Thoughts on Writing, Technology, Culture, and Life

NaNoWriMo Day 29-30 – Marshall Cooper

I made my word count at around 2:30 AM last night. My total word count for the month was 50,157. While I would not call the story complete, I did work to give some closure to the events so far. I consider this the end of “Part One”. Thank you to those who read along, or at least gave it a sample. I hope you enjoyed it.

Marshall Cooper

Day 29-30 – 50,157/50,000 words

Chapter 12

Marshall arrived at Seaside Espress a couple minutes early. He got his iced coffee and a dark chocolate chip cookie. Then he headed up to the balcony, where Benton Noro was already sitting. It was another warm and clear day, and Benton Noro had positioned herself in the center of the balcony, where the awning still provided protection from the sun. Marshall had offered Catrin the chance to come with him to the coffee house, but she had declined, citing her homework and her basic discomfort with Benton Noro and the idea as a whole.

Benton Noro said a pleasant hello, and Marshall said hello back. As Benton waited patiently, Marshall sat down and extracted the cookie out of the paper bag it had been placed in. He took a bite, had a sip of coffee, and then sat both the cup and the cookie down on the table. Then she began. “There’s a two-story building down the street two blocks. It’s fairly close to the pier.”

She handed him a picture of the building. It was wooden, and painted yellow. It was empty at the moment but appeared to be well-maintained. “The building is zoned for business, but the top floor is a two bedroom apartment. It’s nothing fancy, but it does have a balcony. I know you like those.”

“I know the place,” Marshall said. I’ve walked past it more than once.”

“It’s an older building,” Benton Noro said, “But I’ve had it completely remodeled. The wiring is redone. The bathroom is new. The roof has all new shingles. When it first opened in the forties, it was a candy shop. In the seventies, it was more of a general store, providing groceries and such for the neighborhood. People tried a number of things in the eighties and nineties: books, videos, used music, custom t-shirts, curios. None of them lasted more than a year or two. When I first came here, it was a bike and board rental shop. I picked it up at auction a few years back, when the economy was in the tank. Up until last year, I was renting it to a guy who was trying to make a go of it as candy shop again. He did ok, better than you would think, but one day he decided he’d had it with Santa Creda and left town. There’s an interesting story about that, but one for another time. Suffice to say I had a devil of my time getting rid of all that candy. It’s a good place to live. If you like, you can turn the whole place into your living quarters, or you are welcome to start a business on the lower level. If you decide to go that route, I can help you with that.”

Benton Noro extracted a set of papers about sixty pages thick. She put it down on the table and slid it over to him. “You can read these later and let me know if there are any changes you’d like. If you accept, we can sign the paper work at my lawyers on Monday. Essentially, upon the birth of our first child, you become half-owner of that property. Until then, you may live in it rent free. Utilities, plus any required repairs, will be paid by me. Additionally, you receive a stipend of $500 a month. That stipend goes up by $500 each time a child of ours is born or ages by a year up to eighteen. To receive the stipend, however, you must continue to live in that house at least eight months out of every year. You won’t exactly have to punch a time clock, but you get the general idea. It’s where you live and are expected to stay. You also agree to be an active, involved participant in our children’s upbringing, although custody, financial responsibility, and final decisions on things such as school and medical care rest with me.”

Marshall leafed through the agreement, and asked, “What happens if you die?”

Benton Noro gave him a long look. “Page 47 covers that. If I were to die, custody of the children would go to you, as would full ownership of the property on Seaside. You would continue to receive your stipend. My children would, of course, inherit the bulk of my estate through a trust, which would be overseen by my lawyer.”

Marshall took the contract. “You don’t happen to have a key to the building with you?”

Benton Noro reached into her bag, pulled out a small envelope, and handed it to him. “Do we have an agreement then?” She said.

Marshall took the envelope and stared out at the water. “It’s a generous offer,” he said. “I assume you’ll want some proof that I can deliver on my end of the bargain.”

“I have complete confidence in your abilities, but of course there will be tests and such, for both of us. If for some reason we are unable to conceive after a period of two years, we both have the option to end the arrangement. That will not be the case though. I am absolutely sure we will conceive.”

“One other thing,” he said, “there’s nothing in here that says I can’t marry or have children with someone else, is there?”

Benton Noro shook her head. “I would not stand in the way of true love, of course. How can you?”

Marshall nodded. “I’ll review all this and look at the building, but yes, I intend to go through with this.” The words were out of his mouth without hesitation. Only afterwards did he ask himself if this was a wise choice.

The two of them continued to sit on the balcony, while Marshall finished his coffee and cookie. They made small talk about the weather. Benton Noro said, “It always stays warm until Halloween. After that, the summer will really be over.”

Marshall took the paperwork with him, saying his goodbyes to Benton Noro, and he left the coffee shop. He walked along Seaside Avenue toward the building Benton Noro had offered as part of the deal. It was a beautiful day, and there were plenty of other people out walking. Everyone was friendly, exchanging hellos as he passed them. Marshall thought about Catrin as he walked. He knew she wouldn’t be happy with his decision, and he wondered if they would get past it. He felt bad about that, but he also knew that he was making the right decision. However odd the circumstances were, he felt like it was the best way forward. He thought of the Sheriff’s description of Santa Creda as a superorganism. He could feel it surrounding him, and trying to find a place for him. Doors opened and then shut again.

It occurred to him that, if this was not actually meant to be, something would happen to stop it. The town found the proper use for you, sooner or later. That led to a troubling thought. What happened when you were no longer useful? What did the town do to you then? He thought about the sheriff, dying in his car, alone. He thought about Catrin’s brother, disappearing without a trace. Well, almost without a trace. He remembered the shoe they had found near the cove with the hidden cave. Why would a boy disappear? Surely he had still been important. Then again, the cove wasn’t in the town. Maybe that changed the rules.

Marshall came upon the storefront. He tried his key in the front door. It slid smoothly in the lock, which was clearly new. Marshall opened the door and stepped inside. The front room of the store was mostly empty. There were a couple display cases pushed up against one wall, but otherwise the room was empty and the floor was clear. They were hardwood floors. Benton had either had them resurfaced or replaced, because they were smooth and new looking. He looked out the large plate-glass windows facing the street. Across the street, at a bit of an angle, he could see the pier. There were several people out there, fishing with rod and reel. A couple others appeared to be sitting at one of the tables, playing a game of chess.

Marshall walled into the second room. This one was a little smaller. There were built-in shelves on the side walls. He pictured the shelves lined with jars of candy, with parents and their kids going through the shop, picking out jawbreakers, different colors of M&Ms, and candy canes in two dozen flavors. It felt like that must have been a pleasant place, although selling candy had zero appeal to him.

The third room, in the back, was large and clearly meant for storage. It contained several rows of shelves, plus a small industrial bathroom and laundry hookups. That was where the staircase to the second floor was located. He walked up the stairs and found himself in the living room of the apartment. It wasn’t particularly large, but was easily spacious enough for a couch, a couple of overstuffed chairs and a coffee table. That room blended in with the open kitchen, which had a breakfast nook. There was still a table sitting there, the remnant of some former occupant. The kitchen was fully built out, with a large new stainless steel refrigerator and a built-in microwave, as well as a dishwasher.

Marshall walked down the hall and found the bathroom. It was reasonably sized with a claw-footed tub and a small separate shower. Walking further back, he found that there were two bedrooms. The first was small. He wasn’t sure if you could even fit a king-sized bed in it. The master bedroom, however, was actually larger than the living room. It was easily larger than the entire apartment he was living in now. On the far side of the room was the door to the balcony. The balcony extended across the whole front of the store, and was wide enough for a table and a set of chairs. The view was a marked improvement from the ground floor. He could see out onto the ocean with no problem.

Marshall stood out on the balcony for a long time. He found it difficult to leave. Any misgiving he’d had about his decision evaporated. He felt like this was where he was meant to be. He wasn’t sure what he would do with the lower half of the building, but he looked forward to exploring the possibilities.


Chapter 13


Marshall sat at the hotel bar with Anne and Charlie. It was their last night in town. First thing in the morning, they would be heading home. The kids were out enjoying the DJ by the beach, although occasionally one would come in and sit with them for a few minutes before heading out again. Both Anne and Charlie looked considerably more tan and relaxed than when they had come. More than once through the night, Charlie had declared that they should move there. Anne had merely patted him on the back and said, “You go ahead and sell all of your stores, then we’ll talk about moving.”

“You should do that,” Marshall said, “I can always get you hooked up here in town. I know people.”

Anne and Charlie had both laughed at that. Marshall knew that any thoughts they had about moving would evaporate within minutes of getting into their routines back home. Marshall had considered telling them about his deal with Benton Noro, but he had held back. He was due to come to their house for Christmas, and he figured that it would be a smarter to wait until the deal was made. He had reviewed the papers himself, and was having a lawyer go over tt. He was sure his sister’s input could be valuable, but the risks on his part were very minor in his opinion. He still had his money, so at worst he would get a couple of years of rent-free living out of the deal.

Anne asked where Catrin was, and Marshall said that she had a paper due. In truth, Catrin was still upset about his deal with Benton Noro. She was having trouble accepting it, and had told him she would call him when she had “made up her mind about the situation”. Marshall felt bad about that. He hoped she would still come around, but he wasn’t at all sure that she would. If not, he would have to accept that as a cost of the deal.

His sister looked at him and said, “I think she’s a nice girl, but shouldn’t you be dating women your own age?”

Charlie gave her a sharp look and said, “Don’t you listen to her. If she makes you happy, she makes you happy.”

Marshall looked at his sister though, and gently smiled. “You’re right Annie. I am too old for her. You are absolutely right. There’s really no chance of it working out.”

Anne blanched at that. Whatever she had been expecting, her face said that she did not expect him to agree with her. “I’m not saying you should break up with her or anything,” she said.

“You shouldn’t have said anything at all,” Charlie said to her. He seemed more upset that Marshall would have expected. “We talked about this. You’re sabotaging him again.”

Anne looked genuinely upset then. Marshall put his hand on hers. “I’ll be fine,” he said. “I am fine. Relationships have never been one of my strengths. This will either work out or it won’t, but I will be fine either way.”

There was a long pause in the conversation after that. Marshall took a sip of the Cabernet Sauvignon he had ordered. It was very bitter, even more so than the one he had gotten the other day. Marshall liked it because it tasted real to him.

They said their goodbyes a while later. The kids came back up off the beach and they all got a group picture taken by their server. Marshall gave each of them a hug, and then he headed off into the night. He walked back along the street, rather than the beach, so that he could walk by the place that would be his home. He had tried to picture what he could do with the retail space. He had daydreamed about a lot of things, knowing that it would not be his only source of support took some of the need for practicality away, and daydreams didn’t need to be practical anyway, so he had pictured everything from a computer store, to a coffee house, to an electronics store. Nothing had really stuck so far though.

When he got to the storefront, he stood looking into the plate glass windows. It was inky black inside now, which gave the place a slightly haunted feel, but Marshall felt good there anyway. He was pretty sure he could handle whatever ghosts came along. At this point, his life was full of ghosts anyway.


Chapter 14

Over a thousand people showed up for the funeral of Sheriff Dwight Weatherly. The day was clear and warm, to the point that those who had chosen to wear suits were sweating in the heat. Marshall was one of those people, wearing the same suit that Rainman had picked up for him to tend bar in. Catrin stood next to Marshall, holding his hand. She wore a simple gray dress. They were close to the back of the crowd. Marshall hadn’t been sure how she would respond when he asked her to come with him, and was happy when she agreed to go.

The funeral had been delayed by almost two weeks. The coroner had been thorough. There apparently had been several small puncture wounds in different spots on his body, no bigger than a needle. Those had raised some questions, until it came to light that he had been seeing an acupuncturist about issues related to osteoarthritis. In the end, the cause of death was simply listed as heart failure. There was still talk, of course, that this was all very suspicious, but Marshall accepted the answer. The question of who had been at the hotel that night, however, had not gone away. Because the death was not ruled a crime, there was no reason for the sheriff’s department to investigate that particular mystery.

