Remember this picture from a few years ago when I was invited to play the theme from "Downton Abbey" at Highclere Castle for the Lady Canarvon? ( doesn't she look great here??) and how I hoped the next years would give us all a break? Well as most of us know by now they haven't and are probably not likely to in the near future.In fact, for me at least, things have gotten much worse since then and are currently pretty wretched. However there is one shining beacon of hope,for me at least, the fact that I'm nearing the completion of my latest book "A Quiet Cabin" which I hope to turn into a script. Here's a sample from one of the final chapters, which is about all I have time to post and which I hope you will enjoy:
Chapter Thirty Four.
...“I’ve got bad news.” He said. “It’s off between Sylvia and me, she met someone else.” “What that fast?” Phil asked, almost as incredulous as William was when she first gave him the news. Before William could answer Phil shook his head. “Dad, you should seriously take up gambling.” The words tumbled out of Phillip’s mouth before he could stop them. “I’m sorry son, I was hoping for a better outcome y’know, these things just happen. I don’t know what makes them happen.” “You mean things just happen to you dad." “Yep son, things just happen to me I guess.” He responded, tiredly. “You have the worst luck with women of anybody I’ve ever seen.” Phil went on.
William’s memory flitted to a guy he saw regularly in a nearby coffee shop who had aspergers or some kind of autism he couldn’t figure it out. He would holler at women with an almost deliberately lazy speech impediment right in front of Bill and they would just come running. Maybe they were feeling sorry for him or playing into some kind of victim or martyrdom role, he just couldn’t understand it but he watched it happen over and over again, enough times to know that the guy’s “trick” always seemed to work; he always seemed to get “hooked up.”
By now a famous book of the early aughts called “The Game”, which claimed to offer lonely men tips on how to initiate positive responses from women, recently came out with a third edition, in which the author re-stressed making a lot of noise around them or trying to distract them with jewelry and odd clothing in order to get their attention. William read all of these books with intense interest in an effort to try and decipher the inner workings of the female brain but came away more puzzled than he’d been before. Just for fun he thought he’d try exactly the opposite, going counter to everything the book suggested, incurring more or less the same results. That alone convinced William the entire book was horseshit, despite the fact that many seemed to benefit from its purportedly sage advice.
Out of anger and frustration he yelled back at Phillip, “She did it!” Pointing to the stairs so Phil would know he was referring to Suzie, “She’s the one who fucked everything up!” He turned and walked quickly into his room slamming the door shut and began to sob. He’d only ever cried full on like this three times in his life. The first two were for his mother, his deceased wife Jane and now Sylvia, all women. He’d taken the calculated risk many men do of planning too far ahead too soon, envisioning a life of travel, social encounters and blissful, cozy evenings at home with someone he imagined could become his next wife.
From that moment on all his lovingly thought out plans would have to change. He swore revenge on Suzie no matter what the consequences and the opportunity was not long in coming.
There was a tiny, polite knock on the door that couldn’t have been anyone but Sarah. William frantically wiped the tears from his sleeve and pulled the door open. “What’s going on sweetie?” He asked innocently with a stuffy nose. Sarah knew him well enough to know something very different was going on. “Granpa..” She began. “Granpa’s not feeling well honey, you go on now, I’ll see you later.” He said, gently cutting her off. “I’m sorry about that woman,” She persisted. “Your friend.” “Well baby I guess that makes two of us.” He said dejectedly. Then gave her the biggest smile he could manage, followed by a kiss on the forehead.
Sylvia placed her teacup down carefully, sitting across from one of the last persons she’d ever imagine sharing a cup of tea with. “Don’t you at least feel better now that it’s over with?” Suzie asked her. “I mean, you must feel like a huge weight’s been lifted off your shoulders right?” A robot brought two warm croissandwiches. Suzie dug in while Sylvia roamed her eyes over her distrustfully. Was she really to believe this woman and all the horrific things she said about Bill? Both women were shopping for clothing when they suddenly eyed each other. Suzie immediately apologized for the way she behaved and invited Sylvia to join her for lunch. At first Sylvia rejected the offer but then curiosity got the better of her and she dialed Phillip’s landline; Suzie answered immediately. “Hey.” She said. There was dead silence on the other end for a few seconds. “I know who this is, what do you want?” Suzie answered sharply.
