Novel Blog Four
What is Life?
A general definition of life is a state of being that distinguishes us from inorganic matter. Interestingly, one of the conditions is continual change preceding death. Of course, this means biologically.
My favorite definition of life is from the Bible (John 3:8):
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth…”
It doesn’t get any more cryptic than that.
Curandero, my third novel, is loosely based on my own experiences with chronic illness and those of others. The protagonist, Stefan Campeau, is suffering from a terminal case of lung cancer at the tender age of twenty-seven. Deemed a hopeless case medically (I’ve been there myself), he reluctantly accepts the help of an unusual doctor, who requires him, among other things, to record his feelings in a journal.
My favorite line in the book is from Stefan’s journal:
“I have lost all confidence in myself as a human being.”
He is very close to life at this point, having lost his connection years earlier during a custodial childhood and a discordant career choice.
The closest I have ever come to life was during an illness at the precipice of death, ironically. Stripped of all my pride, good looks, verve, and accomplishments, a strange phenomenon occurred. I suddenly experienced a remarkable sense of peace and completeness (despite my pain and agony). When I unexpectedly recovered and regained all my faculties, this mysterious feeling receded.
Our daily lives are full of responsibilities, fume-choked skies, bad news… a continual bombardment of negative blasts. However, intermingled in our midst, life exists, incredibly sweet, and fully alive.
In The Other Ones, my current novel-in-progress, the protagonist, Damon Devereaux, has escaped an abusive ten-year marriage in a desperate attempt to reclaim a spark of life again. But first, he must survive the perilous transition of a money-laden divorce from a potentially homicidal spouse (an entomologist), whom he feels has already tried to murder him by placing brown recluse spiders in his bed. His sister Nancy throws him a birthday party, and Damon attempts to explain his situation and enlist the help of his attorney cousin, Jake, in the divorce:
Damon turned to Jake. “Would you like to represent me in my divorce?”
He looked up from his cake. “Are you serious?”
“You told me you’re broke.”
Jake smiled, his dark hair falling across his pale face. “I’m surviving.”
“I can’t believe you’re actually getting a divorce,” Grandma Olive exclaimed with a shake of her frizzy gray head.
“Of everyone in the family, we least expected it of you, Damon,” Aunt Sally said.
“You were always so by the book,” Grandma Olive continued, sipping her tea. “We never envisioned you just cutting Bristol loose like that.”
Nancy nodded. “Even I have to admit, I thought the two of you would be together forever. The day you told us you’d separated, I was totally blindsided.”
“Me too,” added Grandma Olive. “You were such a joy as a child. Never had so much as a smattering of trouble from you.”
Damon felt his hackles rising. His grandparents, he recalled, had bickered constantly, and she undoubtedly harangued his grandfather into an early grave. His sister’s spouse had never seemed particularly happy during their brief marriage. He’d been the enduring, silent type who lived for TV sports. His untimely death from cancer had left his sister with a large life insurance policy, and she’d taken the entire tragedy in stride.
“It’s not a separation,” Damon declared at last. “It’s a rupture.” He glared at his birthday gathering. “And because of this bite, I never feel well anymore.” He twisted in his uncomfortable chair. “She was probably slipping me something before that, too.”
Jake crinkled his eyes. “I’ve always wondered if you were mistaken. Brown recluses are native to this area, and she’s incapable of harming anyone, much less you.”
Damon stared at him in surprise. “What qualifies you to you say that? You hardly know her.”
“Because I just know,” Jake replied unthinkingly, pushing his straight hair back from his round eyes. “You two were a perfect match if there is such a thing.”
"Why is that?” Damon asked irritably. “Because we’re both stuffed shirts?”
“Exactly,” Jake laughed. “Besides, Bristol has plenty of money of her own. Why would she need to murder you for yours?”
“Because she’s covetous. And she’s heartless.”
“I ran into her the last time I was in Hidden Hollow,” Aunt Sally declared. “Frankly, I think she’s hoping for a reconciliation.”
Damon flinched and turned back to his cousin. “Well, how about Janelle? Did she love you?” Janelle, Jake's ex-wife, had taken him to the cleaners and left him almost penniless.
Jake placed his elbows on the table and folded his hands together, deep in thought. “Not really. We had what’s called puppy love.”
“What the hell is that?” Damon asked, recalling how much in love they had appeared at their hippie beach wedding. And neither had been exactly teenagers; in fact, Jake must have been twenty-four at the time.
“It’s something that doesn’t last. It wears off, through no fault of either person,” he explained. “When it came right down to it, we had very little in common.”
“Why haven’t you ever married again?” Damon questioned, secretly thinking his cousin's insights were patently false.
“I haven’t ruled it out.”
“But you’re living with Gayle, isn’t that right?” Gayle was Jake’s latest flame.
“Why don’t you get married?”
“Because we don’t want to put that kind of pressure on each other. We prefer to leave the back door open if one of us decides to leave.”
Damon glowered. “Well, I prefer the front door, and if you’re not interested, I’ll find someone else.”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t represent you,” he began.
“I’ll pay you a fortune.”
Jake studied Damon uneasily. “Do you really think she’s dangerous?”
Damon stared him straight in the eye. “She’s vindictive as hell.”