There’s Something Here From Somewhere Else (Part 4 of 5)
(first appeared at valterramagazines.com October 2013 issue)
Meanwhile back in Washington … and don’t think that starting off that sentence with “Meanwhile” was an accident. Meanwhile is known as the most sinister of the conjunctive adverbs. No doubt that as soon as you saw that word sitting on top of the new sentence a small chill ran down your spine and you settled even deeper into your chair, waiting for whatever villainy was soon to be coming down the pike.
And rest assured you will not be disappointed because the man behind the desk in the unnecessarily shadowy office in Washington is up to his old tricks again. A new equally chiseled man now sat in front of him telling him the news about the old chiseled man that had previously been in front of him when we last visited this unnecessarily shadowy office in Washington.
The man behind the desk was unamused.
“What the fuck was Lapkin doing there?” he thundered.
“We can’t be sure sir.”
“Was there a gun show in town? Was it buy one, get one free at Hookers Are Us?” The man behind the man behind the desk had just called asking about the reading glasses and when the man behind the desk had told the man behind the man behind the desk that they were still not in his possession he had been reminded that there are any number of other men who would love the opportunity to get behind that desk.
The man in front of the desk sensed that things were about to get loud.
Instead they got quiet.
Then they got loud again.
“I want everyone on this. Everyone who is not out of the fucking country or ass deep in alligators is on a plane or a train or a fucking push cart to get me my glasses. Is that understood?”
The new chiseled man nodded. “Crystal.”
He went to stand up and then stopped himself.
“And what about Lapkin?”
Somewhere in the back of the chiseled man’s head the ominous music that had been playing since he stepped into the unnecessarily shadowy office grew a bit louder.
The man behind the desk reached over and picked up his pack of cigarettes. He slowly opened the carton as if mulling over this latest inquiry. He slowly lit it. He leaned back and slowly took in a long drag.
The chiseled man winced as the ominous music in his head became deafening and he leaned in slightly, afraid he might not be able to make out what the man behind the desk said in reply.
“Try not to let him kill everybody.”
“It has to be the glasses,” Ruth told Nap as they sat on the metal bleachers next to the ball field next to the water tower. “It’s the only thing I can think of.”
She handed them to him and he looked them over for signs of secret compartments or concealed weaponry.
“What do they do?” he asked after finding nothing interesting about them.
“I’m not sure how to say this. They let me read what the writer meant as opposed to what he actually wrote.” She sighed. “I’m not sure why this would make those men want to …” her voice drifted off as she saw the expression on Nap’s face change.
“Think about it,” he said. He had already thought about it. In his line of work a pair of glasses like that could change the game.
In her line of work it could make her an awesome librarian. She did not understand.
“Do you mean like the N word in The Constitution?”
“For starters. Do you have any idea how many things are written in Washington, in Moscow, in Beijing? How many lies are being told?”
Her face fell. She understood. The N word in The Constitution was just the tip of the iceberg. Nap handed the eyewear in question back to her.
“Where did you get these glasses anyhow?” Nap asked after letting the implications sink in a bit.
“At a yard sale. A stupid yard sale in a stupid $1 box.” Ruth began to get upset, the adrenaline of the past hour beginning to drain away. She choked up and a tear began a leisurely crawl down her cheek. Everything about her screamed vulnerability and Nap reacted the only way he knew how.
“Listen, I would bang you nine ways to Sunday if we had time but I’m afraid we need to find out more about these glasses. Time is short. I have no doubt company is on its way.”
Ruth’s body tightened. The hug she was expecting was not incoming. Instead she was now imagining a sky filled with helicopters, all of them searching for her. And the damn reading glasses that sat wedged comfortably between her sweater melons.
It was a short walk to his ’78 Le Mans and an even shorter drive to where Ruth had purchased the glasses. 100 Grapeberry Drive. It had been Nap’s experience that any address that sounded like it was only a block away from the Lollipop Forest was bad news. When he pulled up to a nondescript home in a nondescript neighborhood he was still on edge. Had he known that the place was only so nondescript because I didn’t feel like descripting it, I’m sure he would have felt much better but then a spy that drops his guard is likely to be an ex-spy pretty quickly so in the end it all works out for the best.
Green. The house is green. A split level, one car garage. Happy now? Honestly, it makes no difference. Just assume if I don’t go to great lengths to describe something that you’re free to picture it, within reason, however you want. Just know that if there was a helipad on the roof or it was ringed with razor wire I would have pointed it out.
It’s a fucking green house that needs a new coat of paint. All clear? Can we move on now?
As Ruth read the diary there were forces gathering outside the green split-level house in need of a coat of paint. Some of them Special Forces. They had been drawn to the house by the various tracking devices inserted in Nap’s car and now they were coordinating amongst themselves who would storm the house and who would sit back and wait for those people to be killed by Nap Lapkin. If it weren’t for the fact that the man behind the desk in Washington had plans for those reading glasses he would have just ordered a strike on the house that would have left the entire neighborhood a smoldering hole in the ground.
