh. I guess so. I don’t usually have to.”

“Would it be alright if I asked you to talk to her now?”

Rorie gave Lysik a weird look. “You want me to, uh, just talk to her? Like in right now?”

“You don’t talk to her in front of other people?”

“Uh, no? They’d think I was crazy, yeah?”

“Well, I’d like it if you could do it for me.”

“What do you want me to talk about?”

Lysik shrugged as if unconcerned, but her eyes were locked tightly to Rorie. “Whatever you like. Whatever makes sense.”

Rorie nodded weakly and gazed over at the bookshelf. She took a couple of deep breaths.

“Hey, Emmy?”

Lysik watched, waited.

“Emmy? Are you there?” Rorie frowned. Lysik propped an elbow on her thigh, rested her chin in her hand, and waited.

“Emmy, c’mon, talk to–”
(This isn’t right, Rorie.)
“Look, Dr. Lysik just wants me to talk to you.”
(This is wrong. This is very wrong.)
“What’s so wrong about it? We talk all the–”
(I’m scared.)

Rorie flinched, cut a look to Lysik, and then at nothing in particular. Her chest tightened, her hands curled up into balls.

“Why? What’s the matter?”
(I’m frightened. I don’t like this. It isn’t right.)
“Calm down, Emmy.”

“Rorie, what is Emmy saying?”

“She says she’s scared. She doesn’t, she doesn’t like this. She’s thinks it’s wrong.”

“What is wrong? What’s she frightened of?”

(please make her go away)
“Emmy, it’s okay. What’s the matter?”
(I don’t like this, I don’t want her talking to me)
(oh Rorie I only want to talk to you I only want to talk to you I only want to)

“Rorie, are you–what’s she saying? Are you alright?”

Rorie’s eyes were wide, her mouth clamped tight. She held one fist tight in the other and glanced around with an expression of worry stretched taut across her face. She spoke a word, quietly and gently: “Hush. Hush, now. Hush.” Lysik watched, frozen in her seat.

A minute passed. Rorie relaxed in her seat, closed her eyes for a long moment. When she opened them again they were wet, but she was calm and breathing slowly.

“Dr. Lysik, I don’t want to talk about this anymore right now.”

Lysik nodded. “Okay. Are you sure?”


“Are you alright, Rorie?”

“Yeah, I think so. I just. I dunno. Emmy’s really freaked out.”


“Can I go?”

Lysik clasped her hands together, sat up. She nodded. “Of course.”

Rorie stood up, wiping at her eyes with the heel of her hand. She grabbed her bag, shouldered it, and looked at the door and then at Lysik. “I–thanks, I guess. I’m sorry I had to, y’know, stop, I just–”

Lysik shook her head and smiled. “It’s not a problem Rorie. You’ve never really talked to anyone about this, have you?”


“It’s okay to be upset. It’s not your fault.”

Rorie shrugged.

“I’d like you to come see me again.”

“Okay. I don’t, I don’t have any money, really–”

“Don’t worry about that for now, okay? Just give us a call in a couple days, if that’s alright.”

Rorie nodded. She looked Lysik in the eye, a strong but distracted gaze, and smiled gently. “Thanks, Dr. Lysik.”

Lysik smiled in return, and then let her face relax to a thoughtful frown as she watched Rorie slip out of the office and into the late afternoon sun.

Nanowrimo novel, chapter 048

The second-hand made a last slow lap, and then the bell rang out the end of the day. Bodies flowed into the hall from classrooms, tributaries to a great river system, and then pooled and mixed and began to drain out the school’s exits. Rorie made her way to her locker and stocked her backpack and wondered why she’d been so eager for the day to end. Her heart was up in her throat.