The eulogy was given by a Baptist minister who spoke of protecting the good and the bravery of those who put their lives on the line. He talked about the Sheriff’s long history of service to the city, and discussed the sacrifices families make when someone leads a life of service. He mentioned both Shelby and his daughter, but also his ex-wife and his two grown sons, who Marshall had known nothing about. Once the minister had finished his eulogy, he led a long prayer, and then the honor guard of the sheriff’s department performed a bell ceremony and a final radio call ceremony. Quite a few of the mourners broke into tears at that point.

Marshall shed some quiet tears during the speech. He found himself looking at the Shelby and her daughter. He had no standing to be a part of their grief, but it seemed to echo outward from them to the entire crowd. He squeezed Catrin’s hand tightly.

When the ceremony was over, Catrin and Marshall got in Catrin’s car. She drove him back to his little apartment. He asked her if she wanted to come in for a while but she declined. They sat silently for a minute before she said, “I think we need to just be friends.” She sighed sadly. “I just can’t be more than that with you. I feel bad. I know what you’re doing. You’re not doing it selfishly. I think you’re doing it out of hope, but I just don’t think I can be in a relationship with you.”

Marshall thought about disagreeing, but he chose not to. Something in him had known it would be over as soon as he committed to moving forward with Benton Noro. He couldn’t blame Catrin. The path he had chosen did not include her. “Thank you,” he said, “for trying.”

They said their goodbyes and he got out of the car. Walking into his apartment, he did not look back.

NaNoWriMo Day 26-28 – Marshall Cooper

I haven’t posted in a couple days, but I have still been writing. I am close to the goal. With two days to go, I have less than three thousand words left to write to hit the number. Here are two chapters in a single post. It’s a bit of a long read, but I hope you like it.

Marshall Cooper

Day 28 – 47,149/50,000 words


Chapter 10

The next morning, Marshall got up at seven. He had been exhausted when he got home, falling into bed fully clothed. Now, there was sand in his bed and on his clothes. He stripped the bed and himself, filling his laundry basket. Then he did his stretches and his balance exercised, before getting into the shower. He took a long shower, scrubbing every inch of his body and shampooing his hair twice. He checked his leg, where it had been cut with the rock in the surf the night before. The cut was long, about three inches, but not deep. It hurt slightly to the touch, but did not seem overly red or inflamed. After he got out of the shower, he spread a generous layer of bacitracin on it and covered it with a large adhesive bandage. Marshall put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, gathered his quarters, and carried his laundry to the laundry room at the apartment complex. The laundry room was empty. He loaded his clothes into the wash and set the controls, and then he walked back to his apartment, grabbed his wallet, and made the walk down to Seaside Espress.

Rainman was sitting at a table inside the Seaside Espress. He waved at Marshall as he walked through the door, motioning for Marshall to join him. Marshall got in line, ordered an iced coffee and picked up a couple of bananas by the register. Once his coffee was ready, he sat down with Rainman.

“Hey buddy,” Rainman said, “It was good to hand out with you and your family the other night.

Marshall took a sip of his coffee and a bit of banana. “That was good,” Marshall said, surprised to find that he genuinely meant it. “I’m getting lunch with them today. We’re driving up to Deer Point for lunch and to hike around a little.”

Rainman nodded. “I get the occasional gig up there. It’s nice, but a little limited.”

“That’s fine with me,” Marshall said, “I’m meeting someone here this afternoon, so I’ll need to get back.” Marshall thought for a moment about Benton Noro’s offer. “Do you plan to have kids”” Marshall asked.

Rainman laughed. “Not that I think about, no. I’m a musician. I make just enough to keep me in my place, and sometimes it’s pretty close even then. If I had kids, I’d have to change all that, or else just be a lousy father. I’m not really interested in either of those things. I’m just happy being me. I live where I want. I have time to read and practice. I’d have to get tired of that, and I’m not anywhere close to tired of that.”

Marshall peeled his first banana and took a bite, following it up with a sip of his coffee. “I never really expected to have kids.”  Marshall said. “I’ve never had a lot of luck with women, and even when I did, children weren’t on the table. But suddenly, it is a possibility. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it.”

“Catrin,” Rainman asked with an odd expression on his face.

“No,” Marshall said. “It’s nothing like that. It would be hard to even explain.” It occurred to Marshall that he would have to tell Catrin if he followed through on the idea. It was also the sort of thing his family might object to. He added that to the list of issues he would have to deal with should he decide to move forward. “But let’s just say for the first time in a long time, I have reason to think about it.”

Rainman stared off into space for a long while. Marshall, who was prone to the same thing, waited patiently. He finished his first banana, and drank some more coffee. Finally, Rainman said, “If I were to be a father, this would be a nice play to raise a kid, I think. It feels pretty far removed from the rest of the world. I don’t know about you, but I think of that as a good thing.”

Marshall agreed. “That’s a large part of why I came here,” Marshall said, “This is a big enough place to have what I need, but it’s also relatively small and remote. From my apartment, I can get almost anywhere in town on foot in less than an hour.”

“You should get a bike,” Marshall said, “That will make things even easier.”

“Someday,” Marshall said, “I will trust myself enough to ride a bike again. That will be a good day.”

Marshall finished his second banana. “I’ve got to head back,” Marshall said. I need to flip my laundry and start getting ready for the hike.”

“I’ll walk back with you,” Rainman said, “I’ve got a wedding to work this afternoon. Weddings are my bread and butter.”

“Anybody interesting?” Marshall asked.

“Just a couple of boat people,” Rainman said, “They come to get married on the beach. The Hyatt is hosting, or I’d have tried to set up with a gig for the reception.”

“No problem,” Marshall said. It occurred to him that, now that his job had fallen through, he did actually have bar tending to fall back on. “Santa Creda provides.”

Rainman raised an eyebrow. “So far,” he said.

They walked back up the street that led to their apartment complex. Rainman headed upstairs to his apartment. Marshall went to the laundry room, arriving just as his load hit the final spin cycle. He waited, listening to the spinning sound pleasantly. He thought again about the idea of parenthood. It would be an odd arrangement, Marshall could see that. But his life had always been full of odd arrangements, and he could think of worse situations for a child to grow up in. He thought then about the possibility of having children with Catrin. It was too early in the relationship for any serious consideration, of course, but there was no obvious reason why they couldn’t get married and have children. People did it all the time, and with even bigger age gaps, but somehow Marshall couldn’t picture him and Catrin being a permanent situation. He couldn’t even picture Catrin staying in this town. He knew she stayed out of obligation to her parents. The same thing had kept in in Phoenix most of his life. He felt, however, like she was biding her time.

The laundry spun down, and he transferred his clothes to the dryer, then he headed back to his apartment. He sat on his couch, and tried to picture what it would be like. He tried to think of himself as a father, but he revised that a bit. He figured that, without custody, he would almost feel the same way he did with his sister’s kids. He would see them once in a while, and they would sometimes go out and do fun things, but when the day was over, they always went back to their real parents. Benton Noro would be their real parents. Victoria might also be there, but he had trouble deciding if Victoria was a permanent part of Benton Noro’s life. He had the feeling that, whether Benton was in a relationship or not, she would have made Marshall the same exact offer. He was a well-fit piece in the jigsaw puzzle that Benton Noro was assembling out of her life. He would be there at her convenience. She might rely on him to run errands for them, or to help them with school or something, but he would not be a partner in the enterprise, just a contractor, more or less.

On the surface, this sounded like a problem, but Marshall was actually well-suited to the task. He had no solid plans for the next twenty years. He currently led the sort of life where he could be available for such a thing. None of that was really a problem for him. Marshall also knew that his condition came with added risks. He lived with that every day. He had been lucky. His speech had been unaffected. His issues had more to do with equilibrium and concentration, along with sensory issues. His memory loss had been limited. In rehab, he had met much more severe cases. There was always the risk of strokes and other issues. He could be fine today and gone tomorrow. Any children he had with Benton Noro would be insulated from those risks. That was appealing.

Marshall set about cleaning his apartment. He had, until today, successfully kept his sister and her family from coming by, but his sister had insisted on picking him up today. He had added a couple paintings to the walls that he had picked up at a local gallery. The artist, Maria Lucca, had an affinity for beach scenes, which gave the apartment a relaxed feeling. He had also had the local Walgreens make a poster sized photo of Anne and her family, which Marshall had framed and hung in the kitchen. Marshall swept the floors, washed the few dishes in the sink, and wiped down the kitchen and bathroom. He wiped off the light panels and the coffee table. When he was done, he felt good about the results. He headed back to the laundry room, where he folded all of his laundry and folded his dry clothes and bed sheets. Then he headed back to his apartment, put away the laundry, got dressed for hiking, and made his bed. Then he felt like he was ready for visitors.

Catrin was the first to arrive. She was wearing an Emmerit University t-shirt, jeans, and hiking boots. She even had a backpack with water, snacks and an emergency blanket. Marshall admired the list, and added his own wind-up flashlight and radio to the mix. They sat on the couch, making out, until there was a knock at the door. Marshall opened it to find the entire clan outside her door. Anne, Charlie, Cassandra Caleb and Corrine all piled into the apartment. It was a somewhat tight squeeze, which Marshall was grateful for.

“This place it tiny!” Corrine exclaimed. “It’s smaller than mom and dad’s bedroom.”

Marshall thought about it for a moment and agreed. “You guys do have a pretty big bedroom” he said. Marshall gave them the grand tour, which amounted to opening the refrigerator and showing them the bathroom and closet. “That’s it,” he said, “That’s all there is to see.”

“I guess it has everything you need,” Marshall said.

“I don’t need too much,” Marshall said.

“Where’s the TV,” Caleb asked.

“No TV,” Marshall said, pointing at his own head. “Hurts my eyes.”

Everyone stood around in relative discomfort until Anne declared it time to leave. Then they climbed into the mini-van, cramming the three kids in the back, Marshall and Catrin in the center, and Anne and Charlie up front. Anne drove them up the mountain. They played some trivia games and generally chatted. The kids whined about being too close together.

“When do you start the new job?” Anne asked.

“That fell through,” Marshall said. He explained about the death of the sheriff, and the mayor’s decision.

“How do you feel about it?” Anne asked.

Marshall thought for a moment before he said anything. “I’m a little disappointed, but I was in no big rush to get back to work, so I’ll be fine. I feel bad for Terry though. He was really looking forward to getting some help over there. I’ve seen similar situations before, and I’ve seem companies float by for years with minimal resources, until suddenly they end up investing a fortune in a new solution. It will probably be the same there. In a few weeks they’ll have a new sheriff, and it will be his problem.

“You think they’ll come back to you.”

“Probably not,” said Marshall. “He’ll have his own ideas. The new guys always do.”

Deer Point was only thirty miles from Santa Creda, but because of the climb, the drive took about an hour. The town of Deer Point was small. The sign as you entered listed the population as 1112 and the elevation as 4580. It was at the base of the mountain’s highest peak, which topped out at 5200 feet. There was a gas station with a convenience store, where they stopped and bought some snacks, and then they hit the Deer Trail, which wound its way to about three quarters of the peak. After that, you had to be a rock climber to go any higher than that. The hike was about a mile, but involved a few steep steps and a couple of places where you needed to pull yourself up over some rocks.

Marshall intentionally took his time. He had no trouble with the trail physically. His ankle was fully recovered, and the cut on his leg was only a minor annoyance. He was primarily concerned about his balance, which could sometimes get flaky if over-exerted himself. The rest of the family walked ahead of him. Even Catrin eventually started moving ahead. Marshall encouraged them to. About halfway up, Marshall’s progress was steady though, and he felt good. The air was cool, and a slight breeze ruffled through his hair. Every once in a while, he would stop, turn around, and stare out at the valley below him. This is my life, he said quietly to himself, and then he turned back and continued up.

They waited for him at the top of the trail. From there, Marshall was able to look down and see the ocean off in the distance. The day was clear, and toward the horizon he could even see a couple of larger ships out on the water. Catrin put her arm around him and stood with him. The kids bickered behind them, impatient for lunch. Catrin tossed each of them a granola bar, which seemed to calm them down. Marshall paid little attention. He simply stood and stared out at the ocean,

After a few minutes, the kids started to talk about heading back down again. Everyone got together and started taking pictures on their phones of various members of the group. Catrin took several pictures of the family together. Anne took pictures of Marshall and Catrin. Cassandra took a picture of the two couples together. Once the achievement had been fully recorded, they started heading back down the mountain. As before, the rest of the party began to pull away from Marshall, who was even more careful about walking down than walking up. Getting down was always more tricky. Soon, Marshall found himself alone. As he was scrambling down a bolder, he got hit by a dizzy spell. He felt his balance start to shift and he felt lopsided. Marshall slowly lowered himself to a sitting position. He sat there for several minutes, doing his breathing exercises.