A hole that Nap would have no doubt climbed out of.
Word was, among the agencies that had need of such people, that Lapkin was immune to the effects of both tear gas and stun grenades. The last time he had been shot it was only discovered after a routine examination found a small opening in his chest cavity. He had also violated Madonna Axiom on at least half a dozen occasions. Madonna, the reigning piece-of-ass Amazonian in the intelligence community.
The chatter on the walkie talkies surrounding the green split-level in need of a coat of paint was getting a little irritable. Protocol began to break down and harsh words were exchanged. Feelings began to get hurt.
Nobody wanted to be the first to enter the house.
“If this diary is correct, things are a lot worse than either of us could have imagined,” Ruth said cryptically.
“I can imagine some pretty bad stuff,” countered Lap. “In fact, I’ve seen stuff that most people can’t imagine so you can only imagine the stuff I can imagine.”
“I’m serious. Do you know anything about Hindu gods?”
Nap thought for a minute.
“Buddha and that gang?”
“No. Not Buddha. Vishnu. Krishna. Ganesha. That gang,” Ruth retorted rather sharply.
“I’m not sure you have the right gang. Ganesha sounds like an Italian pastry.”
“My point,” she said in a frosty tone, “is that a lot of what has been written about their version of the end of days isn’t quite accurate … according to the diary anyway.”
“How so?” Nap didn’t really care but he didn’t want the little scene to lose any of the building drama. He remembered that Ruth was a librarian and now suspected that they had come to the part where she leisurely removed the glasses, undid the clip that held her hair up and shook her hair free in slow motion. He thought she might even bite her lower lip ever so slightly.
She explained about Saraswati imprisoning the beast of doom at the bottom of the sea, complete with the bit about keeping him there as long the world is pure and man is wise. She decided to use the “beast of doom” moniker over the Shiva Badavagni tag in the hopes of conveying to Nap the seriousness of the situation. Her gut told her this was a good decision as he seemed to perk up at the name.
“Apparently the legends were wrong. She’s not imprisoning him until ‘wisdom is abandoned and man corrupts the world;’ she is imprisoning him until someone unworthy takes possession of these damn glasses.”
“Hindu gods are the ones that have all the extra arms, correct?” Nap had managed to grab the wrong end of the story and now seemed determined to slowly wrestle his way to the other end. “Swords and elephant heads if I’m not mistaken.”
“Listen, we don’t have time for this. Saraswati was talking about these glasses the whole time. They are some sort of litmus test for humanity. If they fall into the wrong hands Shiva will be released and the world as we know it will come to a swift and rather unpleasant end.”
She paused to let that sink in.
“You’re not telling me that I’ve gotten roped into saving the world again are you?” said a now animated Lapkin.
“That’s what you’re taking from this? That you’re somehow going to be inconvenienced?” Ruth was livid. “I’m not sure who the hell you are but …”
That’s when the front door exploded inward.
I know you’re bracing yourself for an action-packed ending here but let me stop for a second and ask if you remember reading those books when you were a kid that let you pick the direction you wanted the story to go.
I know there were a lot of Dungeon & Dragons books like that but I distinctly remember there being a lot of other ones as well. Encyclopedia Brown for instance. If you pick up the rusty sword turn to page 135, if you think Sally Jackson was the one who stole the bike turn to page 70. That type of thing.
I always wondered why there weren’t any adult books that gave the reader these types of options. I can’t count the times where I’m eighty percent through a great book when all of a sudden the author takes the plot in some stupid direction and blows the whole deal. I sit clutching the pages in an impotent rage, wishing all manner of awful things on the writer and hoping somehow to get those hours of my life back.
I dare say you might be experiencing something similar even as we speak. And by we I mean me and by speak I mean write.
Be that as it may, now that I’m on the writing side of the equation I can now see why offering readers choices as you plow along with a story is such a bad idea.
It would be a lot of work.
I’m sure there are some of you that would love to go back and have Nap hesitate in the library and not fire blindly behind his back killing his chiseled contemporary Tim but let me assure you, if he hadn’t done exactly that Tim would have killed him. Tim would have then killed Ruth and taken the glasses.
Is that really what you would have wanted?
The only other alternative would have been for me to sit down and write an entirely different book and believe me when I say it’s doubtful that this one will ever get finished let alone another version.
Now take and multiply it by another dozen twists and turns this story could have taken and you’ll see why nobody writes books like that for adults.
It’s just not doable.
But before you go off sulking let me offer you the following compromise: I can’t go back and change the fact that Nap shot Tim in the library but I will give you a choice of endings now.
That seems very reasonable, don’t you think?