Al Newman's gesturing wildly. He thinks I can make it. He's waving me in! Oh yeah, I'm in the home stretch. Only 8,000 words from hitting the glorious 50,000 word count. I can see the end of the road, and even though there's a good chance the novel won't be done by then (more story to tell, Occassional Reader) I will have solid footing and will have won NaNoWriMo. I even think I get to download some sort of certificate saying I've won. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Why tell you how it's ended when I still have work to do?
And so, I head back to the story, leaving my baseball metaphor up in the air until I feel my foot slap home plate.
Oh, and in shittier news, Pat Morita died. Wax on, wax off in peace, Mr. Myagi. Somewhere, Ralph Macchio is crying. Most likely, it's behind the counter of an In and Out.
So, here's the last excerpt from the book. Stanley has just told his grandson Nathan that he thinks someone is out to get him, and they are leaving a coffee shop in the town of Jasper Springs, MN. A town I made up. Where I'm the mayor. And I'm awesome.
Outside, clouds had rolled in, diffusing the sunlight temporarily. There was an awkward silence between Stanley and Nathan, and for a moment, they stood in front of the coffee shop, buttoning up. The sound of distant laughter drew Stanley’s attention, and he looked over Nathan’s shoulder, down the street, where a group of three college aged men with tussled hair and black shirts featuring noisy bands Stanley would never listen to came out of a store. The awning above was bright red, and a small flag featuring the large ‘S’ emblem from Superman’s costume blew in the breeze. So there’s The Comic Stop, he thought.
Nathan glanced over his shoulder, picked up on where Stanley was looking. “Yeah, Marco’s a nice guy. Really knows his stuff.”
“He knows an awful lot about the Crimson Avenger,” Stanley commented.
“Some what. They all do. Steve. Jess.”
“But Marco especially?”
Nathan laughed. “You don’t think—“
“He ever seem a little loose in the shoes?”
“Off his rocker?”
Nathan shook his head with conviction. “Absolute opposite. Marco’s a stand-up guy. Scout’s honor.” He lifted his right hand, extending his first two fingers in the traditional gesture of truth.
Stanley nodded his head, wondering if it would be helpful to snoop around the Comic Stop some day. Maybe he’d give Marco that book signing after all.
Nathan pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, cupping his hand around one in order to light it. He inhaled deeply, then noticed the look Stanley was giving him.
“Just don’t tell my dad, okay?” He must have realized his comfort level had increased around Stanley, because this was the first time he’s smoked in front of his grandfather. Of course, the most Stanley ever saw Nathan was at family functions and special events, neither of which were occasions Nathan could feel in his element.
Stanley nodded. He couldn’t say too much, he used to handroll a cigarette every time he sat down behind the Smith Corona, one of those rituals superstitious people had regarding their performance at work. He’d smoked a lot of cigarettes, so much so that even now, he’d find slivers of tobacco tucked beneath the keys and under the typebars. He’d given it up when Esther had been ill, because he had spent more time than not in the hospital with her, and the medical oncology department of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester was on the sixth floor. It was a long walk for a smoke, and he decided it wasn’t worth it.
Still, there was something about smelling the smoke of a cigarette that was intoxicating, that took him back to the rathole apartment on Chicago’s Southside, when he and Charlie would sit on the fire escape and smoke and shout nonsense at passerbys.
Nathan and Stanley parted ways, Nathan informing Stanley he’d visit as soon as his shift was over at five. As Stanley walked back to his car, still parked diagonally in front of Ferrill’s, he saw a dark sedan round the corner ahead and pull to the curb. He thought nothing of it, stepped to cross the road, watching his feet and being mindful of the shallow puddles that had formed small ponds of ice in the cracked cement and potholes.
He heard the low rumble of a vehicle, and turned his head to see the dark sedan from down the street had begun to move again. He looked left and right, saw a mother with a double-wide stroller talking on a cell phone, and an older woman sitting on a bus bench, waiting for public transportation. The car did not move quickly, and was in fact on the other side of the road, but nevertheless, its methodical slow acceleration made Stanley move a little faster, shuffling his tired frame across the street.
As the car neared, its tires began to ride the double yellow line, toying with crossing into Stanley’s vicinity. There was something disconcerting regarding the car, that same feeling that had crawled into Stanley’s gut when he came home to find he'd been burglarized. It didn’t sit right.
The car was closing in.
Stanley tried to peer through the windshield, tried to see who was driving. The large cloud, which had enveloped the sun a moment ago, had dissipated, and there was a violent glare coming off the glass. The driver was lost behind the reflection.
The hitch in Stanley’s step picked up, and before he knew it, he was moving at top speed, which in reality was not very fast. His feet shuffled, and he realized he was panicking, his heart thrumming inside his chest, his breath shallow. He hadn’t moved this fast in years, crossing the street, moving near the row of cars parked at a forty five degree angle to the sidewalk, passing bumper after bumper. He could hear the car, hear it moving faster, toying with him.
When he glanced over his shoulder, it seemed as if the car were on his heels. It was straddling the yellow line, waiting for the perfect moment to swerve over and run down the poor, defenseless old man.
Ahead, he saw the faded red of the Thunderbird, dug inside his pants pocket for the keys. He rounded the rear fender of a Saturn sports vehicle, heading to the driver’s door of the Ford. His left knee scraped the hard plastic of the fender, and a sudden flash of pain erupted up Stanley’s side.
He stumbled forward, and his left foot landed squarely in a small pothole of ice. The ice crinkled and his foot descended six inches into water, sliding forward. He grabbed for purchase, found none, and fell to the ground between the cars.
The dark sedan roared past, the only car on the road, as Stanley hollered out in pain. He reached out, waving frantically, the pain in his left foot and side immense and constrictive. It felt like he was primed to explode, and the only thing preventing it was the wrinkled and already bruised skin.
The car never stopped, just continued on down the street, taking the first available right turn. It was in dire need of a new muffler, and it could be heard long after it was out of sight.
Stanley twisted his body, looked toward the sidewalk, his voice already hoarse from crying out in the bitter air. He saw the front plastic white wheels of a massive stroller, and relief washed over him.
“Oh my God.” A woman’s voice, panic, fright. She began to say something else, but Stanley was falling into the black that swarmed the outside of his vision.