Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Author, Chapter Forty-Five: The Quiet Week

August 1

Jeff did his job for the next week, but little else as far as Stuart was concerned. He mowed the lawn, did the laundry, bought the groceries, and cooked the food. Him sanding and refinishing the deck hadn't come up since he'd moved in, and he'd be damned if he'd mention it, especially with things as they were now.

He had been at Stuart's for almost two months now and he would stick it out, regardless of how lousy things were ending up. At the rate he was writing, it seemed like Stuart would be finished within two weeks at the outside anyway. He could stand to live with someone he was largely ignoring for another few weeks, especially if it was for another thousand dollars.

He stopped being pissed after the first night. He wasn't going to be enough of a child to stomp around upstairs wearing an “I'm mad” face. Mostly he was...shit he didn't know what he was. Hurt, confused, scared even. It was like the fallout from a breakup, without many of the better benefits.

Mostly he was let down by the fact that A: His hero was a liar. He should have known better, he supposed, than to trust a guy who pulled a fucking gun on him the day they met, let a lone someone who told lies for a living. But so much of the conversations they'd had, it seemed to Jeff, had been based on self-disclosure and true insights. Somewhere there was a line in Stuart's mind between what he would disclose and what he would not, and Jeff, of course, had no way of knowing which was which.

In terms of issues, B: Stuart had put him in harm's way. Either intentionally or by neglect, Jeff had been brought to an environment that seemed to be responsible for two suicides in as many months. Even though sometimes he felt shitty and he was having weird dreams, he didn't feel at risk on that front at least. But it was the principle of the thing. Of course, Stuart wouldn't be able to present something so preposterous to his law firm (Help wanted for famous writer, exorcism and sense of humor required), but Christ, the man had brought his kids out here! What kind of an asshole took a chance like that with his own children. Then that led Jeff down the rabbit trail of how much the bastard's wife knew, which couldn't be much or she'd never let them come here at all. And the kids were supposed to come out here again in August and for Labor Day if Stuart was still here. Jeff fervently hoped that they would not be, but he would not fold. He would add one more item to the list of ways he was better than Mac.

So he drank too much and mostly stayed in the basement, and slogged through Danny's Dime. It was a fast first draft, he knew, there would be plenty more details to come later on, but for now he was on a drive to the ending, when all the plots and machinations of the thieves would add up to nothing.

*     *     *

Stuart was ashamed, but he didn't know what else to do. His writing shifts were stretching into 10 hour slogs, editing be damned, with the hope of finishing the novel sooner and getting away from the house before things got really bad. The snow had been a bad sign.

Today, he had skipped baseball in favor of doing some editing so he wouldn't get too far behind. He felt like the pages he wrote were piling up behind him and he could see the chapters and pages ahead of him in his mind that he still had to write. He was excited to get to them, but some part of him, as was typical by this point, dreaded the ending of the book. Because then he'd have to stop writing, make the conscious decision to move out of the house before he got caught up again.

Yes, there had been more things he could have told the kid and yes, and there were things he still hadn't told him. There was a lot of information that he'd never had to pass on before. He didn't know what it was about Jeff that made him so much more open to the house's mojo. People like Roger, two years ago, simply slogged through the summer with near-constant headaches. People like Mac couldn't hack it, for whatever reason, but they usually just left instead of...taking such dramatic action.

There'd never been someone like Jeff, that was the problem. Someone that was attuned to the same thing that he was. That could harness it the way that he had. Stuart realized, now, that it had never occurred to him that he'd find someone else who could tap into the same thing.

The kid was pissed and had every right to be. But there's no good way to sit someone down and explain what was going on here, was there?

In his pocket was a scrap of paper, the second sheet of the passage about the posts. If and when Jeff talked to him again, he would tell him the rest. It was unfair to get the kid out here on what, he supposed now that he really thought about it, were false pretenses. It was even more unfair to expect him to stay here now that he knew, even if he didn't know all of it.

*     *     *

Jeff's phone, his personal phone, rang. He couldn't think of the last time he used it, and when he saw it was his mother, he rolled his eyes. He answered it and said, “I'll call you right back, Ma,” he said, and hung up.
He walked upstairs, not looking at Stuart. He got a beer in the kitchen, even though his head was already swimming, and he went outside.

He punched the speed dial and she picked up immediately. Jeff sighed. “Hey, Ma.”

He was silent while she berated him, knowing that he probably deserved it after only speaking to her once that he could recall in the last month.

“I dunno, Ma, that's only, what, two days from now? Okay, three. But—“

His shoulders sagged. It wasn't that he didn't want to see his mother, not exactly, it was more that he didn't want to see anyone. That, as shitty as he felt here sometimes, he didn't want to leave the house.

“Well it was very nice of Aunt Marie to give you a gift certificate. Yes, I understand it's in West Seattle, you're right, that makes it very easy for me.”

He nodded, even though no one could see him.

“Okay, Ma. I'll see you there on Wednesday, okay? Yes, I'll wear a nice shirt, I promise. Yes, Ma, I love you, too. You're right, it will be nice to catch up.”

*     *     *

Jeff came in from the porch, got himself another beer (Stuart heard the fridge door open and the thunk of a can against other cans) and went into the basement. Stuart almost got up and followed him. If he told the kid everything, then what would happen? They'd take him away? Jeff would run? Jeff would try to fix things? Instead, he stayed in his chair and followed Wilcox on his quest to find the stone key that would open the last door to the ancient tomb.

Stuart hadn't lied when he told the younger man that it was too late. Perhaps it had been too late the first time he'd sat down at a typewriter at this house. He could think about it, but he'd never know. He shook his head, took a drink, and got back to work.

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