“I’ve changed my mind, I’d like us to have lunch.” Sylvia blurted out. “You gave me half a story about Bill, I want to know the other half, tab’s on me.” Sylvia was a good judge of character. She could sense when someone was lying to cover their tracks and she became determined to wring the truth out of Suzie. If Suzie was lying, Sylvia figured, she would know it and would also know whether Suzie could have played a part in undermining Bill’s mental stability. If so she at least wanted to warn Phillip and if necessary find some way to get Bill out from under her influence. Even if that meant intervening to help him. In either case she still had deep feelings for him and was certain the cabin was an unhealthy place for him to be.
“Whatever.” Suzie replied diffidently, “I’m pretty busy these days with the kid’s schedules and all. Where did you want to meet?” “How about the coffee shop across from Barnie’s?” “That’s pretty close to where Bill works, you want to chance that? What if he sees us?” Suzie asked incredulously. “So he sees us.” Sylvia responded, with a careless answer that would begin a landslide of events. “It’s been over between us for months.” “Suit yourself but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you the guy’s seriously unbalanced. I think you should also know he blames me for your decision to breakup with him.” “No I made that decision myself.” Sylvia answered weakly. “What are you doing Thursday?” Suzie asked, eager to wrap up the conversation. “I can see you there at twelve.” Came the response. “Thursday it is then.” Suzie answered impatiently and hung up.
There was a shortage in the cash register from the previous night and Bill found himself finishing up late that morning. He threw off his apron and washed his armpits in the restroom for a few minutes, then he put on a new shirt and left Barnie’s by the back door at exactly12pm. Once again he recognized two familiar silhouettes walking the brick path, coming towards him. When they got close enough to identify Bill he ran towards the back. He was looking around chewing his fingernails and decided to make a run for it in the opposing direction around the other side of the building. Charging at full speed up a hill he ran directly into Suzie and Sylvia kicking up a cloud of dust.
“Hi Bill, getting your exercise today?” Suzie asked drily. All of a sudden he pretended to act as if he were jogging. It seemed the only way to avoid a potentially embarrassing situating. “I like getting a little exercise after work.” He shouted between fierce puffs of breath, jogging away from them. Suzie and Sylvia bent over double with laughter and tried to maintain a straight face as they sat down for tea and sandwiches. Of course they couldn’t, bursting out with laughter at the slightest provocation. Bill of course wasn’t laughing. He still blamed Suzie for ending his relationship with Sylvia. Now he felt like a laughingstock, leaving a job he hated and feeling old and fed up with the world. It had been a bad few years for William but recent events made everything worse.
Suzie was not the only target of his hatred about the whole affair. He felt Sylvia had betrayed him, breaking things off in a kind of cold, calculating manner. He was beginning to feel equally betrayed by both women. All women. He wasn’t blind. He noticed the two women seemed to have become friendlier over the past weeks with the exchange of cell phone calls. When he asked Suzie who the calls were from she shrugged it off but then he waited until he could snatch her phone while she wasn’t looking and spy on her list of incoming calls. He was shocked to see how many of them had come from Sylvia. He couldn’t help driving his truck slowly past the diner on the side of the road to catch a glimpse of them opposite each other, exchanging gossip about God knows what. Him, more than likely. And Bill was right.
Sylvia thought she glimpsed Bill’s truck pass by outside and was silent for a moment. What if he was spying on them? At first it didn’t seem to matter, now it felt a little ominous. “Yes.” Sylvia answered at length. “It’s been a weight off my shoulders.” She adjusted her teacup firmly in its saucer and had another bite of her croissandwich. “Tell me something about Phillip.” She asked Suzie, in an effort to change the subject and move the conversation along. “What’s he like around the house? Does he cook or anything?” Suzie laughed. “He’s either behind a Wall Street Journal all day or goes out to play golf and tennis with his buddies. I’m not invited. Gus the house bot does most of the light cooking, but I make the occasional meal at night. Why so interested in Phillip, I thought we came here to talk about Bill?” Suzie asked with her one eyebrow raised. Before Sylvia could answer Suzie rambled on. “ … I just play homemaker and things are pretty mundane chez us,” “No traveling to exciting cities, afterparties, plays, shows. House parties.” She said with a meaningful glare. “We’re down to the occasional restaurant. That’s about it, then it’s all about the kids kids kids. That’s our life now.”
