Friday, January 19, 2007

First train, Sunday morning

Asian woman, mid 40s, wearing a black parka and red silk scarf. She holds the book high with both hands, her face obscured by the unmistable cover. To think, there was a time when we didn't know exactly what this young boy looked like. I step in a bit closer and peer over. She is smiling gently, completely consumed. She loves it, you can tell. She loves every last bit of it.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling (Raincoast Books)

Page 83:

Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was so dark either side of them that Harry thought there must be thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Neville, the boy who kept losing his toad, sniffed once or twice.

They sit at the red light. The father drums his thumbs on the steering wheel, staring blindly through the intersection. The car rolls.

"Dad," the son mumbles, pressing the ball of his foot into the car mat.

The father hits the brakes and checks the rearview, his neck turning beet red. He looks at his son, dreading his ex-wife's reaction. One night a week. Pick the kid up from school and drop him home the following night; that's all he has to do. She is gonna flip, he thinks. Worse, she's gonna do that thing. Oh, that thing with the, the look, and the, the, the voice. The light turns green and he peels into a sharp U turn.

"You still like Chuck E. Cheese, kiddo? You loved it as a kid. Change in plans; we're goin' to Chuck E. Cheese! Have some pizza, some sodas, play some skee ball. You remember the skee ball? I'll let ya have all my tickets!"

The son looks at the dashboard display. 5:35 P.M. Almost late for dinner.

"Dad...'

The father hits the on-ramp, twenty kilometres over the speed limit by the time he reaches the end. He just can't face the look. The look when she sees her boy, fresh stitches across his forehead.

"Son..." he starts, gripping the wheel tight and taking his foot off the gas. He remembers himself as a ten year old boy, defending mysterious scrapes and bruises. He'd begged the police officer to tell his mother he'd fallen off his bike. She'd already warned what would happen if he jumped trains once more. He exhales loudly, switching on the directional, taking the off-ramp at a crawl. His boy wouldn't jump trains, but he'd try to fly. A dreamer, always had been. Slight and scrawny, his nose in books all day and night.

"O.K., this is how it's gonna work. You're gonna tell your mother you fell at school, behind the school, where no one saw you. Tell her you were wearing those damn headphones and didn't pay attention to where you're going, alright?"

The son shrugs, shifting uneasily in his seat as they turn onto his street. They pull up to his house. The front door opens. Her arms are folded. The boy reaches for the door handle, one foot on the curb. His father grabs his forearm. He remembers.

"O.K., here's the thing. You're gonna let me do all the talking. I'll think of something."

His son looks at him, nodding. His father tightens his grip. He doesn't know how to be a father to this boy, he can only remember what it was like to be one. He's still worried about the kid, looking for the right way to ask, because he has to ask: What on God's green earth would compel you to run at a wall?!"

8 comments:

KK said...

:(

Juniper said...

Hi Julie.
I just wanted to thank you for letting me know you stopped by my blog (Reading Juniper). I love Seen Reading (which is why I included a link on my site, hope that's okay?) and have been checking in each day for ages. I guess it's about time I let you know how great I think your work is and how compelling I find your words. The fact that you took the time to say hi is a big "wow" for me, so thank you. I am still new to this whole "blog thing" but I hope to find my feet and do something as unique as you have been able to do.
Your posting today is beautifully sad.
All the best and continued success!

Julie Wilson said...

KK, I was just thinking about this morning! And now you're sad... :(

It's okay. The boy grows into a confident young man who gets all the ladies! ;)

Julie Wilson said...

Hey Juniper!

That's very sweet of you. The blogosphere is a big ol' world. But every so often you stumble across something meaningful and you're grateful the medium exists. Funny how life collides, doncha know?

Anyhoo, I hope I continue to live up to your praise. I do love this project; I'm glad it's found a home with you as well.

See you around!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear. Sorry I didn't write back sooner -- been too busy to do so, much less breathe. How you doin'?

Just curious, too: what if you catch someone reading something you absolutely cannot find? Like, if you spotted someone reading Wittgenstein, but wasn't able to find it at the bookstore? Do you have a contingency plan?

Julie Wilson said...

I'm sick as a dog, truth be told. Got whatever this thing is that's going around. What's the point of staying home from work if you just lie like a lump all day?

Contingency plans. Yes, I do have one. I go on to the next book on the list. Ta da! As it goes, I can't find at least 1/4 of the titles. Big bookstores have lots of books, but maybe only a few copies of each. I try to visit a variety of bookstores, keeping in mind that I need a bit of space in which to work. I don't live far from a library, so the next step will be to stop in and see if they don't have some of what I'm lookin' for.

Peace out!

KK said...

anonymous was me, by the way, I forgot to indicate my name when I was typing that.

ya know, a camera phone would be so handy for your work, you can just snap a copy of the page and transcribe it when you get home, thus freeing you from harrassment and the evil eye of bookstore employees.

Or maybe one of those really tiny spy digicams. they sell those for under $100...if only I can remember the brand.

Julie Wilson said...

I've thought about it, but it's illegal to take pictures inside stores without permission.

I'll just wait for the chip. Point and blink. That's the next wave of the future!