Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday Fiction for June 12, 2009

I missed Friday Fiction last week, due to preparations for a weekend trip to Mexico. This week, Patty is hosting over on her blog, Patterings. Look for the links to other Friday Fiction in the comments following Patty’s story this week.

My story this week is one that takes place “behind the scenes” towards the end of “Cardan’s Pod.” Long after I finished the original story, I started thinking about how Josh might have felt during that “transition” time after the crisis is over and he’s coming to grips with a new life.

I also wanted to sketch out Diego Hyland’s parents a bit. His father, Police Sergeant Geoff Hyland, makes an appearance in the book, but it’s very brief. Eventually, I want to spend more time with Juanita Hyland as well, but Geoff gets the larger part in this story, making its premiere for Friday Fiction.

Visiting Home
By Rick Higginson

Josh had heard of people returning to their childhood homes after traumatic events, seeking the security and warmth that they’d known during a time of innocence. It was an appealing idea, but other people owned that house now, while his parents rested in a quiet place beneath a pair of matching headstones. He started the car and began driving. At first it seemed as though he drove aimlessly, but soon he found himself heading down familiar turns towards a modest suburb. He had come this way many times as a boy, and even as a young man this route had been almost automatic for him. Now that he thought about it, he was doing exactly as he had considered, only to a different home.

Diego Hyland’s parents still lived in the large but modest home they’d owned when he’d first met Diego. At that time, the house had been filled with the Hyland family and the numerous friends that seemed to congregate in the warm rooms. Most of the children were grown and moved away now, and Josh wasn’t sure if the youngest still remained at home, or whether she’d gone away to school now as well. He stopped the car in front of the house and looked longingly at the inviting light pouring from the front window. It was getting late, and he hadn’t called to ask if he could stop by. Most of the bedroom windows were dark, with no one occupying them to need the light. Josh wondered how long it would be before the empty nest syndrome drove the older couple to sell the big house and move to someplace smaller and more manageable. It would be a sad day for this neighborhood when they did; the Hylands were like a fixture here, and most all the children in the area knew that in the event of trouble they could find a safe haven with the police sergeant and his wife.

A knock on his car window made him nearly jump out of his seat, and he turned to see the face of Geoff Hyland smiling at him. He rolled down his window to speak with the man. “Mr. Hyland; you startled me!”

“It’s nice to know the desk job hasn’t made me lose my touch. You haven’t called me Mr. Hyland since that first day Diego brought you over for that first visit,” the older man recalled. “Since when have you gone formal on me, Josh?”

“I’m sorry, Pop.”

“Now, that’s better. Are you going to sit out here and stare at the house all night, or are you going to park in the driveway and visit a while?”

“It’s awfully late; I wasn’t sure it was a good time to visit.”

“It’s never too late; you need to come by, you come to the door no matter what time it is. Come on up to the house and say hello; Mama is dying to see you.”

He pulled the car into the driveway and parked, getting out even as Geoff Hyland caught up with him.

“We were hoping you’d come by. When we heard you were missing, it couldn’t have felt much worse if it had been one of our own children.” Geoff placed a fatherly hand on his shoulder. “You had a lot of people praying for you, though it seemed pretty hopeless there for a while.”

They walked through the door and Josh was immediately swept into a fierce embrace by Mrs. Hyland, who pulled his face down to hers to plant kisses on his cheek.

“Mama’s happy to see you,” Geoff commented.

She released him from her embrace. “Oh, and like you’re not happy to see him?” She teased her husband. “Come in and sit down; I’ll get you something to eat.” She instructed Josh.

“I’m fine, Mama; no need to go to any trouble.”

“Nonsense; it’s no trouble,” she dismissed his objection.

Josh sat at the table with Geoff taking the seat across from him. Juanita placed a mug in front of each of them and poured them some coffee, and served up a generous slice of homemade pastry to her guest. Bringing her own mug filled with an aromatic tea, she sat next to her husband and the three exchanged small talk until Juanita was ready for bed. “You are staying the night?” Her invitation implied that the decision was already made.

“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Josh replied.

Her brown eyes were soft and understanding as she looked at him. “You don’t have to tell me that you’re selling your house, Josh; I could see it in your eyes when you walked in. You came here tonight because you needed someplace that felt like home, and as long as there is a Hyland in this house you will always be loved and welcome here.” She kissed his forehead. “The guest bed is ready for you, and the bath linens are where they’ve always been. I’ll see you in the morning.” She kissed her husband goodnight and disappeared upstairs.

The two men sat in silence for a while, sipping their coffee until their mugs were empty. “You need another cup, Josh?”

He shook his head. “If I have any more, I’ll never get to sleep tonight.”

“You know you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want. We’re happy to have you while you look for a new home.”

“I appreciate that, Pop, and I love staying with you and Mama. I’ve already found a new home, though. I just can’t go there tonight since I have some more business here on the mainland to finish.”

“The island where Diego and Sally found you?”

He nodded and smiled.

“Sally said that an angel rescued you; that was all she and Diego would tell us.” He rubbed at his chin. “You know, you don’t have to go out to some island to know that angels are close by, Josh.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said with a chuckle. “Sally reminded me that angels can appear in many forms.”

“What’s really out there that you want to go back? I hope it’s not solitude you’re seeking, hoping to protect yourself from being hurt again like Cynthia hurt you.”

“There’s a family out there, Pop; people that were willing to risk a lot when I needed them, and now they need me just as much as I still need them.”

“I see,” he said. “This family is such that my son wouldn’t tell me about them? Is there something about them Mama and I would disapprove of?”

“I wish I could take you both out to meet them; I really do. The decision’s out of my hands, though. The government stepped in and clamped a security classification on the place.”

“But they’re going to let you back in?”

“I’m part of it now, Pop. I’m not an outsider being allowed to visit; I’m one of them.”

“Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment, then. Why are you a part of this group now? What took you from being an outsider to being an insider?”

“It’s hard to explain without going into details I can’t reveal, but I think it’s best summed up by saying that they were there when I needed them, and then I was there when they needed me.”

“Do you still need them?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Why? What do they bring to the table that you couldn’t get here or somewhere else?”

He thought for a minute before replying. “They bring life, Pop. They bring innocence and joy, strength and vulnerability. When I’m with them, I feel more alive than I ever have in my entire life.”

He nodded. “I see. Tell me; do they still need you? What do you bring to the table?”

“I bring the table, with sustenance. They were living hand-to-mouth on what they could find, and often with barely enough to survive. I bring my voice, and the ability to go where they cannot and be their advocate. I bring them a home and security.”

“You’re bringing an awful lot to the table, then. How long will you keep bringing this to them?”

“I owe them my life; I plan to keep doing this for them for as long as I’m able.”

“A sense of obligation and debt can sour very quickly. What if you start to resent this obligation to them?”

“What if you started to resent having to care for your wife and children, Pop? What then?”

He smiled. “So, you see this group the same way I see my family, then?”

“Very much so; maybe Diego can’t tell you even as much as I have, but if you ask him, he’ll tell you. They’re a family out there, and I’m privileged to have been invited to stay a part of it.”

“Would this invitation have come if you’d been a poor, working man, rather than a wealthy corporation owner?”

“The invitation came when I was a castaway with no more than any of them had, and when we had no idea if I would ever be able to return to the mainland, so yes. Their love for me has nothing to do with my money.”

1 comment:

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, good! Love these "backstory" pieces. Great characterization.