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alan rickman brit a day dan radcliffe david tennant film maggie smith michael gambon short story work in progress

A Brit a Day [#522]

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Brits almost too numerous to name in this screen cap. My kids were watching HP4 on TV last night, so I couldn’t resist.
OK, here goes. Left to right, David Tennant, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Daniel Radcliffe. I love every last one of their shaggy heads.
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brit a day film short story work in progress

A Brit a Day [#127]

This post is for Saturday.

I love this photograph more than I can say. Tippy Hedron and you-know-who from around the time they made “The Birds;” photographed by Lawrence Schiller, it’s currently on display at the Orange County Museum of Art as a part of an exhibit of Schiller’s work, including iconic later pics of Marilyn Monroe.
Alfred Hitchcock may be my favorite director, but I bet he was a bear to work for. Appropriate to this week’s theme, I love how utterly at ease Tippy Hedron looks here, either unaware of or in spite of the Great One’s weighty presence. And hand it to Schiller, he avoided the easy way out–there isn’t a bird in sight.
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my life short story work in progress

New posts at LiveJournal

I just posted the first 2 parts of a story at LiveJournal that most of you have never read before. This story hasn’t been seen in public since MySpace ate it…and it has definitely never appeared on this “fiction, mostly” blog. Thank god I saved a copy. Check back often at this link here below because I will be posting more older short stories at LJ that have never appeared on this blog.

http://janellla.livejournal.com/

That’s janela with 3 L’s.

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short story

Hadrian’s Wall–the conclusion

PART 4—THE GIRL WITH HER ARM IN A SLING WAITING FOR THE BUS

The down side of waiting for the bus in this unheated shelter is that I’m not moving much and it’s hard to keep warm. The nice Dr. Forester wanted to call Campus Security to help me with my lock-out problem, but I convinced him that I was expected at a friend’s apartment shortly for dinner and I would make the call there. I sort of implied that I didn’t have far to go if I walked from Student Health, so I was glad that the bus stop was out of sight from the doorway. He was so sincere, I didn’t want him to know that I’d told him lie upon lie. But then I saw the doctor leaving the parking lot with a woman in a car, and I know that he saw me too.

Calling campus security is simply not an option. The arm that is newly bandaged is colder than the other one for some reason, so I hug it closer to me with my good arm. My sweatshirt is brittle with the dried blood. If I called campus security they would ask to see my student ID before they’d even consider letting me into the room. And I don’t have one. I’m not a student here, I’ve never been a student here, and I’ve never even been to college. I’m just somebody’s well-kept-but-not-that-well-kept secret. I am—I was—Opal Solomon’s secret.

I came to New Haven two years ago with my boyfriend—we were both eighteen. We came here right after the end of high school so he could get a job and in-state status and apply to Uconn. I was going to then apply to Yale—I had the grades—and every grant, loan, and scholarship I could get my hands on. A year later, I finally had to admit that that plan was just as lame as it had sounded to everyone else back home. My boyfriend didn’t want me around anymore, and I found it wasn’t too hard to spend most of my time on the Yale campus, even though I didn’t belong there. Technically, I wasn’t homeless—I could still go back to the apartment if I wanted to put up with the abuse—but I found the porches, porticos and covered walkways of campus were a lot more welcoming. Throughout that summer—one year since I’d graduated high school—I got comfortable with taking handouts and leftovers from the kids leaving the dining halls. It was warm enough to sleep outside, and if I waited until it was completely dark to settle in for the night, the shadows in the doorways of campus buildings kept me safe from the real homeless people. And that was all fine, until the fall came and the campus got more crowded with both students and night-patrolling security. I found my safest little niche in the shrubbery by the Drama Building. That’s where Opal found me.

She was different to say the least. By then most people would avoid me. But she made me her cause. She convinced her roommates to let me crash in their dorm room for longer and longer periods of time as the weather got colder. I wasn’t SO bad, after all. I think they really liked having me there. I think I represented a kind of freedom that they had lost. They represented a dream I’d never attain.

Opal was a history major, and she loved to tell me about what she was studying. She knew when I met her that she was going to be transferring to Brown at the middle of the year because they had a better program for her. She was passionate about Roman Britain and the Picts. “Have you ever heard of Hadrian’s Wall?” she asked me one evening. We were both reading from her textbooks.

I knew from high school European history that Hadrian was a Roman emperor, and I knew from perusing the pictures in Opal’s history text that there has an ancient wall in Scotland that had been built to keep the Picts out of Roman England, so it wasn’t hard to guess that the Romans had built the wall in the name of their emperor Hadrian.

