There’s Something Here From Somewhere Else – Part 3
(first appeared at valterramagazines.com October 2013 issue)
Before I start describing what Ruth is up to I just want to point out that the events transpiring in Nap’s life are not happening at the exact same time. I know a lot of authors are able to pull that off but get that right out of your head. It might be happening at roughly the same time, give or take a day, but don’t hold me to it and certainly don’t be one of those readers that get all excited if they catch some small detail that doesn’t coincide with the other character’s timeline. I can’t be bothered to sync everything up. It’s no coincidence that I haven’t told you what year this is or even where this is taking place.
I haven’t decided yet and the last thing I need is to give you some arbitrary detail that you will later ram up my ass.
“How could it be that style of wristwatch in 1998 when they didn’t make them until 2003?”
If that’s what you enjoy doing than just put this down and go terrorize a Dan Brown novel already.
So … Ruth.
She put the two copies of The Plague right next to each other. Covers looked the same. She flipped them open and found they have all the same pertinents. She started to flip through them and compared random pages.
She wondered what she was missing. She reached between her slightly-heaving breasts and removed her reading glasses. After putting them on she noticed that the books were still identical. But different.
Different from when she read them without the glasses. Obviously with the glasses the words were less blurry; do you think I would have made them the focal point of an entire story if all they did was make words less blurry? They also changed the words on the pages. It wasn’t the books, it was the glasses.
She took them off and read a paragraph. She put them on and then read the same paragraph.
With the glasses on, the pages stated exactly what the author intended to say. Gone was all the subtext.
Ruth’s head swam. A pair of glasses that allowed her to understand exactly what was going on without the hidden meanings or metaphors.
After a few minutes of letting that sink in she ran to her bookshelves and located a few books. George Orwell. Oscar Wilde. Voltaire.
She had some reading to do.
Nap roared down the highway with the windows down and the sun roof of his ’78 Le Mans open and, at ninety miles an hour, the wind created such a deafening noise, the only way for him to hear the selection currently residing in the cassette deck was to turn the volume up to a level that would sterilize most humans. Miles away mothers could hear him coming and would gather their children close to them. Hedgerows developed a bustle as he drove past.
Baby, it’s no good. We’re just askin’ for trouble. I can touch you, but I don’t know how to love you. It ain’t no use! We’re headed for disaster. Our minds said, “No!” But our hearts were talkin’ faster, Leah! Ah! Leah! Here we go again! Ah! Leah! Here we go again! Ah! Leah! Leah, Leah, Leah! Ah! Leah! Here we go again!
It was if Donnie Iris was sitting shotgun instead of an actual shotgun. Nap was on vacation and already he could feel himself unwinding.
Now the obvious question is why I would go to the trouble of including a snippet of the song he was listening to, so I’ll go ahead and answer that right now. If this is ever made into a movie I don’t want them to have Nap roaring anywhere listening to any of the crappy stuff you hear on the radio these days. It wasn’t an accident that I said cassette as opposed to CD. The last thing I want is to have Nap associated with some limpdick Justin Timberlake song and I’ll never change my opinion on that unless the price is right.
Nap glanced down at the shotgun sitting shotgun and found it reminded him of work so he picked it up and tossed it out the sunroof. It felt somehow liberating. He was only dimly aware of the car behind him swerving to avoid hitting the hurled weapon and completely unaware of the fact that the car then slid into a half dozen other cars as it tried to regain control. If the sound of that ruckus thought it could somehow make its way into the ear of Nap Lapkin, it was sadly mistaken and the last time he’d checked his rear view mirror was about never. Checking the rear view mirror reminded him of work.
He was completely aware of a half dozen or so tracking devices planted in his car and he was also aware that there was probably an equal number he was unaware of but he breathed out a long sigh and felt that although satellites from a dozen countries were following his every move, it was nice to be off the grid.
There was a slight uptick in the number of people reading Ruth’s book review blog. Typically she had between three and five readers visit a day. After her last critique of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible she had nearly a hundred thousand. The literary world was abuzz over her insights into some of the most celebrated and difficult pieces of literature. Seemingly out of nowhere she was being asked to read books by the likes of The Atlantic and New Yorker. Academics from all over the world were flooding her with questions and invitations to speak at some of the most renowned universities began to trickle in.
Although she had never spoken in front of a crowd before she decided to accept one of the offers because the campus was only a short drive from her house. Although nervous, she found the idea exciting and what’s more they were paying her a nice sum so there didn’t seem to be any reason not to at least give public speaking a try.
She began to have second thoughts as she peered around the curtain at the standing-room-only crowd gathered to hear her. As soon as she began to speak she had third and fourth thoughts about the endeavor as the crowd began to pepper her with questions regarding her pedigree and credentials to be making such game-changing assessments of literary classics. Putting her hand over her eyes she was able to see that fully half of the seats were filled with men in tweed jackets and those without tweed jackets had a pair of spectacles resting nearly at the tip of their noses.
Her humorous quote from a recent Batman movie fell flat and a bead of perspiration made a dash from her forehead down to her cheek in such a manner that she suddenly felt like one of those egg and sausage breakfast sandwiches always sitting under a heat lamp at her local convenience store. Not only in how warm she felt but her ability to answer some of the questions. If she could she would have gestured over to an egg and sausage breakfast sandwich and said “Well, if you’ll let my esteemed colleague here take that one …”
But she couldn’t. There was no egg and sausage breakfast sandwich waiting in the wings to jump in and help out. She began to get flustered and if you’re familiar with librarians you’ll know that there is nothing more dangerous than one that is flustered.
She came clean.
She held up the reading glasses.
The audience fell silent. For a few minutes there was an uncomfortable lull in the lack of action but soon people began to get up and leave the auditorium. Ruth among them.
Almost unnoticed in this lull was the burst of action from a man sitting in the far left corner. Dressed in a grey trench coat, he was the type of man that when most people gave him a good inspection, ominous music began to play in their heads whether they wanted it to or not. Upon hearing Ruth’s confession about the glasses he discretely lifted a cell phone and began to punch in a number to another cell phone in Washington.
As he did this ominous music began to play in his head.