This prose fragment is an alternate beginning to Summer of a Doormouse. This version of the story never got passed this point. A few years later I rewrote this prologue pretty extensively, but didn’t get any further.
Summer of a Doormouse
The years peel back like an onion as memories float by outside the dirty Greyhound window. So long ago it seems a dream, or a story told to me long ago about someone else. Maybe it didn’t happen at all. Could it all just be a story I’ve told myself so often, trying to get the details right, that it seems real to me now?
The bus travels through the Lincoln Tunnel toward New Jersey as I write, the vibration of the bus on the road making it difficult to write legibly, which is always a challenge when my brain talks faster than my hand can write.
To be sure its a story I’ve attempted to tell many time over the past few decades, always with little success. I even tried piggy backing, marrying it to another unfinished story by another author. It was a good story built around a grand dream. But it wasn’t my dream; it wasn’t my story. Its hard enough in life to try and live out your own dreams without trying to tackle someone else’s as well.
I’m traveling home now for a brief meeting with my lawyer. I don’t recall any lawyers from my dreams, but sometimes in real life you must meet with lawyers. Despite what you may have heard, life is not a dream.
I sit alone in a sparsely populated bus station with no one to meet me, waiting for it to be time to walk to a meeting where two lawyers I don’t know will determine my financial future. Bus stations, it occurs to me, are very much like what I imagine Purgatory to me (If Jews believed in Purgatory, that is). A bus station is never anyone’s intended destination. It is where you stop for a while on your way to someplace better. Or worse.
The biggest challenge in writing a story is deciding where to begin and where to end. Once those two post holes are staked out the rest falls into place relatively easy. Byron noted that epic poets, such as Homer, preferred to begin their tales ‘in media res’ and fill in any pertinent details of the heroes past via dialogue or flashbacks. Byron himself declared this method not his own and began his tale of Don Juan with Juan’s parents, Don Jose and Donna Inez. And though I loathe to disagree with His Lordship, I have to wonder if—unless one is writing a biography—starting with, or before, your hero’s birth may be a little extreme. Need the beginning of one’s story be the same as the beginning of one’s life? I suppose it depends on what story you’re telling. At the other end of things, I’ve been told that the art of writing a happy ending is knowing when to stop telling the story. For in life every story ends at the grave.’
In many ways I’ve always known where this story would begin. The image always fairly clear in my mind. Its not so much that its where everything started—some might argue that it was the beginning of the end—but rather it is where I know the story must start.
– Jakob McFarquar, 15 October 2004
Regurgitated vodka burns the skin of the back of my throat as a half digested Snickers bar mixes in the bathtub with something that was once a hot-dog. An unknown good Samaritan from the party squeezes some cool water out of a dirty washcloth over my neck as my stomach finishes settling in the tub.
“Is he alright?” I hear Donna’s unmistakable musical voice ask from behind me. My anonymous caretaker answers her as he places a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah, he’ll live. I’ve never seen anyone do shots like that before. You must be used to seeing him like this, no?”
“No,” the music smirks, “actually he’s the responsible one.”
The fragment ends here.
You can read more of Summer of a Doormouse here.