The Words (Complete Edition) - Would be thankful for some feedback :)
The Words , By KC
Chapter 1 (The Two Writers)
Somewhere in the middle of Paris, two men were seated outside a café. One of them was an old man with the name of Clay Hammond, an accomplished writer who has had many of his books published. The other was a young man with the name of Rory Jensen, a dedicated young writer fresh out of college, struggling to have his voice heard through paper and ink. Rory Jensen has had the privilege of meeting Clay Hammond in one of his public readings, followed by the honor of the latter accepting his request to talk over a few cups of coffee, with the condition that Rory plays a game of chess with him. The young writer found it weird, but did not question the eccentricity of it.
The two men now sat opposite of each other with a chessboard and two steaming, freshly-brewed cups of coffee between them. It was Rory’s move, and the odds were not exactly in his favor. He had lost both his knights and bishops and was only left with two rooks, the queen and a few pawns with his king in an extremely vulnerable position. He then proceeded to defend his queen with his rook. Clay Hammond, who had spotted the one move that could end the game, looked up from the chessboard and stubbed his cigarette with an indolent flick of his wrist. After having his fill of scrutinizing Rory Jensen with his shrewd grey eyes, he finally spoke, and it was with a deep and sonorous voice that he asked him, “Tell me, Mr. Jensen…Would you like to hear a story?”
The young writer looked up, surprised. “Sure,” , was his casual reply. Clay Hammond took a sip of his coffee, winced, poured some cream into it and watched it dissipate in swirls amongst the black liquid. And then, he started to talk. With the same profound voice, he told the story that would change the young man’s life.
Chapter 2 (The Story As Told By Clay Hammond-Part I)
It was 1944, and there was this eighteen year old kid, a soldier in the army. He was sent to Paris right at the end of the war. There he was in Paris, a dumb kid with a dumbass grin on his face. Most of the time, he spent time with his unit relaying sewage pipes blown apart by the Germans during the occupation. It was god-awful work. But somehow the kid was happy, like a pig in shit. The guys from his unit, most of them were different from anybody he had known in his neighborhood. They were from all over, little towns he had never even heard of. There was this one guy in his unit, real different to him, an intellectual, a real bookworm, and they became boys’ best friends. He lent him some books to read, the first books the kid had ever read about anything. For the first time, he saw a world that was bigger than the one that he had been born into. And he wanted more. He wanted to be something more. A writer.
One fine day, beneath the autumn breeze, the kid was bumming a cigarette over a few cups of coffee with his friend at a café. They were talking. About where they were born, where they grew up, where they learnt their first poker game. The kid was just telling his friend how he grew up in dear old Philadelphia when a beautiful French waitress walked up to their table, took their empty coffee cups and muttered a few words in French. The whole time, the kid was looking at her like she was the most beautiful person he had ever laid his eyes on. Like an angel from heaven. Not oblivious to his fervent scrutiny, the waitress said something else before walking away with an impatient air. The poor kid who had never learned French had no idea how to string those words together to make a sentence, let alone fathom them. He then turned to his friend, “What did she just say? What did she say?”
His friend replied with a playful smirk on his dimpled face, “Well, my French is a little weak, but I’m pretty sure she said she loves you.”
The kid then turned his eyes onto the waitress, who was then taking orders a few tables away. The young lady happened to stare back at him, but with a light air of aversion. The kid then turned his glare onto his friend across him before sending a light punch to his friend’s arm. Both men sat laughing over the ludicrous plausibility that a young soldier from Philadelphia would ever end up with such a beautiful French lady. The kid found out some time later that what she actually said was ‘Pay your check and get the hell out of here’. But who was he to question fate?
That very night, the kid sat across the young lady with a romantic candle-light dinner on the table between them in that very same café. He was holding her hand. He had picked up one word of French, ‘Oui’. And she knew one word of English, ‘Yes’. Those were the only words exchanged between them in that tiny dark room, with the fine smell of Chateau Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan rouge 1944 diffusing from the open wine bottle between them. And that was enough. They looked at each other for a long time before breaking into interminable smiles. It was the perfect relationship.
Chapter 3 (The Story As Told By Clay Hammond-Part II)
“J’aime manger de la ice cream,”
They were having ice-cream on a picnic mat in the middle of a meadow under the scintillating sun in the middle of September. It was a clear and beautiful day with zero chance of rain. She was teaching him French. As they sat amongst the strewn foliage, surrounded by beautiful nature, they did what most couples would do. They talked, fooled around, dirtied each others’ noses with vanilla ice cream, kissed. The kid was in love. And those time spent with her were the best he had ever had in old Paris.
