I read a few books recently that would mock the way you write--introducing an upcoming event in the narrative, the authors would then skip over such and simply move on to the next idea. One of these was, I think, Girlfriend in a Coma; it actually upsets me that I can't remember the others. Now I'm not sure I'm going to emulate that model in the story I'm writing, but the excerpt for today does that, it skips over a time period that, as a reader, you'd expect me to have talked about. And maybe I will, but this here is, in a way, another form of the story, and here I am skipping around. That said, I'll scram...
He is wearing out his welcome in this house and he knows it, sitting in an armchair, a Coke in his hand, the woman’s old man comparably sprawled across the room. There is no bad blood in this gesture, just a simple ticking of a clock, the turning of time, and he, like anyone else, can feel the mood present. It is one of mythical childhoods and staying too long at parties, of uncertain adults who go to bed too early.
In a way, the ballgame on in front of them, the stuttering chatter that they buzz up, you could call this bonding. But Carl knows that her father can’t think of him as anything but just another boy in a long list that when completed will have all the names of his daughter’s suitors. He has not distinguished himself in any way, nor was he supposed to. It might not have been possible to do so, he thinks to himself, but is stirred from this dream by an amazing play at third base.
This perks up Eddie as well, as Carl notices the old man’s grip tightening on his beer, as he leans forward to watch the replay. “I can’t even believe he caught that ball, much less dropped the tag,” he begins and Carl nods, “I mean, the throw from center was just terrible…”
“And no one was there backing it up as well. Not only does he save a run but he ends an inning. Great, great play.” And maybe you’d be right to call it bonding, a sort of search and find for common ground, but the fact is still apparent in both of their minds; this, what we have here, is at best in its infancy, and until possibilities are a little more set in stone, we, as men, will feel nothing towards each other. Once again, not negative, just a simple known fact resting in the air.
And like a repeated pun about a pregnant silence, Eddie conceives of an idea, a simple combination of words in his mind, the sort of thing that would put Carl into a poetic mood. “Odd, that she would date you now, Carl—no offense—I just mean that we’d be watching a baseball game and that you’d be named Carl and this would all happen now…” The idea slips, because he doesn’t know the person he’s conversing with and can’t pick up on whether or not Carl wishes to keep listening.
“Heh, maybe I’m just too young to make the connection, but I’m just not seeing what you’re getting at. Why is it odd?”
“Yes, sorry, I nodded off for a bit there, a problem of the old man, what I meant to say was that your name is Carl and you have begun dating my daughter in the same year that we’re seeing the final functioning time for the Hubble Space Telescope. Well, maybe I’m stretching it, odd because my grandfather’s favorite baseball player was—”
“—was Carl Hubbell,” he finishes for the old man, and yes, you were right and someone was wrong, they are bonding, but in a specific light, the melancholy of the event all too clear to them, because any sort of emotions felt are set upon the way other relationships go. Carl is reminded of a friend he had in high school who, only slightly drunk at some party, had begun to tell him about the awkwardness of liking his stepfather as a man, always knowing that whatever he thought of him was over all inconsequential, since the way he was tied to the lad’s life was by way of his mother’s opinions. He remembers how then he had likened this in his mind to the idea of related by marriage peoples meeting up at family reunions.
The sadness of the relationships built on top of the ones you love and wouldn’t chose to lose, and he thinks there’s a poem there, but he’ll never get at it, because he’d need to be more skilled to write it and the idea won’t last in his mind for a manner of years, perhaps not even the next fifteen minutes. “Amazing thing he did, striking out five hall-of-famers in the All-Star Game, wasn’t it?” This has all transpired in a matter of seconds.
“You know, it’s funny,” Eddie says, takes a sip from his beer—he is a man in touch with his fatherhood, but this situation is still a relatively new thing to him, spending time with each new boyfriend, for he has always only been a dad to his two girls—“the way Papa used to say it—that’s what we called him, even after he died, my dad and I, we called my grandfather Papa—he’d say, look, what Carl did in that All-Star Game, that was just bush league. He let two people get on and then he stuck five guys out. Still, he let two get on. No one shows their best stuff in the mid-summer classic, you know, ‘cuz you’re only pitching an inning plus. Carl did his best work when they’d put the ball in his hand and three hours later he’d hand it back and they’d leave the ballpark with another win under their belt. That’s all he did in the ’33 series, ‘pparently. I mean, that’s all the old man would talk about, when you picked at him about Hubbell.”
“Well, why Carl, why the Giants? I mean, is your family from New York?”
“Nah, we’s here going way back,” Eddie says and crushes the beer can, “you know, I never asked him about why. Never thought about it, I guess. He probably just found something in that pitcher that he liked—I mean what wasn’t there to like? Dominating screwball, great stuff, and the stats to prove it.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” The two fall silent. They look back to the game. It’s the weekend that Carl’s going to go home to see his parents and Eddie is wondering if his little girl (who will always be little in his mind, no matter how big or old she might get) will be joining him. He asked the wife to get this information for him, since he knows it can be a touchy subject: he’s not liked guys and shown it before and, well, it never goes down well—the angry father is like Prohibition, he just forces people to keep on doing what they want, only now they are breaking the law and thinking, if this unjust rule is so obviously bullshit, then why should I follow any of them? And he knows that’s not a road to be retaken.
Eddie gets up for another beer, asks Carl if he wants another soda and the kid nods. He’s not a horrible kid, the man thinks for not the first time. They end up popping the tabs and the same time. It’s a Friday evening and they are watching a baseball game, but in reality passing time, simply waiting until the end of this latest shopping endeavor, waiting on the return of their respective women.