Quick Novel

::: the novel written in seven hours :::

chapter two

I have a conspicuous bruise on my forehead. Right...there. The looks I get from passerby aren't so bad today, being that it's Ash Wednesday and all. Mmm, piety, think the passing moms who see me on the sidewalk. They point me out to their kids, who feel a little less alone parading around with a blotch of shit on their head.

No, I got my blotch as the result of two stupid things I did this week. The second action of my being a complete heel involved a slow-motion butt to the forehead with the base of my hand. The first action of my being a complete heel led up to this. My name is Ruby and I think I have a chip on my shoulder.

Last Thursday. It was orange, like every day is around here. A tad too dark than the weather should allow, and the skies reflected off the brick walls. Strolling through all this usually involves a slow pace of afternoon enjoyment, but on this day, on this Thursday, I should have run. Or trotted, or taken cuts through the parking garage, what have you...Thursday I met Jane. I made the name Jane up. Never asked about the real one.

She yelled at me, sort of. She looks like a real sweetheart, really. Quiet smile and shy eyebrow animation and an honest distaste for the fact that I chucked my cigarette butt on the lawn of a fraternity house. She had been lurking behind a tree, presumably waiting for something impolite to happen. I can only picture her hiding behind the curtains at dinner parties in paisley camouflage. Tsk, she'll say. Wrong fork. Wrong fork.

She yelled at me, sort of. It all started with AHEM.

"Ahem," smiles Jane. What I thought to be hunters facepaint turned out to be a mud smear she received from lurking behind the tree. I thought about how silly she looked with crap all over her forehead. "you really, oh, I hate to say this, I don't know you, but can you possibly, no harm done, pick that up? "Yes", I replied. I didn't move much after that. I had an urge to stand motionless for awhile. Frozen by guilt, maybe? By this adorable little scamp who caught me littering?

She cocked her head at me and raised an eyebrow. Waiting for me. "Will you?" She turned and looked toward my big fat filtered mishap over on the lawn. "oh, God", she said, and closed her eyes.

Well no wonder. No one wants to look at a cat wailing in pain. Looked like a glorious elderberry, my ember did. And there's little Whiskers rocketing up a tree and shaking like hell on the branches. I looked at Jane. She was still covering her eyes and wincing. I took the opportunity to run away. Run away. Run away.

Have I committed any sort of crime? Beyond misdemeanor littering? No. Yet there I sat laying in bed with the groany oh's. A little apprehensive about leaving my room ever again. A little uncomfortable knowing that a burn-and-run hit on a kitty cat may not be the most foolish thing I did that week.

"There she is." This. This was very close to being the only phrase chugging through my head on the few days following. There are, of course, basic exceptions involving everyday "I'm hungry" and "Where's the bathroom" pursuits. But every girl I see turns into her. A truly evil flashback of childhood television, save the fact that objects aren't turning into tootsie rolls anymore.

Making matters worse was Jane's overly nondescript appearance. I'm trying not to find a light brunette of apparent European descent, about five-foot-five? Dresses in brown?

The next day rained on me. Rainy days make this town more orange. Low cloud cover, you know, less distance for the bricks to reflect. I'm walking from my front steps to a pedestrian walking path. Designated for pedestrians. I looked around and noticed many joggers and walkers, doing their movement and travel exercises, carrying things, toting street peddler umbrellas, and I notice a little something extra today about their feet. Their feet are not on the designated pedestrian walking path. Their feet are on the lawns of Ann Arbor. And the logs, stepping stones, and other manmade and/or natural objects used to keep these good midwestern people off of the sidewalk worms.

Damn rainy days and I don't know where these little things live otherwise and it's a good thing that I've got my boots on. I'm taking the sidewalk because it belongs to me. A few lost souls here and there really aren't going to affect soil quality to any measurable extent. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Jane...over there. Recognize that girl anywhere, her with that striking brown hair, average build and infectious goodness.

She looked at my boots. She quickly stopped looking at my boots. She smiled.

"Hello", she said, sincerely, and kept walking. A woman of few words, that Jane. I watched her walk away from me. She didn't scold me about the other day. I expected this much. I wished she had started a scene with me in the street there. Me playing the bad guy in the rainworm stomp boots with the strong will and the take-it-or-leave-it leash on life. And her as the bleeding heart kitty activist. I wanted her to yell? Or, whine? Yes, whining would be more satisfying. I watched her go on down the street. Thought I heard her whistling.

One thing that makes me hate Jane is the way that she altered my general smoking behavior. I get paranoid right about one and a half centimeters from the gold line on my Camels. I look around for spying eyes. I try to find wisps of her hair peeking out from behind the maple trees. I fully stop enjoying the final few puffs of my habit and I pretend to scratch my right ankle, casually dropping the butt on the sidewalk. At one point I was so turned off by the trials of smoking post-Jane that I went to the stop-and-something convenience store and stole a pack of gum. Put it in my sock as I pretended to scratch my ankle.

Outside the store is a large, warm and smelly exhaust grate from the dormitory laundry rooms. That's where the homeless guys hang out. I saw Jane there, handing out sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. I stood there behind a maple tree and watched the sandwiches for some evidence of meat or cheese. I saw none. Sticking out from between the thick slices of homemade bread were textures of varying shades of green and red. They were vegan sandwiches. Damn her. Damn her, they were vegan.

I faced away from Jane and her cohorts, who were now dealing a game of cribbage on the patch of dry sidewalk in front of the grate. She had pulled the board and cards out of her tote bag, and I started toward the corner. I spit out my gum and managed to round the corner before I noticed a young squirrel investigating the new substance.

After my daily bout with employment and various errands was through, I took up smoking again. Porches, especially those on the street side of houses, are nice places to do this. As I enjoyed my porch, I started noticing things that passed and left me there. Sport-utility vehicles were a common item, as were groups of pedestrians, floating plastic bread bags, and what appeared to be a lonesome mother squirrel, lost in the throes of mourning. And some post-it notes.

One after the other. Breezing past me. Gorgeously yellow and visible in the waning daylight, and I started to catch them. They had pleasant phrases on them. Phrases like 'Thank you" and "Nice to see you" and "enjoy your day: see you soon"

I tried to catch all of them and followed the stream of floating posties to the source. The source being the place two doors down. The porch of the place, more specifically. Blowing off a little pile in the center where they had fallen out of a tote bag. A couple had remained on the porch, weighed down by a soggy deck of playing cards and a wooden game slat. I debated over whether or not to run away.

...on to Chapter Three...

Any questions? e-mail chris@osric.com