“Can you imagine,” Opal said, “What it would have been like to live near Hadrian’s Wall in the years just after it was built?” She was practically whispering, with all the drama of a ghost story told over a camp fire. “The Picts probably thought it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen. If I was a Pict, it would have MADE me want to invade England.” Opal would have made a great history teacher. “But the Roman’s on the other side, on the south side? They must have been scared to death of what was on the other side of the wall. It was the great, horrible unknown, full of terrifying people they’d heard about that were covered head to toe with blue tattoos, people they thought of as ferocious animals that they would never even try to understand. It was probably worse than having no wall at all—constantly comtemplating the horror of What If–Picts breaching the wall, heads on pikes, setting fire to their homes, carrying off their women to do god-knows-what to them.”

“I don’t know about that, Opal,” I said. But I had to confess that she made the thought of it come so alive for me, I actually shivered.

And now I’m shivering again in the real cold. Opal left for home at the end of term last week, and she’s not coming back before she transfers to Brown. We said our tearful goodbyes in the common area of the rooms she shared with roommates, the room where I had so often slept on the couch, where I had waited for a turn in the shower just like I was one of them. The night before she left, Opal gave me a bunch of her clothes. But the roommates were not so touched by our goodbyes that they invited me to stay. In fact they made it quite clear that after Opal left, there would be no place for me among them.

So that was last week. I know they’ve all left for the break now—the room has been dark for two nights. It has been fucking cold in the Drama School shrubbery and it hurts too fucking much to go back to my ex-boyfriend’s apartment and have unspeakable things done and said to me. But the combination of the two, hurting in the cold, is intolerable. That’s how I decided to use the dorm room over the break when know one was home. All I needed was to break in once, and then I’d always be able to get in somehow. I shouldn’t have gone to the infirmary—now I’ve completely lost my nerve to do what I’d planned. I guess I hoped, subconsciously, that when I went to have my arm looked at, they’d see things when I took off my sweatshirt that alarmed them enough to let me stay. But the cuts and bruises were masked by the accident I’d just had with the window. They thought I got them in the fall. I didn’t tell them otherwise.

Now I can’t stop thinking about Hadrian’s Wall. I’m there, Opal! It’s just outside the bounds of the light coming from this bus shelter. Somewhere in this cold night, Opal, I can feel the blue men breaching the Wall, armed with pikes. Do you think they’ll be terrifying? Do you think they’ll carry me away?

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short story

Hadrian’s Wall–part 3.3

PART 3—THE DOCTOR’S WIFE DRIVING HER CAR

When I picked Ethan up after his shift, there was this girl at the bus stop stamping her feet in the cold. Ethan’s eyes fixed on her as we pulled out of the parking lot, and I asked him what was up. She was a student that had come into the infirmary, apparently, and he was not entirely comfortable with her leaving alone. She’ll be fine, I said, the busses are running on their regular schedule until Christmas Eve.

So off we go driving into the New Haven night. Fucking New Haven. It was fine when I was a graduate student, but outside of the false sense of security I felt back then on campus, this city has nothing to offer me.

Ethan and I met here, when he was in medical school and I was working on my PhD in economics. Yale Med meant he could write his own ticket. I was in love, and all that promise of a bright future was just the gravy. We were—are—terrifically in love. The only bond greater than love is the one forged through creation. I created a child with my boyfriend in college, and even though that relationship eventually failed, I’m afraid nothing will top that. It sounds cold to Ethan, but that’s just the way it is.

Back to reality, back to these earthly asphalt streets with their feral potholes, back to New Haven. Sixteen months ago we were living in a great section of Los Angeles, Silver Lake, and the proverbial sea was calm. Five months ago we were the living-dead in LA, and the proverbial sea threatened to rise up and murder us. The company that Ethan started right out of med school, with a partner who had a brand new patent for a test that would accurately detect prostate cancer markers even in subjects who take statins, ran into some problems. The initial success of the company was like a dream, the business plan was sound, the fundamentals looked good. Everything was in place and it was a model opportunity. Then, two years into the company’s existence, it came out that some supporting documents from the clinical trials sent to the FDA had been falsified. Criminal charges were only brought against Ethan’s partner because all that happened before the partnership was formed, but there was a civil suit too and Ethan was named as one of the defendants.

On the day we appeared before the judge, having finally gotten Ethan’s lawsuit unbundled from the rest of it, Ethan went off in the courtroom like a Roman Candle. This hearing should have been the end of the hostilities, we were five minutes from walking out the door, but Ethan must have needed to unload himself, and he just snapped. He went off on his partner, he went off on his partner’s lawyer, he went off on his own lawyer, and when the judge cited him for contempt of court for the third time in ten minutes, he went off on the judge. The only person to escape his rage was me, and that isn’t even entirely true. I got a couple of scratches and a bruise on my upper arm when I tried to restrain Ethan from ringing his lawyer’s neck.

