It's been a busy few days, and it's a trend that's going to continue for the next week or so. Long may it endure: I'm weary of having too much time on my hands. It seems that the more time I have, there is less time to actually get things done. The paradox of proscrastination is that the time for doing things never seems to arrive.
I have, however, finished "Quiet Woman". The novella is, in fact, a short stopry with chapters. A beginning, middle, and end: I've never truly understood the observational slice of life short stories that never seem to have a story to tell - they merely make minor moral observations. The best of them are, however, elegant - and bloody hard to write.
The play "Quiet Woman" is good. It does need a re-write, and putting the story into a different form has informed me of where and how the changes can take place. Watch this space. I am now looking at an observational short story, of the kind I don't particularly get: I'm considering it more a writing exercise than anything else.
I've just spent a day on-set at "Legends of the Seeker". It's been a long time since I was anywhere near a major movie / television production set, and I was forcibly struck by how smoothly it all works. Hordes of people - there most have been at least 120 people at lunch - involved on creating just a few minutes of television. The attention to the slightest detail is instructional. But what struck me was the collaberative attitudes of everyone concerned, and the respect given everyone. I've become accustomed, over the past 20-odd years, to an environment where competitiveness ruled the day: where the prime objective was to personally get more from the situation than my colleagues did. The standard sales-dominated schtick, in other words. I was astonished and refreshed by the people on the set who worked together in an air of mutual respect. The assumption was made that everyone involved in the day's tasks was not only important but exceedingly competent. The "stars" of the show were not ego-fuelled: they saw themselves as part of the machine. They joked with the extras, they responded to the needs of the sound guy, they were patient and hard-working. The Director had a deep understanding of everyone's parts, and almost never told people what to do: he stated his needs, or vision, and asked people to help him realise those needs.
This was a collaborative effort, and it stunned me - and I couldn't help buy compare it with my previous full time working environment. I know what I'd prefer.
WHAT I'M LISTENING TO: Albert Hammond. English singer/songwriter of the 60s and 70s. Wrote a lot of the hits that other people took to number one.
WHAT I'M READING: New Scientist magazine, talking about climate change, and Darwin's tree-of-life being a faulty image. I like the fact that science is constantly questioning itself. Religion, by contracst, questions others.
WORD OF THE DAY: Rort, as in Wellington bus drivers. I often wonder why the verb rort means to cheat, while the adjective rorty means noisy, fun, perhaps a little orgiastic. Such is life, and the beautiful English language.
A LITTLE MORE HENRY: Enjoy.
What a Reason For Waiting, For Walking at Night.
Mary is a painter. A very good one. Henry had supported her for the first fifteen years or so – well, he was making good money, and he knew she had talent. It was only a matter of time before someone else noticed her vision, and slowly but surely they did. An exhibition here, a show there. The sales started, the trade began. It became a cachet at certain plummy addresses in Wellington and Auckland to have an early Mary Talbot.
“Use your own name on your paintings, Mary. Not my name. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body: you got your talent from your Dad.”
“I’ll use my love’s name.”
On this March 3rd, after Mary had gotten over her shock and fear and been reassured by Charlie that Henry was OK, she waited for him to come home. Joe Know had called her, to let her know that Henry was all right, and was fit enough to drive, but should stay off the leg for a couple of days. Joe didn’t tell Mary of the earlier conversation he’d had with Henry.
The wound had been clean and simple: a little hole, a through-and-through it’s called in American emergency room dramas. Henry had been lucky that the bullet had been jacketed: a lead round may have bloomed and blossomed and torn a great hole in his leg. As it was: a quick polish with peroxide or something equally evil, a stitch or two, and some dressing. Nothing to it.
Of course, Henry could say that he’d been unlucky enough to have been there. Luck’s a funny thing: Henry every day marvelled at how lucky he’d been at age seven to have met Mary. Mary, on the other hand, revelled in her good fortune to have met a boy like Henry who became such a man.
And now Henry is limping up the driveway, his arm around his sister’s shoulders, and he’s grinning at Mary as she laughs, and she grins back at him, and then she runs at him and he folds her in his arms and she sobs and sobs and tells him that he could have died and he tells her that he knows but it doesn’t matter but I could have lost you she rages and his splendid tie is soaked with her tears and behind them the video cameras whirr and Charlie turns around and gives the reporters the fingers and then all three go up the steps and along the veranda and in through the marvellous front door of 22 Talbot Terrace.
One of the TV people turns to a newsprint colleague, and suggests a brew and a belt down at the Red Dog. They couldn’t see themselves getting anything more out of the night: may as well get a feed and head back home.
There are compensations in a journalist’s life. Not many, though.
Inside the house, Charlie stands guard at the door, and watches in satisfaction as the journalists leave. Mary has taken her husband, her glorious and heroic husband, her handsome and daring husband, her witty, brave, and wise husband Henry through to the sitting room, and is pouring him a large Scotch. Two thick fingers of the Macallan, and she holds the glass up for his approval. Henry smiles at her, thinks six months, and holds up three fingers. She tilts the bottle again.
Henry thinks six months.
Mary brings him the glass, and tears form at his eyes. She blinks with astonishment: she had seen Henry weep four times. The third was when he held Adam, his son, for the first time. A tear, liquid love, crept down Henry’s cheek, and splashed onto Adam’s startled cheek.
Six months, he thinks. Six months left of being with her.
“Henry?” her voice is hesitant. “Henry?” Something in her tone makes Charlie turn around, and she is just as amazed.
Crikey. Didn’t think he had it in him, she thinks. Our dry Henry? With a tear or two?
The first and second times Henry wept had much to do with Miriam: but more of her later. The fourth time also had to do with Adam.
Henry’s tears had, it seems, been reserved for children. But now there was something different, something that he didn’t know how to cope with, and Henry was always and ever a man who coped.
Mary touches his cheek with a trembling finger, and the tear creeps onto her fingernail. She takes it to her lips, and says again, wonderingly: “Henry?”
“I’m giving up work, Mary.”
“I had a few words with Joe. Joseph Know. Before the thing at the bank. I was leaving his surgery to come home, and went to get some money from the machine, and I got shot, and now I’m resigning from my job. Taking early retirement. Effective as from two, this afternoon.”
There’s a thinness to Henry’s voice that Mary has never heard before. Henry’s voice, for her, has been the ideal voice of movie stars, teddy bears, and golden tigers: a deep velvet purr. She heard him raise his voice in anger once, and it took on the sound of a great bull. But now his voice is thready, distant. She isn’t at all sure what to think.
She is, suddenly, terribly afraid. A deep chill spreads through her, and she starts to shake. She knows her man, she knows what it takes to upset him like this. She believes, suddenly, chillingly, that she knows what he is about to say, and Henry’s next words are a damning confirmation of how well she knows her husband.
“I spoke with Joe Know,” says Henry, “and he tells me that I may only have six months to, well, to live.”
Mary’s legs disappear. They simply evaporate, like fog under a hot sun. She feels herself falling, collapsing, star-stuff into a black hole, and she sits flat-bang on her bum, and says “No.”