After several minutes, he felt his balance returning, he slowly stood back up. He tried to remember whether he was climbing down or climbing up. At first it wasn’t clear to him. He remembered taking the pictures though, but then he started questioning himself about whether he had gotten his picture taken or simply wanted to take a picture. He got out his phone, but there were no pictures form the climb on it. He tried to remember if he had taken any pictures and did not think he had. He was pretty sure it had been other people taking pictures of him. He stood there for another minute, unsure. He remembered then that he had an exercise for this. He just hadn’t had to use it for a while. He started saying known facts, out loud and to himself.

“My name is Marshall Lee Cooper. I was born on February 6th, 1973. I graduated from Chandler High School in 1991. My sister’s name is Anne. My first car was a 1973 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. I am right handed…” He continued this for three or four minutes, until he ran out of things he could think of off the top of his head. He then thought back about the climb, and he remembered standing with the family. He remembered Catrin’s arm around him. He assured himself that he had been climbing down, and also reminded himself that even if it were not true, climbing down was the safest course of action.

Marshall started to pick his way slowly down the trail again. After a couple of minutes, he saw Catrin heading toward him. “There you are,” she said, “We were starting to get worried.”

“Sorry,” he said, “I had to stop and rest.” he congratulated himself silently on having picked the right course of action. Catrin stuck with him for the rest of the hike. It went smoothly from there on out though. By the time they got to the bottom, the family had already gone into the Brass Lantern to each lunch. The two of them went into the restaurant and joint he family at the big table. The menu at the brass lantern was simple, with just a single page. Marshall got French fries, waving off his sister’s urging that he order something with protein. His stomach was still off from the dizzy spell, and he didn’t feel like trying to push his way through a hamburger, a steak, ribs, or fried fish, which seemed to be the primary options. The French fries were crispy, but soft on the inside, which Marshall liked. He was trying to teach himself to enjoy the textures of foods, since the flavors rarely had an impact on him.

Now that he was sitting here with his family, he could clearly remember being up on top of the mountain.  He was somewhat irritated that he had let the thought slip out of his head. He had stopped doing memory exercises several months back. He told himself that he should start that back up again. There were methods for coping with confusion that he had gotten out of the habit of using, since those incidents had decreased dramatically over the past year. He was glad he had been able to remember at least one of them.

Marshall listened as the family argued over some point of recent pop culture that Marshall was unaware of. Marshall paid little attention to TV or movies anymore, and his musical tastes were still stuck in the 1990s. He considered subscribing to a magazine like Entertainment Weekly, just so he could talk about such things again, but it seemed like it would be a hollow victory to know about pop culture without getting any of the enjoyment out of it. Marshall was thankful that he could at least still read print without much problem. He had read more books in the past two years than in the previous ten combined.

Marshall was happy to listen to the family talk though. They were heading out again tomorrow, and he realized that he would miss them. He hoped that this trip would set them back on an even keel, where their relationship wouldn’t feel quite so one-sided. He smiled, and Anne took note of it. “What’s got you in a good mood?” she asked.

“Hard to say,” Marshall said, “But I guess I’m just happy to see everyone.”

“You know you can always come back,” Anne said.

Marshall shook his head. “I’ll be back for Christmas,” he said. “That’s really not too far away.”

His comment sparked a new conversation about the impending Christmas season, with the standard comments about how the stores start selling earlier every year. Catrin reached over and held his hand under the table. Marshall tried to take a mental snapshot of the moment. He wanted to remember everyone’s faces, the feeling of Catrin’s hand in his, the crunch of the French fries. He did his best to etch it into his memory, knowing the happy moments are the easiest ones to lose.


Chapter 11

Anne dropped Catrin and Marshall off at his apartment. Once they were inside, Marshall sat down on the couch with Catrin and said, “There’s a conversation I need to have with you.” he said. “I’m considering doing something. Up until we started going out, it would have affected only me, but now I feel like you need to be a part of the decision.”

Catrin looked concerned, but she said, “OK”

“First, I need you to understand where I’m at. I know that you know about my accident, but I’ve never really discussed what happened.” Marshall told her where the basics of the accident, then went on.

“I woke up at the hospital, pretty confused and disoriented. The truck had hit the car pretty hard. My father was driving, and my mother was in the back seat on the driver’s side. My father died instantly. My mother, apparently, made it to the hospital, but didn’t make it through the first night and never regained consciousness. I was unconscious for more than a day, and the doctor’s weren’t sure if I would ever wake up. They told her to prepare for the worst. In this care, that meant a death, a persistent vegetative state, or severe brain damage.”

“Luckily, when I did wake up, I was better off than they thought. I could speak, although the other injuries made that a little hard. I could follow basic instructions. I could move my fingers and toes. At the time, those were all huge things.” Marshall paused for a moment.

“I don’t remember the first few days in the hospital very well, just like I don’t remember the accident. There were a lot of medications, and a couple surgeries.  I just remember it as a series of disconnected things such as people coming and asking me questions, the ceiling of the hospital room. Things like that. Anyway, a lot of time passed and I started getting better. My sister handles most of bigger things, such as dealing with the insurance companies and such. The driver was clearly at fault, and for a while there were lawyers involved, both setting my claim and the payouts for my parent’s deaths, plus settling their estate. She also made sure my bills got paid I knew practicably nothing of this. Even once I was mostly all there again, they kept things from me. It was months before we really discussed the fact that my parents were dead. It was just something that seeped in around the edges. They say this is pretty common. People are reluctant to discuss things like that, and they also make assumptions about what you know, because they’ve been through it. They forget that you weren’t really there.” Marshall stopped. He thought for a moment.

Catrin held his hand and he started again. “What’s important now though, is that I am nearing the end of my recovery. What I mean is that I’m about as good as I’m going to get. The problems I have are probably permanent. What I have, is a greatly reduced sense of taste, a somewhat reduced sense of smell, frequent headaches, occasional dizzy spells and occasional confusion. That is what happened to me today up on the mountain. I got dizzy, and then I got confused. So I sat down and sorted things out. That’s the good news. Most of the time, I can recognize it when it happens, and I can deal with it. But, for reasons like that, I don’t drive and I’m probably not going to try riding a bicycle any time soon either.”

“On the flip side, I’m pretty lucky. I didn’t lose my skills or my intelligence. Trust me, they’ve tested this. I’ve taken three IQ tests since the accident, and I consistently score in the low 130s. The only thing that hampers me is that staring at screen for more than an hour or will trigger a headache. I also don’t have any major patches of amnesia, except around the accident. I can remember my third grade teacher. I know all the presidents. I can recognize the faces in my yearbook. What I don’t have is the level of concentration that I used to have. My mind wanders more now.”

“What I want you to understand is that the possibility always exists that things are going to get worse. I have an increased risk for just about every brain related issue you can think of: stroke, Alzheimer’s, dementia. Also, other things can just get worse. I haven’t had the mood swing issues that a lot of people have. If anything, I have less variety in my moods, but just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. There’s also no medicine really fixes these issues. They can deaden a few symptoms, but in most cases the treatment is worse than the problem.”

Catrin gave him a hug. Marshall smiled, but shook his head. “I’m mainly telling you this because an opportunity has come up, and I am giving it strong consideration. Benton Noro wants to have children. For obvious reasons, she cannot have them with her current partner. So she has made me an offer. Basically, I would donate the sperm for her to be artificially inseminated. I would also stay in town. Although I would not have custody of the children, they would know me as their father and I would be involved in their lives. If I agreed to this, I would be compensated in a few ways. This would make my future less variable.” Marshall left out the parts about numbers. He didn’t think it would be helpful.

Catrin withdrew a bit. She wrinkled her brow. “So, she’d be hiring you to be a father?”

Marshall thought about it for a moment. “Yes, that’s a pretty good description of the situation.”

“So you would be doing this to make your future easier?” She said, her voice rising.

“Not really, no.” Marshall said. “It would be helpful, but that isn’t why I would do it. I have money from my settlement, and from my inheritance. It is enough that, if I live simply, I can expect to live off of it for the rest of my life. But that’s for me, alone, living on very little because I need very little. It isn’t enough for me to raise a family on. More importantly, I could be gone tomorrow, or worse, incapacitate. That makes it hard for me to consider having kids in a traditional family. It would feel unfair.”

“But it isn’t unfair with Benton Noro?”

“For me it is the opportunity to have kids. I’d like kids. But in my condition, and at my age, I don’t entirely trust that I could always be there for them. Ideally, she wants her kids to have a father, and for me to be that father. That’s great, and I think I could fulfill that need. But if for some reason I can’t, she is fully capable of raising them on her own. She doesn’t need me financially or emotionally.”

“So what do you want from me? My blessing?”

Marshall shook his head. “What I wanted was to make sure you understood why I was thinking about doing it. I haven’t made up my mind yet, and you are free to tell me why I shouldn’t do it. I told you because you are important to me, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”

“OK,” Catrin was quiet for a long moment. “The first problem I see is that I don’t trust her. I don’t think she would hesitate to screw you over.”

Marshall nodded. “I’m not sure she’s untrustworthy,” Marshall said, “But even if you are right, what would be her incentive to screw me over? What exactly would she gain?”

Catrin paused. “At the moment, I can’t think of a thing, but this is a long term situation, so even five or ten years down the line, if her opinion about you changes, I don’t think she’d hesitate to ruin you if that was what she wanted.”

“You said that is the first problem. What is the second?”

“The second is about these kids. How are they going to feel when they inevitably find out that you basically were hired to be their father? That’s pretty messed up.”

“That is a concern,” Marshall said. “I mean, I think we would try to present that in the best possible way, but it certainly isn’t a conventional arrangement, however, I’m sure we would emphasize that it was done out of love.”

“Is it being done out of love?”

“I would like to hope so,” Marshall said, though he realized Benton’s approach to the idea seemed more based on having heirs than on the desired to love and raise a child.

Catrin though a little longer. “What if we had a baby?”

Marshall looked at her, “There would be nothing to stop me from having children with you, if we reached that point someday.”

“But would you?” Catrin said, “You just talked about your limitations. How would you feel about those?

“Truthfully,” Marshall said, “I would be nervous. All of my concerns are legitimate ones. How would I handle things if I couldn’t work, or if my symptoms got worse? How would you handle it? Those are things we would have to work through.”

“And theoretically, just theoretically, what if we did it now? What if instead of making a business deal with Benton Noro, you just married me and we tried to have kids like normal people. I’ll have my degree soon, and I could even work while you stayed home with our kids. You could be a house husband.”

Marshall smiled. “Theoretically, that sounds lovely. Practically, I think that neither of us is really ready for that, and I can’t imagine it going over very well with our families.”

“I’m not sure your family would be too thrilled with the current situation either.”

“Probably not,” Marshall agreed, “But I think they would be less concerned with me donating sperm than with me getting married. Not unconcerned, just less concerned.”

“That’s probably true,” Catrin said.

“So, if I did go through with this, what would you do?”

Catrin thought for a long moment. “I’d do my best to understand,” Catrin said, “But I can’t guarantee anything.”

“Fair enough,” Marshall said.


NaNoWriMo Day 25 – Marshall Cooper

This was an interesting section to write, especially after the confrontation with the Mayor. Marshall definitely had a lot to think about, especially when it comes to where he put his clothes.

Marshall Cooper

Day 25 – 42,021/50,000 words


“As you may already know, I come from an established family in Japan. Due to the circumstances of my birth, however, I have dual citizenship in both Japan and the United States. For that and other reasons, when it came time for me to pick a college, I chose to come here for my studies. At the time, I intended to return to Japan after college, but instead I fell in love with Jimmy. It turned out, of course, that the Jimmy I thought I fell in love with was not quite the Jimmy I married. I realized that very quickly, but not before I became pregnant with June. That complicated matters significantly, as you can imagine.”

Benton Noro took a sip of wine. “For the sake of June, I tried to stick it out with Jimmy for another two years. In the end though, we divorced. It is a decision I have never regretted. However, in trying to keep with what is best for June, I decided to stay in this little town, despite some fairly compelling offers elsewhere. So, this town is where I have staked my claim, slowly but surely. This is also a decision I do not regret. I am happy here, and now I have Vicki in my life.”

