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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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The Volunteer Excerpt: A homeless writer?

Gerald Good, my antihero in "The Volunteer" was once a successful college grad who took the challenge to rebuild his life from nothing by trading places with a homeless man. Gerald, known on the streets as G2, thinks that he will rise above homelessness quickly and will write a book about his adventures. But circumstances prevent the realization of this dream and more than twenty years later, he is still homeless and still dreaming of writing his story. This scene just came out today. It's only a bit, but I haven't really shared any of G2's story yet, so here's a taste.

A Bit of Paper and a Pencil

Granny Sal sat on her little camp stool with her legs stuck straight out in front of her. Anyone coming up that side of the street had to either step over her, or step out off the curb to to go around her. But no one seemed to mind. Granny Sal had a little something for everyone and everyone, it seemed had something for Granny. She saw G2 as he approached and struggled up off her stool to stand. She was scarcely taller when she stood up than she was when she was sitting on the little stool.

“G2! You’re back,” she said, holding out her arms to hug the man. G2 quietly came into her arms, waited patiently while she hugged him and watched her sit back down on her camp stool. “You’ve been gone a long time, G2. You just passing through?” He nodded and looked up at the sky. “Yes,” Granny said, “almost time for the weather to change. You’ll be heading south with the birds, I suppose. What’s it like in the South? I imagine it’s all sunny beaches that you vacation on in the winter, isn’t it G2? Pretty girls in bikinis bringing you wine with a little umbrella in it. How I envy you traveling around. I can’t move from my spot, I tell you. Wouldn’t last a day if I had to find a new place to sleep every night. And my customers—what would they do? If I wasn’t here for them, they’d be in an awful fix. I figure this stool is where I live my life and this stool is where I’ll die one day.” G2 liked Granny Sal. She never expected him to say anything. She made up all the stories about him that she told and he believed her. Yes, he would head south for the winter and sit on fine sunny beaches in Florida. Maybe he would just go all the way out the end of Key West and then dive right into the ocean and swim to Cuba. He could get on a cruise ship as a porter and go on down to Rio in South America. All he had to do was listen to Granny Sal.

“I have something for you, G2,” she said. “Been saving it because I knew you’d come back.” She searched pockets that seemed to be hidden all over her clothes. G2 reckoned that if you emptied out all her pockets, she’d be skinnier than his arm. Finally she pulled out a tiny pad of paper and a pencil that was at least six inches long. “Here we are,” she said. “I just found this little notebook. Some of the pages are used, but there’s lots of new paper in there. And this pencil? Would you believe they were giving them away at a street fair? See, it says KXRX on the side of it. A radio station that was playing music so loud it hurt my ears a block away. But they had pencils, and as soon as I saw it, I thought of G2. This will help G2 write his novel, I said to myself. Maybe he’ll publish some articles in The Roof and my customers, right here on this block, will read what he wrote in this little notebook. You’ll be a great writer someday, G2. And I want an autographed copy of whatever it is you publish. Don’t forget your Granny Sal.”

G2 took the offered pencil and paper. It wasn’t every day that he got new paper, and the pencil he had been using earlier in the day was only as long as the first joint on his thumb. It still had some lead, though. G2 would whittle it down with a piece of broken glass and still get a page or two out of it. He looked around for something to write in his new notebook while Granny Sal watched. There were cars stopped at the traffic light at the corner. A man pushed a shopping cart out of the drug store and over to his Toyota in the parking lot. G2 couldn’t figure out how a person could buy so much in Walgreen’s. A young couple sat at the bus stop, cuddled together, occasionally turning to kiss each other as they talked quietly. Two crows noisily fought over a MacDonald’s bag in the parking lot and beyond them a cat stalked forward planning a stealth attack. An airplane streaked overhead leaving a contrail, but just too far away to be heard above the din of the city traffic. When G2 opened his eyes wide and really looked at the world around him, there was so much that he was almost overwhelmed. Then he saw it and all his attention narrowed to a single point. The noise and distractions of the city fell away, leaving him with a moment of crystal clarity as he opened his notebook and wrote: CCC1492.

Yes, a little more somber than my previous work, but I think it speaks well for G2.