Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Book Excerpt: The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner
How did everyone enjoy yesterday's guest post (the first ever for Nylon Admiral by the way)?
I thought it was fascinating to read how wide and varied a life Theodore Weesner has lived and the devotion he has shown to his writing career. Something that I'm sure you all can imagine is expressed wonderfully through his writing. As promised I have an excerpt from the book for you all to read. I'll stop waffling and let you all sink you teeth into the goodness below soon enough, but before I do I just want to remind you all to click through if you're interested in reading some more about the book, its critical reception and the links to the myriad sites where you can purchase it.
Now, this excerpt is from the second chapter and follows the theft of Alex's 14th car. Bored and wanting to do something crazy, Alex decides to do the unexpected and actually attend school for once.
ALEX PARKED THE BUICK three blocks from the school, where he had parked the day before, and walked back. The snow had turned to rain by now and the leather of his shoes was quickly soaked black. He had considered clearing the car of evidence, to wipe away fingerprints and to empty the ashtray, but for no clear reason he parked it and let it stand. About ten minutes remained in the lunch hour, and as he walked back, the feeling of drawing nearer to the school moved through him with the sensation of a wind rising and falling, rising again.
Ahead, before the dairy bars, there were only a few students about, and they were walking with their faces down against the damp snow. Alex walked past the parked cars, cars which were full, their windows steamed over. The windows of the dairy bars across the street were also steamed over. He did not cross the street. He was growing vaguely weak in his joints, fluid in his muscles. He imagined a car door being thrown open, or the door of one of the dairy bars being thrown open, and someone running—he would not run himself—and grabbing his arm, calling back to the others following, as if they could not see, “I got him, here he is, I got him,” the others strung out, walking, trotting, smiling, without their coats. Teachers could see from the second- and third-floor windows across the street, men teachers whispering afterward as Mr. Burke had once, after a fight, whispered to him, “Hey, who got his clock cleaned down there?”
He did not look toward the steamed windows of the dairy bars across the street. He walked by and crossed over to the sidewalk leading to the school. He was thinking he might as well try to hit one of them, maybe feign submission, for there would be words, and come up, come around, with all he had—he might as well try for Cricket Alan, close his eye, break his nose bone, maybe knock him out, cold-cock him. But no one came running after him, and he walked along, rubbery. Just as he reached the heavy double door, the other side came swinging open and startled him. It was a girl, nameless, a familiar and pudgy face. She wrinkled her face and turned it down immediately against the weather, and went on, and he forced a weak smile over the jumping of his heart.
Within the warm air he foolishly stomped his feet on the link-metal mat, splashing the water the mat lay in on his pants legs. He walked on into the first-floor corridor. In spite of all else there was a faint feeling of coming home after having been away. Here was the tile floor, the familiar hallways lined with dark-green lockers, the whiskey-colored varnished molding, the globes hanging from the ceiling. Except for two girls walking away on the right, the corridor was empty. Far off, also to the right, music was playing, record music from the noon-hour dance in the girls’ gym, which, because he had never learned to dance, he always avoided.
His locker was to the left, in the basement near his homeroom. He walked along. Here he was, he had come back, the object, he believed, of a morning of corridor conversations. But the first student he saw, Barry Fagan, coming down the stairway ahead, walking fast, looked at him as he passed, nodded, walked on. Alex tried not to walk too fast, or too slow, and it was difficult to coordinate himself.
Going down the stairs to the basement, he met his homeroom teacher, Mr. Hewitt, coming up. Mr. Hewitt, besides teaching history, was the varsity baseball coach, and a quiet man, neither popular nor unpopular. He nodded lightly at Alex as they passed. Then, behind him, Alex heard Mr. Hewitt say, “Alex, were you here this morning?”
Pausing, Alex said, “No.”
“Where were you?”
Rather than condemnation, there was some kindness in the man’s voice, and Alex, stopped on the steps, was affected and weakened by it. He found it hard to look up at Mr. Hewitt, who stood waiting. At last, glancing up, Alex said, “I’m back to school now.”
Mr. Hewitt was amused. “You’re back. Good, I’m glad to hear that. Where have you been?”
“Nowhere,” Alex said. “Just messing around.” He stood where he was, looking down again, knowing that Mr. Hewitt was standing there looking at him.
“You have a minute?” Mr. Hewitt said. “I’d like to talk with you.”