Benton Noro squeezed Victoria’s hand. “The problem I have is that I am now in my late thirties, and I have only one child. She is sweet, and smart. But for a variety of reasons, she is not enough. I intend to have more children. Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to conceive with Vicki, as you can clearly see. That is where you come in.”

Marshall had been listening as Benton Noro discussed her situation, but he suddenly had the feeling he had missed something. It took him a moment to put together what she was saying. “You want me to father your child?” he asked.

“Should everything work out, yes?”

Marshall had trouble coming up with a response to the offer. There were too many different thoughts going on all at once. They ranged from logistical questions, to personal objections, to questions of involvement and authority. One more thought floated through his head. Take that Jimmy! Finally he said, “I guess my first question is, ‘Why me?'”

Benton Noro smiled. “You are an attractive man,” she said, “And smart. More importantly, I like you.”

Marshall looked at her for a moment. He was still getting used to the idea that he might be attractive. The fat kid in him could hardly grasp the thought. Benton Noro went on. “From a practical perspective, you are new to town and you seem to have a certain openness that leads me to think that you could live with the arrangement I am offering.”

“And what is that arrangement?”

“I want sole custody of any children we have, of course, but I don’t want them to grow up without knowing their father. It is bad for children to grow up that way. For that reason, you would need to agree to continue to live in this town at least until they come of age. You would see them regularly. To help facilitate that, I would give you a house to live in. I have several to choose from. I would also help you get set up in other ways, either through a job or a business. The important thing is that you would be tied to this town.”

“And how would we go about this?” Marshall asked.

“I would see a specialist,” she said. There isn’t one in this little town, but it is easy enough for me to go to them. You would need to accompany me, to handle your role in the process.”

“Handle my roll?” Marshall chuckled. “I guess that is one way of putting it.” Marshall looked at Victoria. “What are your thoughts on all this?”

Victoria looked out at the ocean, not looking him in the eye. “I had some concerns,” She said, “But I can’t have children of my own, and I have always wanted children, so this seems like a way to solve the problem.:”

Marshall nodded. He had a strong feeling that important details were being left out. He couldn’t quite believe that someone like Benton Noro would pick him based on reasons that basic. For some reason, his first conversation with Benton Noro popped into his head. “That aunt of yours,” he said, “The one who could tell you what number you were thinking of. It had to be between 37 and 73, right.”

Benton looked him in the eye, “That’s right.”

“I assume that you have done enough checking on me to know my birth date?”

“February 6th, 1973.” Benton Noro said without hesitation.

“I don’t know your birth date,” Marshall said, “But I’d bet you’re 37 years old.”

“You would lose that bet,” Benton Noro said, “For another three weeks.”

Marshall thought for a moment. “Your birthday wouldn’t happen to be on Election Day, would it?”

“November 3rd,” Benton Noro said. “That’s correct.”

Marshall slowly got up. “I will need to think about all of this,” Marshall said. “And by the way, the number I would have picked is 42.”

Benton Noro nodded. “We should talk tomorrow,” Benton Noro said, “Shall we meet at our usual spot?” she said, “Three thirty?”

Marshall agreed and headed out the door.

It was a moonless night, and very dark. Marshall had thought before he left, and brought his wind-up flashlight / radio. He took a minute to wind it up, then set out, leaving both the light and the radio on. The local station was Pink Floyd. He took the stairs down to the beach. Marshall walked along the ocean’s edge, listening to Dark side of the Moon. It was still relatively early, but with the sun down it could have been midnight. Marshall stood and looked up at the sky, watching the stars. He thought of the other night, when he had lay on the beach trying to feel the earth turn

Marshall sat down on the beach, well above the water line. He listened to the music as he stared out at the water — catching only glimpses of it in the dark. Marshall took off his shoes and socks. He wriggled his feet in the sand and he sang along with the lyrics… breathe, breathe in the air. Marshall took off his shorts, and then his pants, and finally his underwear. He left them next to the flashlight and strode into the water. It was cool against his feet. He waded out, up to his knees, and then a large wave came up, splashing him up to his waste. It was like a cold slap.

Marshall walked further out. The beach here was a little rocky, rather than the smooth sand down at the public beach. He wished he had brought his water shoes. Still, he worked his way out further, until he could no longer reach the ocean floor with his feet. He let himself rise and fall with the waves, occasionally getting knocked off guard by a crashing wave. A few times, he ducked under the waves. He lost track of time, just floating along with the water, He realized he was getting further and further out.  He thought of the riptide he had encountered when he was a teenager, and wondered if perhaps that was happening again. If so, there was no one to save him this time. He was completely on his own. Marshall felt an odd calm at that. He had no real fear of death. He did not expect it to come, but he also didn’t really mind if it did. He had no real vision for his future. It would come or it would not. Either way seemed no worse than the other.

Eventually, he started making his way back. As he anticipated, it was difficult and slow going. He kept working at it thought. He sometimes would dive under the water, and swim down where there was less to the waves. At one point he brushed over a rock, and the sharp edge bit into his leg with a burning sensation. He kept going though, eventually, his feet found the ocean floor again, and from that point it wasn’t as hard, although it still took him another twenty minutes before he got out. He flopped down on the beach, exhausted. He rested for a long time. The thought had entered his mind that at this point, he did not know where he was in relation to his clothes. It occurred to him that, when you leave all your clothes in the dark, you should really pay attention to the location.

Marshall got back up and turned slowly around in a circle. At first, he focused on judging whether he was closer to the cliffs than before, or further away. He started walking toward them, figuring that it was better to start looking from a spot that he knew he had been at. Eventually he reached a point where he was sure he had been there before. He then turned around in a circle again, assessing where he was. He was cold now. He was cold enough that his teeth were chattering together just a little. He began to get a little nervous then. He wasn’t worried about the cold, but about the possibility of one of his headaches coming on. He should have worried about that on the water, but at that point he had felt at peace. Now he no longer was. Now he was a little panicked.

Marshall decided to sit down and get himself back centered. It was hard to do though, with sand penetrating his nether regions in an uncomfortable way. He took about ten minutes and then he felt relatively calm again. His eyes were somewhat accustomed to the low light, so he wasn’t completely blind. He thought back to a time when he was seven years old and walking home from school. He had lost a tooth and was carrying it in his hand. As he was walking, he had realized that he had dropped his tooth. He had been nearly beside himself then, at the prospect that a priced tooth, worth at least three dollars in his family, had disappeared on him. He had retraced his steps, and for some reason he did not understand, he had focused on the gravel in a yard a block back from where he had realized he had lost the tooth. He had known, for no good reason that it was there. Something in his head knew.

Marshall decided to trust that same sense again. He started walking a little further from the water, further up than he thought he had been. He convinced himself that he would find it. At one point he stopped, and turned around again, positive that it was near. He took another step, then two more. He started staring at the sand, insisting to himself that this was where he had lost it. He started feeling around. Moving inch by inch over the sand until his hand felt something soft. It was fabric. He kept feeling around, and came across his flashlight. He turned the crank a few times and hit the switch. There were all of his clothes, and his phone. Marshall did the best he could to brush all of the sand off of himself, then he put his clothes back on. He felt a twinge of pride. Somehow he had done it. He had gotten his clothes back. He had avoided the very real possibility of being found naked and disoriented. He could feel a headache coming on then, but he didn’t even care anymore. He just lay back on the sand and started his exercises, fully confident that he would beat the headache back quickly. It was one of the briefest headaches he remembered having. It seemed like it was gone before he started. Soon he was back on his feet again and heading home. He checked the time on his iPhone. It was 11:37.


NaNoWriMo Day 24 – Marshall Cooper

I managed to hit the 40k mark today. I’m happy with that and glad to still be on track to finish. Today’s main scene was challenging, and I went back and forth on how it concluded, even though I thought I had made up my mind earlier. In the end, I stuck with my original plan, but it was so close to going the other way.

Marshall Cooper

Day 24 – 40,000/50,000 words


Chapter 9

The mayor’s office was smaller than Marshall expected. It was a corner office, on the fourth floor of the city municipal building. If it were another floor or two higher, you might have seen the ocean from there, but an office building across the street obstructed that view. Marshall remembered the mayor from the party for Sheriff Dwight’s daughter. His name was Jimmy Green. Marshall tried to picture Benton Noro with this slight man. He tried to picture the appeal. He tried to think of her as Benton Green, but he dismissed that thought quickly. He could not imagine her changing her name for this man. He had clearly given up on his thinning hair at some point, and began shaving it close. His circular glasses gave his round head too much accent.

“As you can imagine,” Jimmy Green said without inflection, “The sheriff’s death has created more than a few difficult issues for the city to resolve. Among those, is the issue of whether or not to approve your application for the position if IT Director within the Sheriff’s department.”

Marshall nodded. He had gotten the call to come in two mornings after the sheriff’s death. The council was due to meet that night. Until the sheriff’s death, there had been no question that they would approve the application. Marshall was more than aware of how situations can change quickly. “I understand,” he said simply.

“I’ve looked at your application,” the mayor said. “I am not seeing any management experience. Is this correct?”

Marshall said without hesitation. “This would be my first management position.”

The mayor glanced at him. “I wanted to be sure on that point. It is the primary sticking point of your application. Looking at your resume, I have no doubt you would be good in a programming capacity, and I would have no trouble giving you such a position.”

“As I understand it,” Marshall said, “The council does not get involved in hiring programmers.”

“That is true. The council does not.” the mayor said, “But with the position of sheriff unfilled, at least until after the election, that job does now come under my responsibilities. All non-managerial hiring approvals fall to me. So, as a programmer, I can and would hire you today.”

“But not as a manager.”

“For a management position, I am reluctant to vote in your favor. When the sheriff was alive, we could trust his judgment for the most part. More importantly, he had enough friends on the council to push it through whether we truly trusted his decision or not. That’s politics. After 40 years, he had established the right to run the department his way.”

Marshall stared out the window, looking at the office building that was the mayor’s primary view. He wondered if, as IT Director, he would have had a better view from his own office. “Can I assume that without your support, my chances of approval are not good?”

The mayor spread his hands apart to form a slow, slight shrug. “You might get the votes, but I would suspect not.”

Marshall tried to picture the Benton Noro he knew, coming to Santa Creda out of love for this man. In a way, he could see it. Jimmy Green had power, and Benton Noro tended to like that, but there was little that Marshall could see otherwise. Still, men at work and men in love are two different things. There might have been more to this man once. There still might be. Marshall decided to gamble that there was more to this man. “I appreciate your candor Mayor Green,” Marshall said. “I will, of course, withdraw my application if I do not have your recommendation. I agreed to take the job because Dwight believed in me, and because he told me he needed me. I never really pursued the position, and had I not been so fond of Dwight, I would have turned it down.”

The mayor picked up the application and looked at it as if giving it a final consideration. Marshall continued. “For the record, I am not interested in a programmer position. If I wanted a programming job, my old employer would rehire me tomorrow. They’ve told me as much. I’m even reasonably sure they would let me do the work while continuing to live here. That’s because I am good at my job. I cannot tell you I would be a great manager. I don’t know that. I can tell you that it was important to the sheriff that I take this job. I can also tell you that there are serious problems that need to be addressed — if not by me, by someone. For that I wish you the best of luck.”

Marshall stood up and walked over to the desk. He held out his hand. “I can go ahead and take that back,” Marshall said. “That will save you the trouble of throwing it away.”

The mayor continued to hold his resume. “I didn’t say I had made my final decision.”

“Now would be the time then,” Marshall said. He stood patiently while the mayor looked one last time at his resume. For a moment, Marshall thought the man was going to change his mind. In the end though, he handed Marshall’s resume back to him. Marshall took it, folded it up, and put it in his pocket.

“I’m sure you will do well in Santa Creda,” the mayor said, “but the timing on this was not in your favor.”

Marshall smiled then. “Timing is an interesting thing,” he said, “Did you know that today is the deadline to register to vote in the next election? I hadn’t gotten around to it, but I guess the timing is right now. I believe the office is even in this building.”

