Monday, February 8, 2016

On the shoulders of giants PART ONE

If you want to be an stage actor, read plays and attend performances. If you want to be a singer, listen to professionals. If you want to be a good writer, read. Read the classics, read, read, read and then write. 
Granted, the trouble arises when I read, for example, too much Delillo, I end up writing like him. But there are certain writers who have influenced me tremendously, and I salute them all. 

Sometimes people will ask this regarding my own writing. One giant whose shoulders I stand on is Thornton Wilder. Read his plays or books and his messages come through loud and clear. I've invoked Wilder many times in my novels, not to copy, but to honor. 

Thank you, Thornton, for all your work.

Here, in IN THE NICK OF TIME, Andy and his friends have time traveled back to antebellum Georgia and are hopelessly trapped. One night, he wakes up to contemplate the problem and 'talk' to his dead Grandma Geri. 

Chapter 17
The full moon awoke Andy at a quarter to one. The light streamed through his window and onto his face, much like the street lamp outside his home used to. The Main House was ghoulishly quiet. No hum of a refrigerator or microwave or a computer monitor. No dishwasher running or dryer tumbling. Electronic sounds that would sometimes jar him awake back home now were completely absent. He slid off the poster bed and walked in his bare feet toward the open window. The moon made the plantation look blue: as if it had snowed. The smells of the horses floated by, he heard the trickle of the stream and the sound of an owl. Cicadas. Other than that, there was nothing. There were a few stars on the farther side of the sky, but the moonlight reminded him of summer nights at home.
It’s the same moon, he thought. It shone on them as it shines on us.
It had been six days. Six days with no new discoveries. 
Andy figured that someone at home by now has got to have missed him. When he traveled back to Boston, his trip was brief and the present time hadn’t been affected.
But what about after six days?
Andy didn’t have an answer for that. How long does time stop before it starts to pick up again? He could picture his father coming into his bedroom and seeing the opened door and the little pile of matches and the incense stick. His father would think he’d been smoking dope or cigarettes, and he’d be walking around talking to his mom. “I didn’t think we’d have to worry about this with our Andy,” he could hear his father say.
            Worse yet! What if his father came into his room, saw the incense, and then lit one! He could end up here! Well, that would be fine as long as he had some extra in his pocket!
 Oh Grandma, Andy thought as he gazed out over the beautiful land and smelled the sweet, country air. How are we going to get out of here? What’s this all about?
            Sometimes, in the summer, or on a crisp, windless winter night, Andy and Grandma Geri went out into the back fields and stargazed. Grandma Geri had a small telescope, and she taught him the names of constellations and the brighter stars.
“See that one?” she said one time, pointing to a gorgeous red star in the Southern sky. It was the middle of August when Andy was about ten years old. “That’s Antares, one of my favorite. It’s in the constellation Scorpio; you can see that it looks like a Scorpion. With a flashlight, she traced in the sky, from star to star, a giant “J” swerving off to the left. There, about halfway down, was Antares. “Antares is six hundred light years away from Earth.”
            “It’d take six hundred years to get there?” Andy asked. How could he see that red star so clearly when it was so far away?
            “Well, sort of. First, you’d have to be traveling the speed of light, which is 186,300 miles per second. Per second, Andy! Can you imagine whirling through space that quickly?” She took the flashlight and swooshed it across the night sky like a meteor. “Then, if you’re really going that fast, it would take you six hundred years to get there. And who knows what planets would be waiting for you when you arrived?”
            “I can’t imagine that far,” said Andy.
            “I can’t either, honey,” she said, “but it’s a wonderful feeling trying. Oh, the things out there!” She put her arms around his shoulders and together they surveyed the heavens. The night was full of the sounds of crickets and frogs. “There are galaxies, and moons, and planets, and billions and billions of stars. We’re so tiny sitting here,” she breathed in the hay and the fresh air, “but how precious and magical that is.”
Andy sat on the windowsill in the moonlit, timeless, plantation house. The sounds of the night swirled around him, and the minutes of the hour traveled onward. He was Andy and he was Drew.
After a moment, he caught himself dozing off, and he jerked his head awake. A shooting star caught his eye. Andy felt completely connected to all that he saw. It was the most peaceful feeling he ever had, and as Andy breathed, the universe breathed.

He was now and he was then. The trees are planted and people are born; the trees are cut down and people die. It could be the 21st Century, it could be the 19th. “The time doesn’t matter, Andy,” he heard Grandma Geri say. “We’re in the rhythm of the stars and the tunes of the planets, and always shall be.”

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