Thursday, September 4, 2008

Friday Fiction for September 5th, 2008

Welcome to my Friday Fiction submission for September 5th, 2008. This week’s story is an excerpt from the fourth book in the Pod series, Merrowsong. One of the things I think Christian writers need to work on more in our stories is our willingness to deal with the foibles in our own midst. It’s easy to polarize our characters across the Christian/non-Christian line, and make the Christian characters all good, and the not-so-good characters non-Christian.

I believe if we want the world to take our fiction seriously, so that the themes we wish to convey are communicated effectively, we need to quit turning a blind eye to the not-so-good characters among us. A character doesn’t have to be blatantly bad to be an example of what we shouldn’t want to be, nor do they need to have malicious motivations.

Leah in this story is the daughter of Rev. Diego and Sally Hyland. She and twin sister Rachel are now college aged, and living in Southern California. Rachel is the outgoing, impulsive daughter, while Leah has always been more shy and inhibited. This scene takes place over Thanksgiving weekend, as Leah meets her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Don't forget to check the Patterings page for links to more Friday Fiction

The Girl in the Chair
From the book, Merrowsong
By Rick Higginson

Will whipped the Honda into the hotel parking lot, taking the corner just a bit faster than he should have and laughing when the back end fishtailed a little. She hated it when he drove like that, and Leah held tight to the armrest on the door through the maneuver. She refrained from comment; he never reacted well to critiques of his driving.

They parked next to the car with the Oregon plates, and he bounced out of the car with boyish enthusiasm. “Come on,” he said. “Their room is over here.”

She was starting to wish she’d had other plans for Friday evening. Meeting Will’s parents at their hotel and then going to dinner with them had sounded fine when the idea had first been discussed, but she was having second thoughts at meeting Reverend and Mrs. Nickman. Straightening the long skirt he’d suggested she wear for the evening, she did her best to ignore her nervous feeling and hurried to catch up with him.

He knocked on the door, which opened promptly to reveal a balding, portly man.

“William, my boy! Come in; come in!” The man threw an effusive embrace around Will.

“Hi Pop; I’m so glad you decided to come down for the weekend. I’ve wanted you to meet Leah for so long!”

She stood outside the door, feeling very self-conscious, when the man grabbed her in a bear-hug.

“So this is the little girl that caught our William’s eye, eh?” he said, releasing her from the hug but holding her out at arms’ length to look at her.

Feeling more like a used car the man was evaluating, she gave her best attempt at a smile. “I’m Leah Hyland, sir,” she said, annoyed that Will hadn’t bothered to introduce them. Marcel had made a point of introducing all of them to his friend, Lana; was it that difficult for Will to introduce his parents?

“Norman Nickman,” he said, grasping her hand in an uncomfortably tight handshake. “Most folks just call me Pastor Norm, though. The little woman over here is my lovely wife, Wilma.”

She was thankful his name hadn’t been Fred. She wasn’t sure she could have contained her laughter if they’d been Fred and Wilma, as much as he was already reminding her of the cartoon caveman.

“Charmed,” Wilma Nickman said. Her handshake was every bit as limp as her husband’s was firm.

“Come in, come in,” Pastor Norm boomed. “No point in hovering in the doorway, eh?”

She didn’t bother to point out to him that so far he had blocked the entrance. When he moved back and gestured, she and Will entered the room and the door was closed behind them.

“Have a seat, have a seat; take a load off your feet and we can get to know each other.” He settled regally into a well-padded recliner, while Will plopped onto one of the two dining room style chairs in the room.

She looked at the remaining chair, and the tired look on the older woman’s face. “Mrs. Nickman, why don’t you take the other chair? I’ll either stand, or just sit on the bed.”

“Call her Sister Wilma; everyone does,” Pastor Norm said. “You take the seat, Leah; you’re the guest tonight. Wilma, my dear, would you bring me a cup of coffee? Will, Leah; would you like anything? We have coffee in the pot, and sodas in the fridge.”

“Nothing for me, thank you,” Leah said.

“I’ll take a cola if you have one, Mom.”

The woman moved almost mechanically to the back of the room where the coffee pot sat, and prepared her husband’s cup with a practiced routine. Pulling a can of cola from the refrigerator, she carried both back up the men.

Pastor Norm took his cup. “Sit; sit,” he said with a gesture towards Leah. “Are you sure you don’t want anything? If it’s something we don’t have, Sister Wilma can get it from the vending machine down the hall.”

Will took his soda with barely an acknowledgement. She knew her mother would not tolerate such treatment, and Marcel always treated Marta with respect and courtesy. Was Will allowed to all but ignore his mother?

“Really, I’m fine; thank you,” she said, taking the chair reluctantly.

“Good, good; so, Will tells me you’re studying Christian Education?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Excellent, excellent. Such a degree can be a valuable asset to a church in setting up a good Sunday School program. I hear you have a twin sister; what’s she studying?”

“My sister Rachel is hoping to get into the art program at San Diego State University.”

“I see, I see; Will tells me she’s living with a young man down in San Diego. Not good; not good at all. Your father is a pastor also, I hear? Her arrangement doesn’t reflect well on him at all, at all.”

“The arrangement is completely platonic, I assure you.” She suspected Pastor Norm already knew more than enough about Rachel and her aspirations.

“Yes, yes; it’s very admirable that you believe the best of your sister and defend her. Very admirable, very admirable, indeed.” His tone was dismissive of her argument.

Wilma Nickman stood quietly to the side, her head lowered and her hands clasped loosely in front of her skirt. Pastor Norm started an aside discussion with Will concerning Rachel, and Leah stole a glance at the older woman.

There was a sharp intelligence lurking behind the woman’s eyes, but her expression showed she had learned to keep it to herself. The look of empathy she gave Leah was at once endearing and frightening. Once upon a time, she had been the girl sitting in the chair.


Joanne Sher said...

Wonderful characterization. I DEFINITELY want to know more about Wilma. Guess I'll need to read the book, eh? (When it's done) Always love your stuff, Rick, and I'm so glad you're doing Friday Fiction :)

Tracy said...

Hey there,Rick! This is such a great story. I completely agree with your intro about Christians versus non-Christians - we're all human. I agree with Joanne, I too want to know more about Wilma! Thanks for participating in FF and sharing your delightful stories with us.

Thank you too, for visiting my blog and commenting on my story. I have to admit, I've never had a comment make me laugh out loud so enthusiasticly and for so long! I'll keep in mind your suggestion next time! ;)

Dee Yoder said...

Wow, Rick. You captured this man and his ways perfectly. Unfortunately, I've met my share of his kind. I hope Leah takes a good look and runs the other direction!

Patty Wysong said...

These characters jump off the page, Rick! I sure hope Leah doesn't continue with Will!