Marshall followed through on his word, registering to vote that day. He knew it was a small gesture, but he did want to be sure he could vote, since he had somehow become politically active for the first time in his live. He knew little about Mayor Green’s opponent, a woman named Anya Polzin. He had heard her ads. Apparently she could fly a fighter jet. Other than that, he hadn’t paid much attention. He was pretty sure she would be getting his vote now though.”

Marshall wasn’t sure how to process losing the job. When it was offered, he wasn’t even sure if he wanted it, but the idea had quickly grown on him. Now that the offer had been rescinded, he felt the loss. He also had the realization that his future and been released from its restraints. He felt unsettled though. He felt as if he had chosen a side, and then the side had not lost so much as ceased. He was free to go in any direction.’

As he walked, Marshall’s iPhone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out and flipped the switch to set it back to ringing, and then he answered the phone.

“Hello Marshall,” the voice on the phone said, “This is Benton Noro. I was wondering if you could come by my house tonight at about six. We wanted to talk to you about a matter.”

Once more the image of the sheriff ran through his head. He tried to picture them ten years earlier. He tried to picture Jimmy Green with a head of hair. Benton Noro he pictured exactly as she was. “Text me your address.” Marshall said. Marshall headed home, changed clothes and took a shower. Then he headed toward Benton Noro’s house.

“I wish you had let me know before you had taken the sheriff’s offer. I would have warned you off.”  Benton Noro said. “That had a low probability of success, and you have better offers coming.”

“You sound like someone who knew the sheriff was going to die.” Marshall said. “That’s a little disconcerting.”

“No,” Benton Noro said, “I only knew his time was up politically. That his body would also fail him came as a minor surprise.”

Benton Noro lived on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The house itself wasn’t large. It had two bedrooms, the second of which Benton Noro used as an office. The living room was spacious though, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the water. The house was built with a stone base leading into birch walls. The place felt a bit like a well-appointed cabin. Marshall sat in the living room along with Jacob Martin and Victoria Basha. Benton Noro had spoken as she brought out a tray of fruit, cheese, hummus, and crackers from the kitchen.

“Are you supposed to be a psychic?”

Benton Noro laughed. “Of course not. I am merely observant and well-trained. Some people mistake one thing for the other though.

Marshall ate a cracker, just to be polite, and took a sip of the ice tea she had already given him. “The sheriff needed help,” Marshall said. “I thought I could help.”

“I’m sure you could help.” Benton Noro said, “The good news is that David likes you. I’m sure that once he takes office, if you still want that job, arrangements can be made.”

Marshall thought about it for a second. “Is that a given now? I’ve heard of people losing to dead candidates before. It’s really not that uncommon, and pretty embarrassing for the loser.”

“That would be embarrassing,” Benton Noro said. “But you need not worry about that.”

Benton sat down on the sofa and took Victoria’s hand in hers. Marshall stared out the window for a moment, looking at the waves make their way in toward the shore. He had called and offered Catrin the chance to come with him to see Benton Noro, but she had declined flatly. He had walked to Benton Noro’s house. It was a nice day, He had followed the beach as far has he could, then climbed the steps up the cliff wall. From there it has been another two blocks to get to the house.

“Fair enough,” Marshall said, “But I have a feeling there is something you do want me to worry about.”

“Worry? No, of course not, but we did want to discuss an opportunity that has come up. It would require a bit of a financial commitment on your part, but I think in the end it will give you a solid place in the new community we are building here. Then Benton Noro set about revealing her plan.


NaNoWriMo Day 22/23 – Marshall Cooper

Although I made my word count for yesterday, I skipped yesterday’s post because I decided that what I had written needed to come after another scene, which is what I worked on today.I didn’t want to post the story out of order, so I am saving that part for later. That work may be part of tomorrow’s post.


Marshall Cooper

Day 22/23 – 38,597/50,000 words

Chapter 8

Marshall woke up late the next morning. A headache had come in the middle of the night. It hasn’t been a particularly severe one, be he had been unable to get to sleep for several hours. It was past ten in the morning when he finally did get out of bed, and he still felt somewhat groggy. After a quick trip to the bathroom, he decided to lie back down and listen to the radio. He turned the crank for about a half a minute, and then turned the radio on. Rather than music, he heard two people talking. The first was asking questions about locations and times, and the second, for the most part, was declining to answer, citing the fact that it was an ongoing investigation. Marshall had trouble following it. Eventually though, the interview ended and the first person said, “Thank you. That was Pedro Cortes, the under-sheriff. To review what we know now. At just after midnight last night, Sheriff Dwight Weatherly was found unresponsive in his car, parked outside of the Wayfarer hotel. He was brought to the Santa Creda Medical Center, where efforts to revive him proved unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at 1:13 this morning. At this time cause of death is undetermined and the Sheriff’s department has not ruled out foul play. Sheriff Dwight Weatherly is dead at the age of 68.”

Marshall sank into his bed. A feeling of overwhelming darkness came over him. The radio switched to music for a bit. Every song was a tribute: Knocking on Heaven’s DoorKeep Me In Your HeartFire and Rain. The DJ returned to the air and repeated the same basic information, and then he took calls. People talked about encounters with the Sheriff. They talked about his time in the community. Marshall listened, feeling a deep sense of loss. He had only known the sheriff a short time, but he had felt like he was one of the good guys.

Marshall stayed in bed listening to the songs and the calls. There were some callers who talked about not feeling safe in their community, and some who blamed immigrants and a host of other things. The DJ would gently remind people that the police had not made a determination about his death. There was no shootout or gun battle. Whatever happened to the sheriff happened quietly. No one was quite sure what to make of it. The sheriff’s department wasn’t providing many details, so it was hard to be sure what had happened.

Marshall was due to meet his Anne and the family for lunch at noon. He considered texting her that we wasn’t going to come, but he decided that would just lead to problems, so he got up, did his stretches, and shaved quickly before heading out. He headed down to Seaside Espress and ordered his coffee to go. While he was waiting, he bumped into Jacob. They shook hands. Jacob seemed to be in a good mood. Marshall asked him if he’d heard about the Sheriff and Jacob nodded. “It’s sad,” Jacob said flatly. He then immediately changed the subject to the college.

“That was a really good idea you had. I’ve been looking at it, and it turns out there are about a half dozen colleges around the country that specialize in the same basic thing, and they’re all doing quite well. You don’t hear about most of them because, like you said, they really aren’t trying to bring in the natives. Benton has already lined up some additional investors. We’ll run the thing as a non-profit of course, and it will be a nice way to make a tax-free investment in the city. Meanwhile, we build dorms, stores and restaurants for the students. We make our money off of that. They’ve all got to live somewhere, right?”

Marshall nodded. He was a little amazed that based on an offhand conversation over burgers; a multi-million dollar operation was being put into place. He was also disconcerted at how little Jacob seemed to care about the Sheriff. He realized, of course, that Jacob may not have ever met that man. As far as Marshall could tell, Jacob had come to town only a month or so before Marshall, and from all appearances, he considered Sheriff Dwight to be a rival. There was no real reason for Jacob to care in the least. Nonetheless, Marshall felt a sense of disappointment in Jacob, who he basically liked. He got his coffee and said goodbye.

Marshall walked down to the beach and walked along the water’s edge to get to the hotel. The beach was less busy than the day before, but there were still quite a few people enjoying the warm day. Adults and teenagers were spread out on the sand, getting some sun. Children were playing in the water or making sand castles. Marshall thought then of the sheriff’s daughter. Just a couple weeks ago she had celebrated her 11th birthday, and today she lost her father. The thought stopped Marshall in his tracks. He stood there for some time staring out at the water, thinking of his own parents. A pit grew in his stomach. Marshall took a few steps away from where the waves were lapping in, and sat on the sand. He stared out at the ocean, trying to convince himself to get back up, but he couldn’t manage it.

Marshall couldn’t remember the last time he had seen his parents. That day had been wiped from his memory. That made it hard to pinpoint the exact last time he did remember being with them. He was probably with them a couple weeks earlier, on another Sunday afternoon. Whatever that day was though, it was unremarkable. His parents had been getting up in age somewhat, but they were still fairly healthy. His father had been taking high blood pressure pills, but other than that, had been doing fine for a man nearing seventy. His mother had gotten knee surgery at one point, but that was a problem with mobility, not longevity, and she had recovered reasonably well. There had been nothing to make him thing that the end was anywhere near.

Sheriff Dwight was the same age his father had been when he died. Scenarios went through Marshall’s head. None of them were particularly well thought out, because he had so little information. He pictured the sheriff discovering his wife at the hotel, and being overwhelmed by sudden grief, his heart giving out. It was a ridiculous thought though. It was possible, of course, that it was the sheriff meeting someone at the hotel that night, but that seemed even less likely. Just that fact that he was still in his car made the possibility of his infidelity feel remote. The most logical thought was that he was there watching someone, or perhaps looking for someone. He may have been doing it officially or unofficially. If he was watching someone, chances are that person was still at the hotel. He was sure the officers would be looking into that.

Marshall’s brain continued to sort through the possibilities, but he knew that in the end they would make very little difference to his little girl. Marshall thought about Shelby. Marshall thought back to the texts he had received the night he met her. It seemed likely to him, that she was the one who had sent them. He had ruled out just about everyone else. He felt like there had been a spark when he met her. It was not something Marshall would have ever acted on, but he still could acknowledge it. He wondered how Shelby had taken the news. He assumed she had taken it badly.

His thoughts returned to his own parents, and to his sister. He recognized how hard the situation had been for his sister. She had not only lost both of her parents, but she had been faced with what remained of Marshall, and trying to put him back together. Marshall imagined how much grief and pressure that must have been for her. He couldn’t imagine that the situation had left her much time for grieving. Marshall was lucky that she was the sort of person who could, at least outwardly, handle all of that. For his part, he did not think he would have done so well if the tables had been turned. That would have been a difference situation though. Anne had her own family, who would have been there to look after her. Marshall only had Anne, and her family.

Marshall looked at his iPhone and confirmed that he could not possibly get to the hotel on time. He texted his sister. “Running a little behind, but I’m on my way now.” He did his breathing exercises, and tried to center himself. He listened to the ocean, and the waves coming in at him. Even in the time he had been sitting there, they had crept closer, one wave making it as far as a couple steps from his feet. When he felt like he was able, he got back up and started walking. He felt like he was walking very slowly. Eventually though, he made it to the hotel.

Marshall decided not to bring up the sheriff to Anne and the family. He couldn’t picture them understanding the connection he felt to the aging lawman. He wasn’t sure he understood it himself. It turned out that only Anne was in the room. “Charlie decided he wanted to watch the ballgame,” Anne said. He’s down at the hotel bar. I thought it would be nice if just the two of us had lunch.”

“Great,” Marshall said, trying to push some enthusiasm in his voice. The two of them rode the elevator down and walked out to her mini-van. The van was a bit of a mess, having endured long miles with a full family inside. It smelled a bit sand and sweat. Anne drove, asking him where they should go. Marshall had no idea where to eat, and suggested that they head over to the mall. Anne said she would prefer some local flavor, and Marshall remembered that Catrin had suggested the Salt Grotto. Marshall had never eaten there, but he remembered walking past it and gave her directions until they arrived.

The restaurant was a bit more formal than Marshall expected. They used white table clothes and had wine suggestions that Anne seemed to understand while he did not. Marshall stuck with iced tea anyway. Anne ordered the halibut, while Marshall got the Chef’s Choice Nigiri plate.

Marshall tried to come up with a conversation topic, but the best he could come up with was “How are the kid’s doing in school.” This was enough to at least get Anne started, as she detailed Cassandra’s success in her AP classes, to Caleb’s success at wrestling, to Corrine’s struggles with math. It filled five minutes, before Anne took a turn with a question of her own.

“Do you think this relationship with Catrin is going to get serious?”

Marshall thought about it for a moment. Then he said, “Catrin is nice, and I like being with her. I haven’t been in a relationship in a long time, so I don’t know what serious really even is right now. If you’re asking if I’m in love with her, I couldn’t say. I’ve never been in love with anybody really, at least, not in a way that I see in the movies. That has just never happened for me. It’s a new relationship, and it’s nice that way. I’m well aware that I’m much older than she is. In the back of my mind, I wonder when she is going to figure out that she has better options. But I do think I bring something to the table for her, and I think I know why she likes being with me. It would be hard to explain to you though. You’ve been married for almost twenty years now. The reasons I think this works would probably sound stupid to you.”

