A serialised novel
…“We’d like to see you. I was worried when I saw Mr. Parks leave just now.” Mr. Parks? …“I’ll open the door.” I say, “But she’s not coming in…Felicity or whatever. Not her.” …Good shoes, a sharp suit, no fuss. One hand in his trouser pocket. His face winces, like he’s trodden on something painful like… “Felicity was keen to see you again Shem, but she understands what you’ve been through. She’ll wait. We’ve all been waiting.” … What? Leave? I hadn’t thought of that…Like, I’m not sure I’m ready.I really don’t know where to start Shem. Perhaps you have some questions?” He throws this out alongside his right hand, like it was scattering imaginary seed over the floor…
My feet stick to the floor and it seems like I’m taking long stretched-out strides towards Mr. O’Donnel. He’s got his back to me and is scraping together my scribbles from the notebook and, I notice, pocketing the pencil like he doesn’t want to leave anything behind for Harry. I’m breathing hard now and thinking ‘what am I getting myself into with this guy?’
I mean, this room is all I’ve known right? Ok, so not all I’ve known. Like there’s stuff going on in my head that does not come from my time in the room – that’s from somewhere else. But I don’t have a clue where or even when that other time was. The only things I can say I really know are all that’s happened here. This is my room. My world. The rest is all in my head. And I ‘m just about to walk out on it all because this seems like a nice guy with a posh accent.? Sheesh, what a shmuck.
He turns to me as I draw alongside him, taking in the now bare table. You’d never know I had been there – which is good from a Harry point of view but makes me feel kinda insignificant at the same time. Like, is that it? Just take a few things away and it’s like I was never there? Shit. What a life. Just scrape your stuff off the floor and you’re gone – done – that’s it – nothing left of you, farewell fella.
So he turns to me right and he can tell what I’m thinking. So he puts his hand on my shoulder and looks into my eyes. I’m thinking what a straight nose he’s got. Like a freeway running straight up to the twin tunnels of his eyes. But these are warm and deep, not cold and scary, you know? I feel his grip on my shoulders as he squeezes and I can feel the heat from his smile. I don’t see it, really, just feel it. Weird huh? Like it’s running down his face and sliding through his arm and down into my body.
“Don’t worry Shem. Everything’s going to be just fi…”
I don’t notice his voice trailing off right away. Me, I’m still basking in that smile so I guess I finish off his sentence for him. “Everything’s going to be just fine.” Yeah, just fine.
Then I hear the footsteps on the stairs too.
Looking up into his face he gives my shoulder a last squeeze and a look of regret goes across his face, a lingering doubt.
“Just wait here Shem. I’ll go and see who it is.” He walks slowly to the door and just dips his head a little as the feet scrape to a halt outside. Now I don’t know much about stuff outside but I can tell you they ain’t no high heels this time.
‘Course I jump like a dumb shmuck when the knock comes but O’Donnel doesn’t move at all. Maybe he’s even stopped breathing. He waits. Tall and bent toward the door.
“Hey Buddy, you gonna open the door or what?” It’s Harry. Shit. I mean it’s Harry! I didn’t see that one coming. Did O’Donnel? Who knows. Shit. Now I’m the one who’s not breathing. I’m watching Mr. O’Donnel calmly stand back, straighten his tie and reach up to the switch at the door. He spares me one look before pressing the button but I know my open mouth and shaking head ain’t going to sway him.
It’s weird, that moment. Like I’m watching some kind of a film playing itself out. Don’t ask me how I know, right? Because I sure couldn’t name any films I’ve ever seen. But I knew he’d open that damn door as soon as I heard the footsteps. Knew he’d stand right up there straight and tall and take it head on, right there. Right now. And all I could do is watch.
So the door swings open and Harry blusters in like a man coming in from the rain. He’s wearing the self-same clothes as before and his head is still wobbling like a shrunken pumpkin on top of that barrel chest.
“Hey, what took you so …” His voice trails off as he takes in Mr. O’Donnel standing just past the opened door, all Mr. Cool with his hands in his pockets and that big smile on his face.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Parks.” Ha, you’d think O’Donnel had reached right out and stuck his fist into Harry’s chest, way he jumps! His hands strike flat searching for the wall for a moment before he stills them and kinda goes back to just standing. Now he’s glaring at Mr. O’Donnel. Glaring like either he can’t believe what he sees or like he doesn’t want to. Harry looks across at me then. But it’s hard to describe. For a second I think he’s checking that I’m ok right? But pretty much straightaway I realize there’s nothing in his look more than a speed count. Everything in the room is still there, where he left it. Everything is still there. Like when those people look at you but never at you right?