(You don’t have to.)
“Hush. I want to.” She murmered quietly, her voice masked by the generous collage of laughter and conversation carrying through the hallway.
(What if your mother finds out?)
“Dammit, Emmy, she won’t find–”

Rorie tried to put two texts in her bag at once and didn’t make it. The books caught on the lip of the bag and fell to the floor in a clatter when her grip failed. She cursed and dropped to a crouch to gather them up where they had fallen, one splayed open in a bouquet of bent pages. As she did, a hand reached out haltingly. A voice said, “uh, hey, can I–”

She looked up. A boy was squatting, staring at her. Terry somethingsomething, from her US History class. Big nose, bad short haircut out of the fifties. Answered a lot of questions with questions during class. He was reaching for but not quite grasping one of the fallen books, and his mouth hung open for a moment when she set her eyes to his. He blinked, swallowed.

“Can I help you with, uh, you got those okay?”

She nodded, grabbed one book and then the other and stuffed them in her bag. “I’m fine. Thanks.”

He nodded, glanced around at nothing, stood up when she did and thrust his hands into his pockets. “Uh, I saw you drop them, is all.”

“Yeah, well. It happens.”

“I’m Terry, by the way.” He pulled his right hand out of the pocket as if to offer to shake, then seemed to think better of it and just let it hang there lamely by his side.

“I know. You’re in my history class, right?”

He nodded rapidly. “Yeah.” He swallowed, glanced at his feet, looked back at her while she closed her locker. “Hey, um, are you, what are you doing after school?”

Rorie flinched, though she couldn’t tell if it was her body or just her brain. She paused and
(honey you don’t have to)
then slipped her backpack onto her shoulders.

“Going to the library.”

“The central branch?”

She nodded.

“I need to go too, actually. Would, uh, mind if I join you?”

(You should go to the library with him, Rorie.)

She shook her head. “I, uh, I’ve gotta go do something on the way. An appointment.”

(He likes you.)

“Oh. Uh, no sweat. Maybe some, uh, some other time.” He shrugged, smiled weakly. “Well, see you later Rorie.”

She nodded. “Later.” Terry somethingsomething turned and walked briskly down the hall, filtering into the crowd and out of sight. Rorie watched him go with a
(he seems very nice)
puzzled frown, and then snugged up her backpack and walked out of the building and down the street to the bus stop. A section of the post-bell diaspora, maybe a dozen students total, stood around the bus shelter or sat on the bench, in ones and twos, reading and talking and kicking absently at the littered grass. Every few seconds one person or another would crane their head up the street to look for the bus. When the headlights and reader board of the 14 came into view, the crowd at the stop slowly shifted and resettled as a whole, without any discussion or interaction. The Bus Is Coming as ringing bell, as unspoken signal. Rorie shifted with them, got her ticket ready. The conversationalists kept up their conversation, the readers kept at their books, but the crowd as an entity, as an ad hoc gestalt, strained and waited for the bus to cover the distance and pull to a stop.

She wasn’t aggressive getting into line, and ended up as one of the last to get on the bus. The bus was nearly full; she surveyed the crowd and debated grabbing a rail and standing, but instead dropped into a seat at the middle of the bus, next to a tired-looking asian woman reading a magazine. The bus shuddered and pulled away from the stop. Rorie pulled out her notebook and pen, and tried to find a way to hold it close to her chest and out of public view.

(That boy likes you, Rorie.)
“What would you know about it?”
(I know. I can tell.)
“Why should you care.”
(I want you to be happy.)
“Well maybe this psychiatrist can get rid of you. That’d make me happy.”
“Paranoid delusion.”
(You’re not crazy.)

Near the front of the bus, a man dressed in camo pants and a large faded green jacket stamped his feet, one and then the other, and began rocking back and forth in his seat. He spoke in a low, constant murmur, eyes focused on some space behind the legs of the woman across from him. She looked away, toward the front of the bus, toward the driver. Rorie watched the man, and watched the people around him, their willful disassociation from his physical literal presence. Six, four, two feet away, they inhabited their own insulated space.

She put her notebook away and counted streets out the window of the bus.