“You can at least try me,” Anne said. “I think I know you pretty well.”

“You do know me,” Marshall said. “But you don’t really trust me anymore.” Anne shook her head. Marshall continued. “I understand. You had to sit there with me in the hospital, even with two parents gone. You came every day. It’s hard to let go of that feeling of being a caretaker. But before all of that, I was just your big brother. We had a different relationship. You may not remember it, but I do because it is the relationship I wish we still had. There was a time when you would actually come to me for advice. You may not have taken it, but you wanted my opinion because I was your big brother.”

“I’m sorry if I seem overbearing to you. I only wanted to see how you were doing.” Anne said.

Marshall held his hands out in front of him. “The thing is,” Marshall said, “I want to tell you how I’m doing. I want to be able to share my problems with you and talk about my future plans. Because, I may be the older brother, but I’ve always cared about your opinion too. But I have to know that if I talk about how I’m doing, especially if I talk about my problems, that you aren’t going to take that as a sign that I’m failing. Because I do have problems, but none of them are insurmountable. They are just the things I have to deal with. Yes, I have headaches. Yes, I have trouble eating.”

Marshall pointed to the sushi on his plate. “I’m sure this is quite good, but to me it might as well be plain yogurt. A fine restaurant is completely wasted on me. But I do eat. I make myself eat. I’m not going to starve to death, but on the other side, I’m not going to make myself eat more than I have to because there is simply no point. It gives me no pleasure.”

Anne nodded. “I’ll try to stop giving you grief over your eating. I have a hard time because I know how much you used to love food.”

Marshall laughed. “You think you know. Food was one of the great pleasures in my life. You don’t get to over 300 pounds without loving food. Food was the one thing that could make me happy when everything else was going wrong. Now it’s gone, probably forever. That is why I had to find other things to make me happy. I came here, because being by the ocean makes me happy. Instead of eating an entire pizza, I go and sit by the ocean and drink coffee.”

“I get that,” Anne said. “This is a nice place.”

“The thing is, you’ve spent a lot of time helping me, and I am grateful. I’m annoyed, but I am grateful. The problem is that I completely lost out on the opportunity to take care of you.”

“I didn’t need taking care of,” Anne said.

“How can that be?” Marshall asked. “You went through a horrific event. How did you cope with it? How are you coping with it now? Our parents are gone, and we never talk about it. Do you talk to Charlie? Do you see a therapist? What do you do to cope?”

Anne looked down at her plate. “I coped by taking care of you.” She said, “You and my kids, and Charlie, I take care of all of you. I work as hard as I can at my job. I exercise as often as I can. That’s how I cope.”

“You fill your life with the things you care about.” Marshall’s voice trailed off.

“That’s exactly how I cope.”

“Everybody has their own way I guess,” Marshall said.

Anne said, “I have problems too,” Anne said, “I have trouble sleeping. I lay down in bed and my thoughts race. I’m constantly making lists. To do lists, lists of things I want to remember… lists of your problems. I have a list for everything.”

Marshall thought about that for a second. “I made a list of things to do before you came here. Things that would make you worry less about me.”

Anne smiled. “Mom kept a lot of lists too. I found all sorts of them when I was cleaning out their house. I guess it’s a family trait.”

The two of them set back to eating there food for a few minutes. Marshall managed to finish about half of his sushi before giving up. Anne finished her halibut. “Catrin was right. They really do know their fish.” After lunch they talked about their lives some more. When they left the restaurant, Marshall and Anne drove through the town, and Marshall pointed out the places he had been so far, and well as a few of the places he was planning to visit at some point.

When they got back to the hotel, they met Charlie at the bar and sat around talking some more. Charlie filled Marshall in on his new venture. He was starting to add juices and fruit smoothies to his yogurt shops, trying it out first at his flagship location in Scottsdale. Marshall discussed his idea for a college that Jacob seemed bent on making a reality. At about nine o’clock, Marshall walked back to his apartment. He walked along the edge of the ocean again. There were a few people still out on the beach, but not many. One group of about ten people was gathered around one of the fire pits, drinking beers and roasting s’mores. They waved at him as he walked by, and he waved back.

He was still thinking about the sheriff. He remembered his first meeting with him at the station, and the way he talked about how he had decided to lead his live. Marshall wondered how he felt about it in his final moments. He wondered if he had had time to reflect at all. When he got past the fishing pier, he stopped and sat on the sand again. He closed his eyes and just listened to the ocean, with the sound surrounding him. He reclined on the sand and stated up at the stars. He remembered a conversation he had had with one of his therapists, the one who had taught him the breathing lessons. He had said, “If you learn to be still enough, and quest enough, you can feel the world turning.”

Marshall tried then, to feel the earth turning. He breathed slowly and deliberately. His eyes picked out a particular star, straight above his head, and he concentrated on it, trying to be patient enough to note its progress across the sky above him. He told himself it was like watching the minute hand of a clock. Unless you truly let yourself relax and observe, you can never see the hands of a clock moving. Marshall wanted to see it. He stayed on the ground, looking up, for the better part of an hour, watching the one particular star, watching it trace a very slow path across the ski. For a moment, he felt it. He felt the earth spinning its way across the time and space. In that moment, he felt alive.


NaNoWriMo Day 21 – Marshall Cooper

I’m still on course tonight and less than 15,000 words from the word count goal. This section may have meandered a bit, but I think it does help identify a part of Marshall’s relationship with his sister that wasn’t apparent before.

Marshall Cooper

Day 21 – 35.008/50,000 words

“Can we just stay at the beach?” Caleb asked. Corrine seconded the request. Overall, the idea of a hike in the woods far away from cell phone connections did not seem like a big hit with Anne’s progeny. After some debate, Cassandra was volunteered to be responsible for the other two. This cleared the way for the Sunday hike and lunch. After they finished eating, the kids headed back to the beach. The Hotel had set up a fire pit and provided free punch and slushes while a DJ played party songs that were mostly rooted in the late eighties and early nineties such as Love ShackThe Sign, and This is How We Do It. The music overtook the patio of the restaurant. It seemed a lot of families were taking their kids here this week, so there was a thriving mass of teens and tweens.

Anne and Charlie continued to sip at margaritas, and began taking a little louder, partly because of the music. Anne was telling Catrin a story from Marshall’s childhood.

“Marshmallow and I had got it in our minds that we were going to fix my parent’s old car. He was fifteen and not too far away from getting his license. The car was an old Cadillac before I was born. It was a 1973 Sedan Deville and as big as a house. The car had a few issues, but I think the main one was that the transmission had to be rebuilt. Neither of us had the least bit of experience fixing a car – none at all. So we go to the library and a check out a basic book on auto repair.”

Marshall interrupted, “I also picked up a Haynes manual from Checker Auto.”

“Anyway, this becomes an epic project. All summer long we are out there working on the car. My mom was convinced we were going to start a fire or find some other way to kill ourselves. But mainly we just kept going out there, and finding one thing after another that we didn’t have.”

Marshall added again. “My father wasn’t big on fixing things, so we really didn’t have any tools in the house beyond a hammer and a couple screwdrivers.”

“Right, so we would work until we figured out that we couldn’t get any further, then Marshmallow would go on a mission to get the right tool.”

“I didn’t have a lot of money. I eventually got a set of socket wrenches from Wal-Mart, but they turned out to be metric, and I had lost the receipt, so then I had to get enough money to get the right set.”

“It literally took the entire summer, but we got it fixed.”

“I got to drive it one time.” Marshall said, “It was just about the proudest moment of my life.”

What happened to it?” Catrin asked.

“What did happen to it?” Anne said. I don’t remember it being around long”

“My dad used it as a trade in to get a new car. He said the Cadillac ate too much gas. So he went and bought a new car for them, and passed me down Cressida. It was a lot newer and more fuel efficient.”

“That wasn’t too terrible of a car either.”

“It was fine,” Marshall said.

Catrin added, “But it wasn’t a 1973 Cadillac that you fixed yourself.”

“No,” Marshall said, “But it was fun while it lasted.”

Marshall spotted Rainman walking along the beach and waved to him. He came over and Marshall introduced him to his family. “This is Rainman,” he said, “The finest harpist in Santa Creda.”

Rainman smiled. “I’m the only person in the city who owns a harp,” he said.  “Trust me, I’ve checked.”

He nodded at Catrin and she said, “Sorry about the other night. I didn’t mean to snap at you.” This led to Catrin telling them the story about how the cove got closed off. She managed not to mention her family’s involvement, just saying that it wasn’t considered safe.

“You can hike all the way there though?” Anne asked.

“Yeah,” Rainman said, “The trail head is on the east end of Weatherly Park. It’s not a bad hike. You have to scramble over rocks a couple of times, but it’s worth it. The cove is beautiful. You should go while you’re here. I can take you if you like.”

Catrin looked uncomfortable, but said nothing. The server came by and she ordered another beer while Anne and Charlie ordered margaritas. Rainman hopped over the railing and sat with hem, ordering a La Rainman about how he came to play the harp.

“Good question,” Rainman said, “The simple answer is Tia Marisol, my grandmother, played one. She had it in her house, and every time we went to her house, I would play with it, just on my own. I have a really good ear for music, so without any lessons I was managing to pick out some basic songs. So, she sat down and started giving me lessons. I picked it up really fast, or so she said. She had pretty bad arthritis though, so it hurt her to play. One day she told me that I should have it. My parents arranged for me to have more lessons, and I eventually ended up playing in a couple of orchestras. I got a music scholarship to Emmerit University, so I spent four years studying music there. I can actually play several different instruments, but here I mainly play the harp and sometimes the piano or the guitar is somebody needs me to fill in for somebody. Like I said, I have a really good ear, so I can usually hear a song once and figure out how to play reasonably well. On Monday nights one of our local bars, Happy Dave’s, has an open mike jam, and I usually go over there so that I can have a chance to play my other instruments. You guys should come by while you’re in town. I can’t promise you everyone will sound great, but it is a good time.”

That reminds me, Rainman said, “There’s another gig at the Sheriff’s house this week. I’m actually going to be playing guitar at this one, with a couple other guys. Anyway, I think I can get you back in as bartender if you like.”

“I would,” Marshall said, “But I’m actually going to be attending. Sheriff Dwight wants me there to meet some of the council members before they have their vote on me next week. Apparently they have to approve any management level hires.”

Rainman gave him a confused look, and Marshall filled him in on the job offer.”

“That’s very cool,” Rainman said after hearing it. “I didn’t know you knew how to do real things.”

“I’m not actually positive that I do,” Marshall answered, “We’ll find out though. The sheriff says the vote will be a formality, but he wanted to make sure.”

“It should be easy enough,” Rainman said, “He has a brother and a cousin on the council, so that’s two votes out of seven right there.”

I didn’t know that,” Marshall said.

“Might be different come November.” Rainman said. “The whole council is up for reelection. But for now, I’d say you’re set.”

A few hours passed and they continued to sit at the restaurant. It was nice, with the sound of the waves as a constant background, and the nineties dance hits playing. Every once in a while one of the kids would show back up at the table, usually asking for money to do something. The sun had set and the air had cooled. The restaurant moved some heaters out onto the patio to keep the temperature at a nice level. Marshall started to lose track of the conversation. At one point he thought they were talking about him, when it turned out that they were discussing Anne’s administrative assistant. One of them was most definitely not to be trusted. Catrin noticed that he was flagging and said, “Honey, let’s go for a walk on the beach.” This gave them their change to make their excuses and head out.

Once you got close to the water, the light from the hotel seemed to die. They held hands and walked on wet sand near the water’s edge. Marshall knew that if they walked long enough, they would be back in his neighborhood. The fishing pier was about a half mile off, and then it was about another half mile to Seaside Espress. The beauty of the town was that everything was close. It was one of the reasons he had chosen to live here. You could get virtually everywhere on foot if you were patient enough. Marshall could still drive, but he didn’t fully trust the experience. He knew that he would need to tonight. Catrin had consumed at least four beers that he could remember, and he wasn’t sure he had caught them all. He would have considered just walking home, but she still had to get back to her parents, and to do so without her car might not reflect well.

