Friday, January 22, 2010

From The Lips Of...Ray Manners

Ray Manners is writing today. He's a fictional character and the antagonist in "Overcome," my novel-in-progress. Ray is a thirty-four year old telemarketer struggling to keep his life orderly and organized. It isn't easy, considering the open wounds from an abusive childhood that refuse to scab and heal. No matter how tight his grip on the day-to-day, everything in his perception is linked to that old pain. The following is a moment from his life. [Note: This is NOT an excerpt from the novel. It is a writing exercise in which I practice capturing the voice of my character.]

It was eleven a.m., but that's lunchtime for me. Not because I'm hungry, I don't start missing food until mid-afternoon. I just can't take the noon hour swarms of people in the delis and restaurants. Hell, you can't even find a place to park at that time of day, and the chance of someone not paying attention and dinging your car quadruples. No thanks. Besides, by the time I finish my meal each day, the office is emptied out and quiet, just the way I like it.

I was in the mood for a sub, but I bypassed the sandwich shop close to work. The fat chick in there took meat off the customer in front of me's sandwich one day, when he changed his mind at the last minute and opted for roast beef instead of ham. Then she tried to put that roast beef on my bread. She looked at me like I was crazy when I complained. I don't want food that touched someone else's food, what was crazy about that?

I had my pick of spots in the grocery store lot. As soon as I walked in, a greeter in a goofy green smock said hello to me. Here's a concept I can't explain. Why do they station someone inside the doors? Are they that worried the shopping experience they have to offer won't beat the competition's unless they gush with enthusiasm at my arrival? Two more people in smocks shouted hello from their scattered positions before going back to their tasks of restocking shelves or sweeping the floors. I didn't even look at 'em, just kept my head down and headed for the deli.

The place was spotless, I'll give 'em that. Of course, the rush of people needing a quart of milk or something for supper was still to arrive once the five o'clock whistles sounded. They'll come bustling in, scuffing the floors and leaving unnoticed scraps of trash in their wakes. Ever go to a store around ten at night? The place is trashed. People are unbelievable.

There was no one waiting when I got to the deli. A dry old woman with a hairnet greeted me. I watched her struggle to pull the latex gloves over her liver spotted hands, but I looked away before she glanced up apologetically. Finally, she constructed my roast beef sub to order, and I was glad to note the cleanliness of the sandwich board and the fresh appearance of the condiments. A clock on the wall reminded me this area wouldn't look as neat and clean in another forty-nine minutes. I took the wrapped sandwich from the woman and thanked her.

I headed straight for the express lane to pay. A woman was paying at the register, and behind her was the only other customer in line, a big bellied man with a ten gallon cowboy hat on his head. The hat distracted me from noticing what was in his cart, but a moment later I looked down. Tex began transferring his items to the belt, and I counted along in my head. One, two, three...eight... I looked up at the express sign that read, "10 items or less"...eleven, twelve... I set my jaw. Sixteen items covered the conveyor belt when he was finished. The cashier greeted him with a smile, and ol' Tex spoke right up. He apologized for having so many items.

"Oh that's alright, sugar," said the cashier.

I felt my eyes narrow and heat rise up under my collar. I didn't think it was all right at all. I'd passed two other registers that allowed an unrestricted number of items, but Tex here must have wanted to get in and out without waiting. Must be his schedule was more important than mine. He didn't turn and look at me. Didn't offer an apology or anything. I guess I was shit in his eyes.

I clutched my bag and stormed out the store, ignoring the cheerful good-bye tossed out by the greeter. I wanted her to know my shopping experience wasn't that great. I drove to the stop sign you have to pass before turning down the short lane to the road, and whose truck arrived at the stop from the opposite side but Tex and his ridiculous hat. He pulled right out and made his turn first, even though I had the right-of-way. I slammed my hand so hard on the horn that I think the emblem in the center of the steering wheel embedded in my palm.

People really are unbelievable.

Identity Crisis

I'm a very visual person and I just can't seem to find the right look for this blog. I love color -- and by that I don't mean shades of beige -- so bear with me while I audition new layouts. I'm looking forward to this color neurosis being over ;)

Ahhh. This feels more like me!