Harry clears his throat. “Who the hell are you?” he asks in a voice he never used with me. Mr. O’Donnel puts his head on one side and makes this weird sweeping motion with his shiny black lace up shoe. I get a picture of a cat toying with a mouse, you know? But like when did I ever own a cat?
“Ah, Mr. Parks. I’m disappointed that you don’t remember me. The names O’Donnel. I’m pleased to see you again.” O’Donnel takes his right hand out of his pocket and for a second I think he’s gonna shake Harry’s hand. So does Harry and he starts looking nervously at the space in between them like he’s scared of what will be coming across. O’Donnel stretches out his cuff and then, at the last second, reaches up and just kind of lays his fingers against his cheek. “We’re very grateful to you, Mr. Parks, for looking after Shem here. Very grateful indeed. But, as you can see, I’m now able to say that we are ready to take him back where he belongs. With us.”
Harry doesn’t reply straightaway. Shit his eyes are too busy bouncing between me and O’Donnel like a pair of ping-pong balls. Dit-dot-dit-dot-dit-dot! Then I figure it. O’Donnel gave me a name! The one thing Harry wouldn’t do was tell me my name. Now here’s this O’Donnel calling me ‘Shem’ all over the place and Harry can’t quite get over it. It’s like he’s watching me to see if I noticed what O’Donnel called me and then is thinking ‘Shit! He knew it already’. Boy what a shmuck he looks. Like none of it computes. Some stupid cartoon character stood there with the blink-a-fuckin-dink on the piano as he takes it all in.
The cogs turn over and finally Harry takes a couple of steps, positioning himself in a neutral space between the door, O’Donnel and me. A smile draws itself up from his jaw but any shmuck can see it hurts him to do it.
“Mr. O’Donnel. Nice to finally make your acquaintance. I’d tell you that I’ve heard a lot about you but you probably know that already. Expect you already know pretty much about me too, huh? Well. Isn’t this a surprise.” Harry nods to himself and that reluctant smile makes another appearance. ” So you’ve come for…our friend here, right?”
“That’s correct Mr. Parks. I, or should it be, ‘we’, feel it’s high time that Shem saw a little more of the outside world. Time he came and said hello to all his friends out there.” O’Donnel punctuates this last with a turn of his hand towards the window. “I trust you’re not going to make things unpleasant by trying to interfere with this.”
Harry seems to be thinking again. “Well you know, O’Donnel…if that’s your real name…” A glance over at me, “…you know I don’t think it’s really up to you or me. Why don’t we ask our friend here what he wants to do? I mean, it’s not like either of us are thugs right? You strike me as a reasonable man O’Donnel and I’m usually a good judge of character.” Another look across at me. What is it with this guy? “So why don’t we let him decide for himself?”
I feel, rather than hear Mr. O’Donnel take in a deep breath and he steps towards Harry, slow and easy like. Harry keeps his eyes on me and holds out his right palm to O’Donnel. “That is, as long as you’ve told him everything. Everything about what’s going on out there in the…big wide world…you have told him, haven’t you?” Harry moves away from us both and starts a mini tour of the room while he talks. “I mean, I can’t believe a straight gentleman like yourself would walk in here and just expect…our friend…to walk out with you just like that? What, because you’re in a suit? Because you speak like some English lord? No, no, that wouldn’t be your style, would it, O’Donnel? You’re much too fair and upright to behave like that. Am I right?”
Harry stops pacing then and turns to Mr. O’Donnel, folding his arms across his big chest, little head slightly on one side. The look on his face says it all. Plain and simple. ‘I got you.’
Mr. O’Donnel says nothing. My head is full of a hundred and one things – all of which refuse to come out in plain sight so I can say them. I feel my heart burning with something – anger? Rage? Fear? How should I know when I can’t put a name to myself, let alone all this? Come on O’Donnel, say something! You need to say something because Harry’s right. That’s just what you’ve done! Show him O’Donnel, show him I’m not some shmuck who can be manipulated and moved around like a piece of…like some chess piece..yeah…like a…
That does it. Something in that little picture in my tiny brain pulls it out. I’m outta here. I make for the door right between gloating Harry and silent O’Donnel.
Dear reader – do you have a suggestion for the next chapter? A suggestion for what might be found in the room? Will anyone come to the character’s aid? Perhaps a plot idea? Or maybe you just want to tell me to stop! Whatever, drop me a comment! You may find it used in the next chapter!
‘Til next time,
- The Room (rattledrum.wordpress.com)