They walked as far as the pier, and then turned back. As they headed back, someone on the beach ahead set off a string of fireworks, and they exploded in the sky above their heads. Marshall had heard they did that sometimes here, especially around the fourth of July, but he hadn’t seen them before. Seeing them gave him an otherworldly feeling, as if he had stepped out of his old life into a different one. He felt the disconnect between his current life and the life he had led before the accident. This was both exhilarating and sad for him. He had never been satisfied with his old life, but nonetheless, it had been his life. Now he was somebody different, walking around in the same body as his old self.

Marshall squeezed Catrin’s hand and she squeezed back.

NaNoWriMo Day 20 – Marshall Cooper

Yesterday was a bit light on words due to a busy day at work and a fun night with friends. I am only four words above baseline at this point. The good news though, is that today is the first day of my vacation. I don’t have to work again until NaNoWriMo is over, so I feel pretty confident I can get the 50,000 words in. I’m not sure if I can finish the actual story, which probably won’t conclude in 50,000 words, but I think I have a chance at that too.

Marshall Cooper

Day 20 – 33339/50,000 words

Anne continued to look doubtful, but Marshall gave her smile. “I’m fine.”

Catrin came over and put her arm on Marshall’s back. “I heard you like fish, she said to Anne. There’s a really nice place just up Flagler Avenue called the Salt Grotto. They only use locally caught fish, very fresh. It’s a nice place.”

“Sounds good to me,” Charlie piped in. “I’m not sure how the kids will feel about it.”

There was some debate back and forth. Anne’s kids were 12, 14, and 16. They didn’t need to be coddled too much, but Anne was also pretty sure that they would be happiest just staying by the beach. After some discussion, Anne and Catrin settled on the little Mexican restaurant next to the hotel called El Raquero. It was a small, casual place with a reasonable seafood menu and a lot more choices for the kids. Even better, it overlooked the beach, so they were able to sit on the patio and let the kids go back to the beach after they finished eating. Anne texted the kids to come meet them at the restaurant.

They made their way down to the restaurant. Corrine, the youngest, was already standing outside the door. She gave Marshall a hug, Catrin a look of assessment, and then declared “I am starving”. Corrine was a thin girl, with long brown hair dyed green and purple and pink in spots. She wore shorts a white t-shirt that said, “My brain is 80% Song Lyrics”. Her thin exterior was deceptive, because she was an eating machine. She had the ability to put down an entire medium pizza in a single session. So far, it had not caught up to her. Marshall dreaded the day that it did.

Caleb was still wearing damp swim trunks with an over-sized t-shirt that hung almost to his knees. His hair was cut short and he looked like he needed a shave. It was a few more minutes before Cassandra arrived. She had gone back up to the suite to change. Cassandra wore a dark blue summer dress with red and white rose print. Cassandra was already taller than her bother, and busty. Her hair had been long, liker her sister’s hair, the last time Marshall had seen her. That was gone now though, in favor of a pixie cut. She made no move toward Catrin other than to say a quick “hi”.

They at a long table near the edge of the raised patio. They started with appetizers of cheese crisps and queso fundido, as well as a mound of the free chips and salsa. The kids stuffed themselves. Marshall made sure to have some chips and a slice of the cheese crisp. He forced himself to finish them, washing them down with tea. The tea was strong and bitter, which made it the best thing about the meal for Marshall. He tried the queso fundido, but found the texture disconcerting.

Anne and Charlie both drank margaritas. Marshall was pretty sure that one would lead to another for them, and that made him think about his mother again. Anne looked a lot their mother, except physically fit. Gardening had been about the most physically demanding thing she ever done. His mother had been a fairly avid gardener though, mainly growing practical things such as vegetables and herbs. His mother had also liked to cook, and was always proud of anything she made that came out of the garden, although then should also be even more frustrated if the results were bad. Marshall had tried helping her in the garden when he was young, but getting up and down off of his knees had been difficult. In the end he mainly stuck to eating the food.

Marshall excused himself and headed to the bathroom. He went into the stall and closed the door. He shut his eyes for a few moments and did his breathing exercises. He didn’t feel a headache coming on, but he felt like he needed to calm himself. If he stayed stressed for too long, a headache would definitively come anyway. For about five minutes, he centered himself. The beauty of the exercises was that they allowed him to push just about everything else out of his head.

When Marshall got back, they were just putting the food on the table. He had ordered the carne asada plate. It was essentially small chunks of grilled beef with beans, guacamole, tortillas and lettuce. He ate slowly and deliberately. His goal was to always be in the process of eating so that he did not call attention to how much he was actually eating. The important thing was never to look like he had stopped. Marshall chewed very carefully. C. He took a drink everything time he swallowed a bite. He reminded himself that this would be over soon enough.

Catrin and Anne spent time discussing what the family could do while they were in town. Catrin recommended that they go to the galleries, hike one of the trails, and visit the wharf. “We’re actually a pretty relaxed town,” she said. “It is about twenty miles to Deer Point. It’s a nice little mountain tow with about 1000 people. It’s pretty. There’s a hot spring and a few B&Bs up there. There’s a lot of hiking up there too, but the only restaurant is the Brass Lantern.”

Anne thought about it. “Why don’t we all drive up there Sunday? We can make a day of it.”

NaNoWriMo Day 19 – Marshall Cooper

My word count is a little low tonight. It was a long day and I was tired. I even considered just letting it go for a day, but I haven’t missed a day yet and I didn’t want to start now. I managed to add another 850 words, which keeps me above par. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can pick up the pace again tomorrow.

Marshall Cooper

Day 19 – 32420/50,000 words

Anne had slightly darker and curlier hair than Marshall.  She kept if at shoulder length, which nicely accented her roundish face. She had always been the athletic one in the family, and even as she approached her forties, she still ran three miles every day. Dressed in shorts and a light blue t-shirt, she looked ready for a run right that moment. She even had on her Nikes. Marshall pictured her running along the beach, right where the sand was wet and reasonably solid from the waves. Marshall could not picture himself running on the beach. He liked to walk along the beach, but there was never a single point in his life that he could remember, in which he looked forward to the idea of running. It was a speed that Marshall was not Comfortable living at.

Charlie shared her basic philosophy, but he was not a runner. Charlie played tennis. He liked to talk about how, when he was a teenager, there had been talk of him playing professionally. Marshall tended to doubt that, but Charlie had managed to win his country club’s doubles tournament three years ago, and he proudly displayed the trophy in his den. Marshall also never played tennis by choice, doing so only when assigned the task in school. The only sport that had ever attracted Marshall was bowling. At one point, he had been a reasonably good bowler, and played in a league for a few years, but that had tapered off long ago. The league he was in had switched nights, and the new night had interfered with Marshall’s television watching. Marshall had been a very avid TV fan. He not only watched the shows, but would go online and debate the episodes after they aired. He had been a big fan of Breaking Bad. Marshall missed television a little, but not as much as he had thought he would. He missed movies more than TV, but even then, he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Charlie complimented him on his weight. “You look like you’ve lost a few more pounds,” he said happily.

Anne was not quite as approving. She asked him what he weighed not, and Marshall said, “Around 200.” This was actually not too far from the truth. 10 days of forcing weight gain drinks into his body and pushed his weight back up a few pounds. He didn’t have a scale, but he felt like he might be back at 200.

“That’s too fast,” Anne said. She turned to Catrin. “Does he eat?”

Catrin had been coached about answering questions like that. She knew not to discuss the food poisoning or even the weight gain powder. She said breezily, “Last night we went to the Olive Garden. We had the endless soup and salad. I’m pretty sure we got our money’s worth.”

Anne didn’t seem particularly satisfied. “You need to keep an eye on him,” she said. “He won’t let me do it anymore.”

“I’m doing fine,” Marshall said. I even start a new job next week.

“What?” Anne said.

“Well,” Marshall said, “Pending approval from the city council.”

The offer had come two days ago. Sheriff Dwight had called him again and asked him to come by the office. This time, with his ankle healthy, Marshall had simply walked to the police station. Once he was there, Dwight had sat him down and made an offer. “Look,” he said, “I get that you can’t spend all day staring at a screen. Hell, I can’t stand to do it either. What I need though, is for somebody to be in charge of this thing. I need somebody who can keep things running, and not just the databases. What I want is for you to be the IT Manager.”

Marshall, had of course, said no. He said no once, and then twice, but the third time he said, “We can give it a try.”

“Are you sure you can handle a full time job,” Anne said after he explained the position. “That sounds like a lot for you to be taking on.”

In this particular instance, he did not hold his sisters doubts against her. Looking back at the decision, Marshall could not quite figure out why he said yes. He knew it wasn’t a particularly good idea. He was not under the illusion that it was less stressful to be the boss, or that he could manage to do the job without stating at a computer for more hours than he could handle. In the end, it boiled down to the idea that he felt needed, and he liked that feeling. The sheriff wasn’t giving him a job for any other reason than that he thought he could make a difference.

“I’m giving it a try,” he told his sister. “You may well be right, but they really need somebody, and even if I can’t handle it forever, as manager I can recruit some people who might be able to keep them on track. If necessary, I can even find my own replacement.”


NaNoWriMo Day 18 – Marshall Cooper

Today finds Marshall preparing for his sister’s visit in more ways than one. The conversation with Catrin was especially challenging to write. It’s one of those scenes that I eventually had to just write even though I know I’m not satisfied with it.


Marshall Cooper

Day 18 – 31,573/50,000 words

Marshall sat there for another twenty minutes, just enjoying being outside of his apartment. He looked up weight gain powders on his phone, and then decided to head to the CVS where he could just pick some up. It was about a half a mile walk to the CVS, and it was a good test of his ankle which seemed to be pain free, although still just a little tight. He promised himself he would ice it down when he got home. The CVS had several options. He opted for something called Naked Mass Builder, which had no artificial flavors or colors. Taste was of absolutely no concern to him anyway and he figured it was healthier to go that route. He picked up a Blender Bottle to go with it. While he was there, he also bought a copy of Men’s Health magazine. He had no real intention of reading it, but he figured it would look good for that to be displayed somewhere in easy view.

Once he got home, he fired up his computer for the first time in weeks and got on He bought a set of plates and glasses. He also ordered a set of pots and pans, a new set of sheets for his bed and a new set of towels for his bathroom. He considered picking up a couple of Van Gogh prints to put on his wall, but decided instead that he would hit one of the local galleries. He told Siri to remind him to do that the next morning.

The weight gain powder mixed up with his water relatively easily. He drank it as quickly as possible, and told Siri to remind him in two hours to do it again. He was a little annoyed that he had to do these things just to avoid being hassled, but he pushed that out of his brain. There was no point on swelling on the negative. New sheets and towels were not an unpleasant thing to have, even if they were unnecessary. He realized that to have the life he wanted, he needed to project some success.

Marshall looked at the rolling bar cart in the corner and tried to decide what to do with it. He came to the conclusion that the easiest thing to do was put the liquor in a cabinet no it wasn’t so prominent. Without the liquor, the cart was just a cart. He could put his books on it.  He set to work doing that. He also spent some time cleaning up. Even though he still had a week and a half, he decided that it was best to get his habits set now. He didn’t want to spend that last day in a scramble.

He spent most of the rest of that day cleaning the apartment. It wasn’t terribly big or really very dirty, but he spent time scrubbing clean his stove, his microwave, and his bathroom. He had to work extra hard because he had little by way of actual cleaning supplies. The scent of ammonia or other strong cleansers was a trigger for his headaches, so he made due with just a sponge and a bit of dish soap. Once he was satisfied, and sufficiently tired, he got in bed. Happily, he noted that he had gotten through the entire day without a headache. He worried that he was tempting fate by even thinking about it, but he still allowed himself a little hope that they would decrease once again. Within five minutes of getting in bed, he fell asleep. That night, he slept peacefully and deeply, Fate, if tempted, held back this time.

Catlin and Marshall went to the Chili’s for lunch the next day. Marshall was already full, having drank two of the weight-gain drinks that morning, but he forced himself to eat the Southern Smokehouse Burger with Ancho Chile BBQ because of its legendarily high calorie count. He also ordered a chocolate milkshake to go with it, doing his best to put his sister’s gift cart to good use. Catlin, sill a bit wary of food, just ordered French fries and an iced tea. Marshall told her about his sister’s coming visit, trying to convey a sense of dread.

“The rooms at the Hyatt are nice,” Catlin said, “Let’s just hope they don’t get any food.”

