Welcome back, Dear Reader! If you’ve read the first eight excerpts, feel free to skip this preamble to the meat a few paragraphs down. If you haven’t, well, thanks for joining me!
These are exciting times for your ol’ pal Jerry – after talking about it for most of my life, I finally put the proverbial money and mouth together and started my first novel, Of Dreams & Angels, in the fall of 2019. It’s still in the first draft, but I thought it would be fun to start putting pieces of it (and thereby my entire soul, don’t you know!) out into the universe. Maybe you’ll get caught up in the intrigue and start following along too.
The synopsis – well, before we get to that, Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing, wrote that many of his stories can be expressed as a What-if question, and after reading that, my imagination (as it pertained to story ideas) started framing situations that way. Of Dreams is this question: What if a man started dreaming about a woman he’d never met, but who actually exists; falls in love with her based on what he sees in the dreams and sets out to find her?
Don’t ask me where it came from, and believe me when I say I’m just as shocked as you are that my first idea for a novel – ok maybe not the first idea in the grand scope of my life, but the first one to make it to fruition – was a fantastical love story. But as soon as I thought of it, *I* wanted to know what would happen, which made me think others might want to, too.
At all rates, here you have it, Dear Reader (also a not-so-subtle borrow from Mr. King, who as you may know refers to us as “Constant Reader”) – another excerpt from Of Dreams & Angels. We’re picking up where we left off in Excerpt 8; Joe is now dreaming about Claire (and has learned her name, among a whole lot of other things!) every night–still trying to figure out if this is the most elaborate instance of lucid dreaming in the history of humankind, or if she just might be real. Enjoy!
Despite her pain, which was ever-present and carried like an unwelcome duffel strapped around her heart, he also knew she felt composed–and even content–most of the time. It couldn’t be called anything resembling joy or even active happiness, but for whatever she couldn’t escape in her heart she found refuge in the hearts of her children, whom she clearly adored. Her career, too, which Joe could sense invigorated her as few things else could.
After the past two weeks of these nightly visits, there was still much Joe hadn’t been able to ascertain. He now slept with a book and pen on the nightstand, ready to write down any new details the moment he woke. He knew she worked at a some sort of media company, surmising she held an editorial or producer-type position. He hadn’t seen anything clearly enough to confirm this; there had been flashes of letterhead, business cards, and even an email signature, but he strained against her field of vision to read them without success. As usual, anything Claire’s eyes weren’t directly looking upon remained blurred and out-of-focus. Even if he could have pulled focus, he didn’t have the language or reference points for this industry to know for certain.
She wasn’t a boots-on-the-ground reporter, that much he knew; those actors were the ones that continually made their way to the glass door of her office to bounce this or that idea off, or discuss another source, or a potential segment or interview. They were the ones who called after-hours, where she so deftly handled whatever (real or perceived) emergency prompted the interruption, while never taking her attention from Jack, Holly and Ainsley. She was never (or at least Joe hadn’t seen anything behind her eyes to suggest this) at the scene of some breaking story—yet he could sense she longed to be.
Joe wasn’t entirely certain the day-job wasn’t also a convenient—and much-needed—shot of distraction and adrenaline. There were only two scenarios where Joe couldn’t sense that foreboding feeling of loss coupled with pervasive anxiety: at work, or at play with the children. Even with the kids, however, it could be felt—the anxiety in particular. Was she raising them well? What would become of them? What counter-influences were they absorbing every second weekend? How was that bizarre situation—a forced, shared home with children who used to be their playmates and now essentially step-siblings (David and Miranda hadn’t officially tied the knot; this was only stopped short to date by remaining legal hurdles)—affecting their young psyches?
Joe knew Claire struggled with doubt and grief over that aspect the most; he knew that she knew it was irrational to feel a sense of guilt over a situation she hadn’t had a part—at least an overt one—in creating. He knew she laid awake at night (although he’d yet to experience that particular paradox directly: what if his dream situated him within her while she slept, while she dreamt?) wondering what she could have done differently. Or had David always been a serial philanderer?
She’d had surface knowledge of what he’d been like before they met in college, with the odd story creeping out here and there. But with the naivete of youth, those indiscretions had been written off as ‘boys being boys’, and even carried some dubious charm—a piece of the composite of David’s Big-Man-On-Campus charisma. That seemed to be part of the package with men (boys) like David; the campus equivalents of Jack Kennedy or Warren Beatty. Claire had tried to tell herself when the most popular boy at college takes an interest, the improprieties were just a norm to be accepted, and she—for a time, anyway—adhered to that age-old bullshit axiom that the “right girl” would set him straight.
Yet she still wondered now if she could have loved him more; post-graduation she had launched into her career as he had launched into his, both trying to make names for themselves. Then the children began arriving, and she’d pivoted instead to the years-long cycle of loving a toddler off the ground, followed by a frenzied return to work, trying to regain footing she worried she might have lost during her absence. She hadn’t been overly affectionate in either words or touch in those early years, either; she knew that, and for the longest time it wasn’t borne of a lack of love—it was simply from a lack of time, and energy. David hadn’t seemed overly bothered (though in retrospect, also a clue), and had cheerfully gone about his evening duties as a father on the nights when he wasn’t away for work. (Of the latter, for as much as Joe could sense, he hadn’t been able to confirm where or how David found his employ.)
Whenever she’d had doubts about their marriage—before the infidelity became overt and pronounced—she’d comforted herself with the notion this was just what happened to all marriages: couples became busy with careers and children and extended families and buying homes and vehicles and car-seats and cribs, and somehow, someday, they would catch up on all the intimacy that waned from the early days of spontaneous romance and cancelled plans and afternoons in bed. One day they would recapture that, one day they would reconnect. But they never did.
Thanks again for stopping by, Dear Reader! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more.