Friday, August 10, 2012

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Chapter 1

I have been doing a lot of work on my book since graduating, and I have been taking a hard look at the beginning. First chapters are very important, for obvious reasons. This post is what I am thinking of making the first chapter. I am wondering what you all think. Would this make you want to read more?

The last time I saw my father was over breakfast, Thanksgiving Day, 2001. I arrived to find him urinating on a patch of scrub oak in an open lot between a gas station and the café. Night frost still clung to the roofs of cars, and the blistery American Fork Canyon wind whipped the steam coming out the stovepipes above the café. I sat in my pickup and waited for Dad to finish. He shook a little as the last lines of fluid struck the bush, then he zipped, strutted across the lot, and into the café.
 By the time I entered, Dad was sitting at a booth, studying the menu. He’d made an effort to fix himself up, wearing a bulky green sweater with only a few grease stains, blue Wrangler jeans, and scuffed white sneakers. He’d shaved his face, but his neck and jawline were still sprinkled with black and gray whiskers. The aroma of coffee and bacon was overshadowed by Dad’s aftershave.
I chose the café because it was within walking distance of his home. Dad was released from jail eighteen months earlier, but he’d yet to get his driver’s license renewed. Every time he’d get close, he'd get pulled over for driving his pickup without a license. Last time he claimed his poodle had gotten out, and he was just trying to find her. “Cops don’t give a shit about your dog,” he said.
We met for breakfast because no one wanted him over for Thanksgiving dinner. My aunt didn’t want him over because “he looked like death,” and because “he swore at the table.” I couldn’t take him to my brother’s because Ryan wanted to have a few drinks during dinner and he didn’t want Dad getting drunk and throwing up in living room like he did the year before. I couldn’t take him to my mother’s because she wished he were dead. And I didn’t want to waste my Thanksgiving dinner with a man who, during the majority of my youth, tried desperately to avoid me. But I didn’t want him to be alone on Thanksgiving, so I agreed to meet him for breakfast, and after calling some family, and a few friends, I eventually found a place for him at the table of his fourth wife.
Dad smiled as I sat at the table, showing the pockmarks in his gums where his teeth used to be. His skin held the moist chalky tone of long drug addiction, his black hair streaked with gray and matted with grease, eyes nicotine white and sunk deep into their sockets. The way he tilted his head to look through his bifocals and thrust out his lower lip while studying the menu were familiar gestures. He still reminded me of the Dad he was when I was a child, carving stick horses and tending the grill in our backyard. The dad who wore a dark brown suit on Sunday. His hands were still calloused and scarred from working with sheet metal, but his fingers were thin and spider-like from all the whiskey and painkillers.
We ordered. Dad chose the Lumberjack Breakfast because it had four of everything: pancakes, toast, bacon, sausage, ham, and eggs.
“Damn,” he said, “I’m hungry.”
I don’t think he really was. Dad stood five foot seven inches and couldn’t have weighed more than 110 pounds, his skull pushing forward through a mask of skin and sparse hair like a stone near the surface of a river. This was the leanest I’d ever seen him. The big meal, the bulky sweater, was to make me think he was healthy.
Dad started talking about the shed attached to the house he was renting. He’d been fired from Jamison Heating and Air Conditioning a few months earlier for selling prescription drugs to employees. Working for others is the shits, or so he claimed. His plan was to start another heating and air conditioning business by installing insulation, a forced air heater, and a workbench into the shed. It was to be something like the business he had when he was married to my mother. A man needs a place to work, or so he thought.
“I’m worried about you,” I said, and Dad told me he was worried about himself. “I can’t get this thing off the ground without some cash.”
On my way to the café, I thought about how Dad would most likely ask me for money, and although I knew I’d cave, I promised myself that I wouldn’t give him any.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about the way you look,” I said.
He sat silent for a moment, his dry tongue dragging across his cracked lips. He leaned back, crossed his legs under the table, and said, “Worry a little more about yourself. I’m fine.” He lightly tapped his fingers against the table as though he settled an argument.
Our meals arrived. We sat in silence, like we often did. Dad struggled to chew, his jaw clamping down with short jerks, his gums mashing up a sausage link. The majority of his meal was placed in a to go box.
Before we left, I handed him $40 and told him to spend it on his new business, and yet I knew it would be spent on Jack Daniel's and Vicodin. Dad pulled out his thin leather wallet, the same wallet my mother gave him on their last anniversary almost 10 years earlier, un-folded it, and slid the bills inside. He didn’t say thanks. He just looked at me, curled his upper lip, and cocked his head.


Bridger said...

Yes, I really l like it and would continue reading. I liked how open the author is. However, I dont know even at this moment if this if fiction it nonfiction, or what the book us about?
Keep writing! This is great!

-Bridger Jensen

Clint Edwards said...

Bridger: How are you? Thanks for reading! It is a memoir about my father's drug addiction and how it impacted me as a teen, and later as father.

I suppose I should have posted this information in the intro. The reason I didn't is because it seems the same people read my blog and already know about my project.

PQBridger Jensen said...

ahhh. I read it on my phone and didnt see the context. Love the sory and the writing! Keep it up.

I'm doing great btw. I live in Hawaii, have a family of three kids and practice therapy as a family therapist specializing in families with teens. thanks for asking!

Anita said...

Now that I'm not reading against a black background, the story is great! I'm hooked. Keep writing!

SM Anderson said...

Good read, though I am partial to storytellers from Minnesota. I suppose storytellers via Minnesota is acceptable, too.