Ethan was immediately sentenced and incarcerated, and he spent three months in jail. By the time he was released, we had settled his lawsuit, but Ethan was out of a job, and having never actually practiced medicine on patients outside of his residency at Yale-New Haven hospital, he had little prospect of finding one. An untenured economics lecturer in the employ of the Regents of the University of California cannot support two people in Silver Lake, so Ethan fell back on the good graces of old friends, old professors, old Yalies in his search for his next job. So we landed back here in New Haven, Ethan on the staff of Yale Student Health.

It was the most amazing change in a person’s outward disposition I’ve ever seen, that day in the LA courtroom. Ethan, who had normally been so composed, never confrontational, just losing it. I had no idea he was capable of it, and at first it kind of excited me, the fury of it, to think that such passion was hidden in my man. But as nights came and went, especially the nights I spent alone while Ethan was in jail, away from his warmth, I started to be afraid. In the dark, without his warm body beside me to give ground to my thoughts, my mind raced. A relationship needs a certain balance of predictability and spontaneity, and Ethan’s violent outburst had blown that balance away. Five months ago, when Ethan made the decision that we would return to Yale and New Haven, I wanted to resist the move, the huge step backward into the past, with every cell in my body. But at the same time, he was so relieved to have a job, something told me to just let sleeping dogs lie.

…to be continued in PART 4—THE GIRL WITH HER ARM IN A SLING WAITING FOR THE BUS

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short story

Hadrian’s Wall–part 2.2

PART 2–THE DOCTOR ON DUTY AT STUDENT HEALTH

I really didn’t like seeing that girl pass out in the waiting room. I was sure she’d hit her head when she slumped to the floor. That’s all I need while the infirmary is on holiday staffing, a kid with a TBI. She’d be on her way to the ER at Yale-New Haven right now if that were the case.

My wife, before I met her, had a traumatic brain injury, and there were complications, multiple body systems, strange neurological stuff…anyway, she had to take medication after that to regulate her heart. She got pregnant, and she wanted to keep her baby…this was all still before we knew each other….so she stopped the meds. She had a bad episode that could have ended in a coronary….well they put her back on the meds, even though they weren’t safe for the fetus. It was a lesser-of-two-evils sort of thing. At four and a half months she lost her baby. Actually, the baby died inside of her and had to be aborted, extracted. At four and a half months. Her body didn’t expel the fetus spontaneously, and she refused to let them dismember it to get it out of her womb. That’s what they usually do. Four and a half months into her pregnancy and of course she loved her baby and held onto ridiculous hope that they were wrong and that her baby was alive. So they induced labor and she went through all the pains of childbirth to deliver a dead baby. She still has the heart condition, and she still takes the same medication. I never, ever want her to go through that again, but she says if I have a vasectomy she’ll leave me. She still believes that something will change, she’ll get all better, and we’ll be able to have a baby. But it’s not worth it…it’s not worth her health or worth endangering her life. I just want it to be over.

I love my wife, and I want to be with her, physically, but I know what we’re doing and I know what the odds are that she’ll eventually get pregnant some day before her heart thing is resolved, because in all likelihood it will never be resolved…I feel like I’m staring at a brick wall, and the wall is fine, more than fine, but I don’t like what’s on the other side of it. I don’t like it at all, it’s ill-defined for me, what the threat is and how bad it really is, but I know it’s there and it’s really scary.

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short story

I’m getting things in order to finish ‘Hadrian’s Wall’

I’m reprising all I’ve previously posted of my short story “Hadian’s Wall” here as a single post, in prep for finally finishing the piece.–Ed.

Hadrian’s Wall

PART 1–THE GIRL WHO STAYED AT SCHOOL OVER THE BREAK

I was pretty sure I was overdue for a tetanus shot. And maybe I needed stitches.

It’s amazing what medical services you can get for free at the university infirmary in 1983. The weekend before Christmas and I am locked out of the dorm. I found a first-floor window unlocked and was hoisting myself in when I got a good-sized gash on my forearm from a rusty nail in the window sill.

The cold New England air made my arm sting as I walked to Student Health. Most of the students were gone for the holiday, and so the evening seemed to fall particularly hard and fast with no lighted windows in the campus buildings to cushion the feeling of being completely on my own. I tucked my bleeding arm into the kangaroo pouch of my Yale sweatshirt, and by the time I walked through the glass doors of the infirmary, the blood had soaked through making the navy fabric turn glossy blue violet.

The infirmary was understaffed because of the break, I guessed, but there seemed to be no other patients either. No one was in the reception cubicle; then a nurse came out of the big common treatment room that lay behind the front desk. Her eyes widened. I think that’s where I fainted.