“Actually,” Marshall said, “it turned out they did use an outside caterer. It wasn’t the Hyatt’s fault.” The local news had reported on the food poisoning for several days. Apparently, over two dozen people came down ill, and because most of them had more than their share of wealth and power, they made quite a stink. Most of the talk in the papers was that this had torpedoed Guerrero’s chances at election.

Catrin shrugged. “Either way, I’m not eating there any time soon. Every time I think about it, I get a little sick. I’m sorry I talked you into going. You paid a lot of money just to get sick.”

Marshall thought about it for a moment. “It was an interesting night,” he said finally. “It may not have ended well, but there were some good moments.”

“That guy Jacob keeps calling me,” Catrin said. “He wants to take me out on his boat.” Catrin said, making judicious use of air quotes.

“He is a bit of a letch,” Marshall said. “He seems like a decent guy underneath it though. I liked some of his ideas.”

Catrin seemed to think about this. She took a long drink of her iced tea. “Maybe I’ll go then,” she said finally/ “It might be fun.”

“I didn’t say you should go,” Marshall said. “I just said he’s probably not a bad guy.”

Catrin was quiet for a while longer. They both took uninterested bites of their food. “Do you care?” Catrin said. “Would it matter to you?”

“Yes,” Marshall said. “I care. Of course I care.”

“Then quit pushing him on me,” Catrin said. “Just stop with that.”

Marshall tried to think of a way to put his thoughts into words. Everything in his head sounded stupid. He wanted her. He knew that he did, but a part of him just wanted to push her away. It seemed like he was putting her at unnecessary risk or at least giving her a burden that would eventually find very cumbersome. He refused to let the opportunity evaporate though. Instead, decided to say something, even if it came out badly. “I want you to be my girlfriend,” he said.

Catrin smiled. “Ok then. Let’s do that.”

Marshall felt a shift inside of him, as if one weight had been lifted, but another had come right on its heels to replace it.


Chapter 7

His sister wanted to come to his apartment straight off, but Marshall arranged to meet the family at the Hyatt, once they had gotten checked in. Catrin drove him to the hotel. For several minutes, they sat in the parking lot holding hands while he psyched himself up to see his family again. Finally, they got out of the car and walked hand-in-hand up to the hotel and took the elevator to the top floor. They kissed once before knocking on the door to the suite.

Charlie, his sister’s husband, opened the door and they came in. Marshall’s sister Anne was on the balcony. The kids were nowhere to be seen, having quickly headed out to the beach. “Sorry” Anne said, “I was just looking at the view. This place is even prettier than I remember.” Marshall introduced Catrin to them. Anne was gracious, and complimented Catrin on her blouse.

The suite was large, with multiple bedrooms, a living room, a wet bar and a wide table capable of seating six. The TV was relatively unimpressive, for a room of that level, just a normal flat screen that was probably about 32 inches. Marshall could imagine the kid’s disappointment at seeing this. They had a 60 inch TV in their home. The TV was on, tuned to the Bloomberg channel, where a talking head was going over the day’s closing bell report. .


NaNoWriMo Day 17 – Marshall Cooper

Today was a pretty good day. I managed to pass the 30k mark and for the first time I am actually a day above par in word count. I spent today delving a bit into Marshall’s past and what he has been through. I have gone back and forth about how explicit to make this. In some ways, I feel it is better to mention these events more in passing than to directly address them, but because this is a draft I have the luxury of trying the direct approach. I can always cut it out later.

Marshall Cooper

Day 17 – 30,184/50,000 words

Chapter 6

It was several days before Marshall ventured out of his apartment, beyond a couple trips to his mailbox. Between his ankle and his stomach, he decided to take enough time for both issues to clear up as much as possible. Because couldn’t really feel hunger, it was easy enough for him to just avoid eating for a few days. He drank a lot of water, and stayed in bed. He bought a couple audio books and listened to them on his iPhone. He picked longer stories, he picked longer stories. Steven Ling’s The Stand, and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Between them, that was almost seventy hours of listening materials, and kept him occupied.

He occasionally texted back and forth with Catrin, who also was navigating her way through the recovery process, but had a bumpier road due to an actual desire to eat food. From Catrin he learned that the food poisoning had made the local news, and that there was some talk of the damage it may have done to Guerrero’s campaign. The candidate released a statement, claiming that testing was being done on the food, and that he could not rule out malfeasance on someone’s part. “There are a lot of people who want my campaign stopped. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I think this was a deliberate act.”

Marshall wondered if that could be true. He didn’t actually suspect the sheriff of being involved, but there definitely seemed to be a darker side to the politics in this town, and it would not have shocked Marshall to learn someone had done this on perfect. In the end though, he was pretty sure it was just some under-cooked meat. Either way, Marshall felt like he had had his fill of local politics. He had never cared about them before, so he didn’t see why he should now. Still, a part of him liked the fact that somewhat powerful people were seeking his opinions about things.

By Wednesday, he felt like both his stomach and his ankle were as good as they were going to get without some use. He headed down to the coffee house to get his iced coffee and stare out at the ocean, and activity that seemed innocuous, but which he severely missed while he was cooped up in his apartment. The day was particularly warm, with the afternoon temperature hovering near ninety. The air felt wet and sticky as he got near the ocean, but he was pleased to see that the beach was as full as he had ever seen it on a weekday, with dozens of people out enjoying the water or lying in the sun.

Marshall promised himself that he would get back to serious walking the next day. He missed walking on the beach. Today though, he just wanted to have a coffee and enjoy the sunlight and the heat in a place that was not his apartment. When he got up to the balcony, he found that it too was fairly busy, although he did not recognize any of the patrons. His usual seat in the front corner of the building was taken, so he settled for a smaller table closer to the doors. For several minutes, he simply sat listening to the ocean.

In addition to his coffee, Marshall had ordered a roast beef sandwich. It was the first solid food he had eaten in three days, and while he ate it, he honestly felt like he was enjoying the sandwich. The flavor still wasn’t right, but at this piing his body had a deep craving for food that went beyond hunger, and every bite was enjoyable. It took him less than five minutes to completely finish the sandwich. Marshall couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten with that much enjoyment, although Catrin’s banana muffins had come close.

Marshall was afraid to weigh himself again. If he had been 199 at the urgent care, than he was probably close to 190 now. He tried to remember when he was 190. He figured it was his freshman year in high school. Marshall had gone out for football that year, lasting all of two weeks before dislocating a shoulder and being forced to quit by his mother. He had needed a physical to join the football team, and he had weighed in at 187 pounds. He assumed then, that sometimes during that first semester in high school, he had passed the 190 mark.

Marshall tried to think of what he looked like in the 9th grade. There weren’t a lot of pictures of him. He had been notoriously camera shy, and had managed to avoid every school picture day since the 7th grade. Looking back though, Marshall was pretty sure that he had looked a lot better than he thought he did at the time. He hadn’t missed out on all of his father’s good looks. They had just gotten hidden under a few pounds of fat. Marshall had his father’s hair, and his eyes. His nose was more from his mother, and had always seemed too small for his face, but Marshall wondered now if that had only been the fat making his normal-sized nose look bad. Without pictures, it was hard to tell.

When he had looked in the window this morning though, he had seen himself as a bit of a different person. The nose never stops growing, so his seemed the right size now, His hair would never be as perfect as his father’s but he otherwise had a lot of the look down. Marshall liked the idea of looking like his father, especially because Marshall was single. By this age, his father had married and fathered both he and his sister, He had given up modeling, but he still spent more time on his looks than Marshall had ever even considered.

Marshall’s best memory of his father came fairly late in life. It was 2001, and the Diamondbacks were having a good year. It was only May, and nobody had even considered the idea that they would go to, and eventually win the World Series. Marshall had decided to treat his father to a game, and had spent fifty dollars a ticket for spots right behind home plate, where you could order your drinks and snacks off of a menu and have them brought to you.

Randy Johnson was pitching, and he was striking out just about everyone who came to the plate. Nonetheless, the game was very close. In the end Randy struck out 20 batters to tie a major league record. He didn’t get the win though. The game went into extra innings, and although the Diamondbacks eventually won the game, a rookie pitcher nobody had ever heard of got the credit for the win.

His father had grown up a Dodgers fan, and had not yet warmed up to the Diamondbacks, but after that game he thanked Marshall. He said, “I can’t image a better gift of a day than that.” They had gone to the gift shop after the game and bought matching hats. His father had fully converted to a Diamondbacks fan. It seemed a little silly now, but it was the best day Marshall could remember ever having. Mostly it was just the idea that he was sitting next to his father for the best seats, at the best game he had ever seen. It was even more special because it was one of the few times he had ever been in the position to treat his father to something,

Marshall had thought of that memory again that morning, when he had looked in the bathroom mirror to see something resembling his father’s face. He would never have all of his father’s good looks, but for the first time, he felt like there was a strong link between them.

Marshall had no real memory of the accident that had killed his parents and derailed his own life. He knew the basics. He and his parents had been on their way to Monti’s. He had come by for a Sunday visit, and they had all decided to go there, where they were going to meet his sister and her family. He didn’t remember this, but he knew this because his sister and her husband and children had sat at the restaurant waiting for them for over an hour before investigating what happened. Marshall didn’t even know why he had chosen to ride with them instead of take his own car. It seemed like an odd choice for him. Marshall could not remember anything from that day, or the day before. He only remembered waking up in the hospital with no idea what had happened to him or why he couldn’t move.  He knew the details. He had been in the passenger seat when the truck rammed into them, killing his parents on impact and leaving him with a long list of injuries to deal with. There had been insurance claims, and threats of lawsuits before an out-of-court settlement. His sister had handled almost all of it. He had still been in the hospital when the funerals took place, so he never got to take part in any of that. By the time he was even relatively himself again, it seemed like months had passed. He then spent months living at his sister’s house, because nobody trusted that he could be alone.

Nobody talked about what happened in any real sense. There was no moment where somebody sat down and explained to him what he had been through, and what had happened to his parents. People made assumptions, because they had all been through it from the other side. Marshall pieced it together fairly slowly. Realizing first that his parents were dead, then later that he had been in an accident with them, and even later that he had traumatic brain injuries and that was why everybody was treating him like he was broken and that he couldn’t take care of himself. It had taken quite a fight to get back out of their house and back into his condo. There had been discussions of a receivership, and turning over his finances to his sister.  It has taken a lot to prove to them that he was still a functioning human being, and at times they had managed to make even Marshall doubt it.

Marshall knew his sister loved him, and he knew she had no ulterior motives but what she thought was best for him. That was what made the situation so difficult. He refused to believe though, that he could not take care of himself. Marshall had trouble telling his sister no. That was why he had stayed long after he felt like he could handle being on his own. It wasn’t until he broached the idea that he realized that they had determined to make choices for him.

It hadn’t been a big ugly argument, but it had been a hard discussion. Marshal had explained that he was an adult, and he was used to living on his own, and that whatever difficulties he faced by going back to that, it was his decision to make. His sister tried in the same way to convince him that he wasn’t as far along as he wanted to think he was, and that he was better off with them. She used the headaches as her prime argument, but Marshall had made up his mind, and in the end she had to either drop her arguments, or try to have him declared incompetent, which would have created a rift they would never have recovered from. That was when she backed down.

Marshall spent another eight months in chandler, living on his own. He slowly weaned himself from the barrage of medications the doctors seemed to think would help him, but only seemed to cloud his thinking. In the end, the only thing his sister could noticeably hang over his head was that he didn’t eat, but in that case, being overweight worked in his favor. Even at 190 or so, he was above what doctors considered his ideal weight, although not by much now.

In a week and a half, his sister would be there, and he would have to work one more time to convince them that he was fine. Marshall realized that he needed a plan. He pulled out his iPhone and started making a list of the things he needed to over the next week and a half.

  1. Put on as much weight as you can.
  2. Decorate apartment.
  3. Fill cabinet and refrigerator with food
  4. Figure out relationship with Catrin
  5. ???

He stopped typing and reviewed the list, He knew there should be more, but he figured that was a good start. It felt good to have a plan though. In a way, he decided, it was good that his sister was coming now. Looking at the first item on the list, he had to smile. He could not remember a time in his life when gaining weight was a goal. Marshall put his phone back in his pocket and looked out at the beach again. He watched the waves draw in and out of the sand. The sight brought a certain meditative calm.