Alex hunched his shoulders, to say yes, and walked along slightly to the rear of the man. They went past Alex’s locker and into the homeroom, and Alex still found it hard to look up. It seemed that if he did, something like whimpering would spread from his chest to his throat. He glanced up enough to see that Karen Parker was sitting at a desk in the homeroom, reading, and looked away as Mr. Hewitt said to her, “Karen, would you excuse us a minute, please?”
She did not quite understand, and Mr. Hewitt added after a pause, “We’d like to have a talk in private for a minute.”
“Oh,” she said. Alex heard her gather her things and heard Mr. Hewitt step over to close the door behind her.
Mr. Hewitt said, “Sit down.”
Alex sat down, looking ahead to look away. He saw the bottom half of Mr. Hewitt move to a seat on a desk top. Mr. Hewitt said, “You’ve gotten yourself into some kind of a dilemma, haven’t you?”
Alex had not expected or wanted kindness from anyone; he was too easily affected by it, and even as he smiled lightly, his cheeks were trembling and he could not look up.
“Can you tell me what’s happened?” Mr. Hewitt said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Alex said quickly.
“Why are you so upset?” Mr. Hewitt said. He spoke all the more kindly.
Alex hunched his shoulders and lips again, as if not knowing or not wanting to say.
“Something at home?”
“Nah,” Alex said.
“I know you’ve missed a lot of school lately. What have you been doing? I’m not going to punish you or anything. Perhaps I can help.”
“Ah, just a lot of bad things,” Alex said. But his voice failed to work clearly—it rose at the end—and he continued to look ahead at nothing, angry with his voice, with himself.
“What kind of bad things? You mean skipping school?”
“What, exactly? Can you tell me? You feel free to tell me?”
Unable to speak and unable to look, Alex hunched his shoulders again—he didn’t know. He felt his lower lip reaching out.
Someone opened the door and came walking in. Alex’s view to the door was blocked and he did not look anyway, but Mr. Hewitt said impatiently, “Please wait outside and close the door.”
After a pause, almost in a whisper, Mr. Hewitt said, “Serious bad things?”
Alex nodded once. He did not look up. He knew Mr. Hewitt was studying him, and in his pause, that Mr. Hewitt believed him.
“These wallets—the money taken from the locker room. Do you know anything about that?”
For a moment neither of them spoke or moved. Then Mr. Hewitt said, “I’m afraid the class is about to start. But I want you to do me a favor—I want you to come back this afternoon after school—immediately after—will you do that?”
Alex moved his shoulders again and more or less nodded that he would.
He stood up as Mr. Hewitt rose, but he still could not look at the man. He walked over toward the door without looking back, and heard Mr. Hewitt say behind him, “Don’t get too worried now. It’ll work itself out.”
Alex said nothing; before him through the glass half of the door he saw faces on top of and beside each other. They began to separate and back off before he touched the doorknob.
He stepped through them without looking at a face, saw bodies before him in the thickening corridor, and heard someone whisper, “What’s going on?” The bell, ringing suddenly, startled him.
At his locker, facing the wall and holding his lock in his hand, he tried to tell himself the numbers. They came close but he could not quite catch them. He fingered the lock’s black face, and beside him someone said, “Hey, what was that all about?”
Alex turned and looked at the boy beside his shoulder but could not think of his name, however familiar his face. “What?” he said to the boy.
The boy spoke again, but Alex’s mind was hearing Mr. Hewitt again and he did not hear the boy. Alex turned his back on him, as if to conceal the working of his combination, and the boy’s hand fell on his shoulder. “Hey,” the boy said, and Alex, not looking back, suddenly, violently, whipped his shoulder to shake off the hand. The hand did not return. Nor did Alex look back. He continued staring down, hardly seeing the face of the lock.
In a moment he knew, decided in the knowing, that he was not going to the afternoon classes. What was he doing there? How could he have thought of coming to school? Sitting at a desk, sitting there, sitting there, sitting there. He closed his eyes for a moment, still facing the wall. But he could not see what he seemed to have been trying to see.
At last he let the lock drop. He turned to leave, making his way as calmly as he could through the confusion of corridor movement, aiming for the side door on the landing, fifty feet away, aiming for the gray and cold air outside. He experienced a slight shivering of panic as he walked, panic against the ringing of the second bell, a fear of being collared by some teacher, being led to a classroom and turned over to another teacher like an errant Tom Sawyer when he was of a range of mind this moment to go for the teacher’s head, or eyes, or throat.
I hope you all enjoyed this brief foray into what seems like a unique book (I'm hoping to finally get a chance to read it once my uni commitments start to die down). If you're interested in learning more, click through the link provided at the top of the post. And if you missed the guest post by the author yesterday, be sure to click through to read it now.