Sylvia was lost in thought and didn’t answer her right away. She was still nervous about having seen what she thought to have been Bill’s truck and hoped he wasn’t spying on them. Which in fact he was but it was only a glimpse. That had been enough and although Bill could not have foreseen it then, it became one in a series of events that would eventually steer him down a disastrous path. For now he just hurt and longed to go somewhere to have a drink. Any place as far away from Barnie’s as possible. Damned Irish place had sure brought him some bad luck recently. The phrase “The luck of the Irish” was beginning to take on a distinctly different pallor. Perhaps they really meant bad luck after all. It would be just like the Irish to turn a phrase on its head Bill thought with a grim smile.
This time it was Sam knocking quietly and intermittently on Bill’s door. The rap of his knuckles sounded wider than Sarah’s and that’s how he knew it was his grandson’s. Bill was sensitive to things like that, due in part to his years of training as a military officer.
“Grandfather..” Sam whispered urgently. “Grandfather!” “What is it son?” William answered brusquely, opening the door with an irritated look on his face. “Grandad are you o.k?” Sam asked, his brow furrowed with concern for a grandparent who rarely interacted with him but for whom he felt at the very least a modicum of respect and admiration nonetheless. William was always a tad distant and didn’t behave at all like any grandfather Sam had ever known. But Sam started to become worried about him a few years earlier when he overheard gossip among his relatives about William’s more than a few attempts at taking his own life.
Sam felt very uncomfortable hearing these rumors and of course Phillip and Suzie never discussed any concerns regarding grandpa around him. In pondering them over time however Sam became much like a conspiracy theorist who gathers so called evidence to back up his claims, resulting in making him more suspicious. There was a chink in the armor of this lion of the family, which Sam had been unaware of as a young child. “I saw your girlfriend on the news last night.” He announced, feigning a tone of indifference to hide his angst while emphasizing the word girlfriend in a half mocking tone. “You two split up?” William nodded in reply. “That’s about the size of it kid.” “She’s not too bad looking for an old bag.” Sam continued in a mocking tone, trying to use it as a ruse to draw his grandparent out. “That old bag..” William started in, then abruptly cut himself off in mid-sentence. “Oh well, you’ll probably read one of her books on line someday and be amazed.” “I doubt it.” Sam laughed. “Ah aaah.” Returned William with a waggy finger. “You can’t always make judgments about people based on their looks or how they come across on screen. You’ll see what I mean when you put another year or two on. As for me kid it’s been a long day, I’m tired and about to turn in so…” “G’night grandpa. Sleep well.” “Thank you son.” William answered wearily. “I think I will.”
Sylvia looked at her watch. “I’ve got to go home and make phone call.” She said reaching for the check. “Hmm umph.” Suzie screamed with her mouth full slapping her hand away. “It’s on me and hey it was worth it that was a great lunch.” She gushed enthusiastically. Sylvia wasn’t so sure it had been a great lunch but she had to admit she enjoyed some of the girl talk. It was the way Susan talked about Bill Sylvia found disquieting but figured if she was going to get to know her that was how things would be.
It wouldn’t be the only time William attempted to keep tabs on the two women. It started as a mere curiosity when he accidentally saw them around town, then grew into a fixation followed by an obsession. It was hard to fathom how two women who seemed so opposite could have suddenly become friends or even confidants. There must be truth to the rumor that “opposites attract” he thought. Two places Sylvia went out of her way to avoid at all costs however were Phillip’s cabin or Barnie’s Tap and Grill.
In actual fact William had begun scrutinizing the routes taken by the two females, especially if he saw them driving with each other. Sylvia and Suzie had gotten into predictable patterns on these friendly commutes without even realizing it. They started carpooling a month or so after their first meeting, something William picked up on out of curiosity. Then an old army habit of his kicked in and he wound up impulsively timing their comings and goings from what obviously had turned into some kind of meeting place for them, the tea shop opposite Barnie’s Tap and Grill. He began to follow them, innocently at first, then earnestly.
One night he followed Sylvia when she was driving Suzie to the cabin. His headlights were only a few yards from her bumper but she never recognized his van and rarely paid that much attention to anyone behind her when she drove. Watching the two of them cozy up to each other while he was feeling so miserable made his blood boil. Yet he watched their comings and goings with a morbid fascination that seemed to grow more intense with each passing week. What was he going to do? Keep following them around like some washed up loser? Knowing that his actions would probably rob him of the chance at some future relationship? If that was even to be had at his age. It seemed unlikely. In his frame of mind, the brief affair with Sylvia had come down to his final attempt at lasting happiness.