When I opened my eyes, I was lying on the floor and a doctor was kneeling beside me, looking purposefully into my eyes, one at a time. Between him and the nurse and another girl who wore a sweatshirt under her scrubs, they got my limbs untangled and began to assess the damage.

The doctor lifted me in his arms and put me on an exam table in the big room. “How’s your head?” he asked.

“It’s my arm,” I said softly, and tried to extract my arm from the bloody pocket now resting on my stomach.

“Yes, I see,” he said, “but I’m trying to see if you’re concussed from the fall.”

“My head doesn’t hurt,” I said. “I don’t remember it ever hitting the floor.”

The girl in scrubs brought over a tray, and they began cleaning my arm. The doctor said I needed some stitches and went to a cabinet across the room to get supplies. With his back to me, he asked me how I hurt my arm, and I told him. When he came back he asked, “When was your last tetanus shot?”

“I don’t know. Childhood, I guess.”

He looked to the nurse who had come in, but he spoke to me. “Let’s get your name and we’ll check your file.”

“It won’t be in there, ” I said. “I didn’t know the answer when I filled out my health form freshman year.”

“Then let’s just start with your name.” He smiled. The nurse handed him a clipboard with forms on it.

“Opal Solomon.” He wrote that on his clipboard. I asked, “What’s your name?”

“Dr. Forester.” He smiled again, a little awkwardly. “Ethan Forester.” He had kind eyes. He was young and had that soft, empathic look that young doctors have. When he turned to give the clipboard to the nurse, I missed the eyes and their warmth immediately.

After he stitched up my arm, Dr. Ethan Forester set it gently in a sling. As he was making his final notes in the chart, I sighed “Oh no, I never did get through the window to get my keys. I’m still locked out.”

“What are you doing here over the break anyway? Aren’t you scared of being in the dorm by yourself?” he asked.

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short story work in progress

Hadrian’s Wall–part 3

After he stitched up my arm, Dr. Ethan Forester set it gently in a sling. As he was making his final notes in the chart, I sighed “Oh no, I never did get through the window to get my keys. I’m still locked out.”

“What are you doing here over the break anyway? Aren’t you scared of being in the dorm by yourself?” he asked.

to be continued…

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short story work in progress

Hadrian’s Wall–part 2

When I opened my eyes, I was lying on the floor and a doctor was kneeling beside me, looking purposefully into my eyes, one at a time. Between him and the nurse and another girl who wore a sweatshirt under her scrubs, they got my limbs untangled and began to assess the damage.

The doctor lifted me in his arms and put me on an exam table in the big room. “How’s your head?” he asked.
“It’s my arm,” I said softly, and tried to extract my arm from the bloody pocket now resting on my stomach.
“Yes, I see,” he said, “but I’m trying to see if you’re concussed from the fall.”
“My head doesn’t hurt,” I said. “I don’t remember it ever hitting the floor.”
The girl in scrubs brought over a tray, and they began cleaning my arm. The doctor said I needed some stitches and went to a cabinet across the room to get supplies. With his back to me, he asked me how I hurt my arm, and I told him. When he came back he asked, “When was your last tetanus shot?”
“I don’t know. Childhood, I guess.”
He looked to the nurse who had come in, but he spoke to me. “Let’s get your name and we’ll check your file.”
“It won’t be in there, ” I said. “I didn’t know the answer when I filled out my health form freshman year.”
“Then let’s just start with your name.” He smiled. The nurse handed him a clipboard with forms on it.
“Opal Solomon.” He wrote that on his clipboard. I asked, “What’s your name?”
“Dr. Forester.” He smiled again, a little awkwardly. “Ethan Forester.” He had kind eyes. He was young and had that soft, empathic look that young doctors have. When he turned to give the clipboard to the nurse, I missed the eyes and their warmth immediately.
…to be continued….
Categories
short story work in progress

Hadrian’s Wall–part 1

I was pretty sure I was overdue for a tetanus shot. And maybe I needed stitches.

It was amazing what medical services you could get for free at the university infirmary in 1983. The weekend before Christmas that year I was locked out of the dorm. I found a first-floor window unlocked and was hoisting myself in when i got a good sized gash on my forearm from a rusty nail in the window sill.

The cold New England air sure made my arm sting as I walked to Student Health. Most of the students were gone for the holiday, and so that evening seemed to fall particularly hard and fast with no lighted windows in the campus buildings to cushion the feeling of being completely on my own. I tucked my bleeding arm into the kangaroo pouch of my Yale sweatshirt, and by the time I walked through the glass doors of the infirmary, the blood had soaked through making the navy fabric turn glossy blue violet.

The infirmary was understaffed because of the break, I guessed, but there seemed to be no other patients either. No one was in the reception cubicle; then a nurse came out of the big common treatment room that lay behind the front desk. Her eyes widened. I think that’s where I fainted.

to be continued…..