A few months later, he got discharged from the army. He had to leave Paris for Philadelphia, where his home truly was. So he left Paris, and the woman he loved. But back home, what once was his whole world suddenly seemed small. Nothing had changed since he had been away, except him. He had changed. For the first time in his life, he tried to write. He tried to write about Paris, about what he had seen and how he had felt, but the words just would not come. He knew the life he wanted, and he knew what he had to do to get it. He returned to Paris, to the woman he loved, to where was then truly his home.
Meanwhile in a café in Paris, a lady stood at a counter overlooking the streets, polishing glasses that different men had put to their lips, glasses held to contain the beverage that men had talked over, about politics, about their life in the army, about the first women they had every kissed. The lady had no idea that the first man he had ever kissed, the very first and true love of her life, was just a few steps from her beyond the streets. And the young man had no idea that his life was about to begin. Then, the lady looked up. And she saw him, the beautiful features that had made up his handsome visage, the lines and shapes that God had put together, creating that very face of the man she loved. Letting go of the fine glass she was polishing, she ran. Straight out the doors, straight towards the man’s warm embrace, where she felt his smooth lips and his rough copper brown hair. The young man had no idea then that his life had begun.
They settled into a beautiful apartment overlooking one of the most beautiful streets in Paris. The young man began his apprenticeship as a writer. He got a job as a journalist for a company who would hire anyone who would string a few words together. It was a good place to learn.
He married Celia two weeks later. The young man had never looked more resplendent in his suit. They danced under the brightest stars in Paris. They drank the finest tasting wine in Paris. They wore the happiest and brightest smile in Paris. They had Paris to themselves that night.
A year later, the young man had become a father. Six pounds and three inches, with eyes like her mother’s. When he spent his time writing away on his typewriter, Celia would sing to their crying baby, hoping that those melodious notes would chase away whatever that was making their darling cry. Sometimes the three of them would lie in the meadow beneath a sky of the deepest cyan, making out shapes from the clouds, soaking up their skin with Vitamin D.
That was his moment. Not that he knew it at the time. Maybe no one ever does.
Chapter 4 (The Story As Told By Clay Hammond-Part III)
Their child was sick. And there was nothing he could do. He watched as the doctor covered his baby’s face with the blanket. He watched as the doctor rose from the crib, carrying the stethoscope that had just parted from the cold skin of his baby. He watched as the doctor walked towards him, wearing the look he knew the doctor had wore under the roof of many other families who have lost their children. He watched the doctor’s lips move, but did not hear anything. He watched the doctor gave his arm a squeeze before closing the door behind him, but did not feel anything. He felt as if every single drop of his blood in his veins had been injected with morphine. And then slowly, he slid down the wall and started to cry along with his wife.
Celia was never the same. He was not the same either, even though he tried to pretend. She would not eat or drink. That one night, after again failing to make her eat, and looking at that pair of vacant eyes that were lost to him, and the wet tears sliding down her face which contained all the grief he could not stand and the things he wished not to be reminded of, he stood up from the dinner table, walked over to the door and put on his coat.
“I’ll be back later,” was all he said, before slamming the door behind him.
He, like all other men, did what he thought could solve all problems. He drank. He drank the same cheap warm beers as all the other men in the pub, the place where countless men have exchanged their spare shillings for some bitter liquid to soothe their darned souls, for some alcohol they thought could eradicate all their problems, or to at least liberate their minds off it, even just for a moment. After finally emptying his pockets of all the money he had, he started to find his way home, holding on to his last bottle of beer and singing all the French songs he ever knew in his inebriated stupor, not knowing that he would return to his home only to find the woman he loved gone.
After finally getting the right key into the keyhole, he forced his way into the apartment, calling out for Celia. Walking towards the dinner table he had so hastily abandoned a few hours earlier, he picked up a letter and started to read. It was from Celia. She said she had left and gone home to her family in the country, and she needed time to think, to be apart. As his eyes hovered over the letter, the words stung his heart like acid. He had nothing left. Now that he had lost both his baby and the first woman he had ever loved, he felt that he had nothing to hold him here anymore. He collapsed into a chair, but he did not cry, for he had shed all the tears there ever were to shed. As he sat there, his eyes found the very first book he had ever read, ‘The Sun Also Rises’. He looked at all the books sitting on his bookshelf, and was reminded of what he had wanted to be, and what he had yet to be. Confronted with the reality that he had nothing, he could no longer contain the frustration and ire boiling like lava beneath his very skin. He started to throw the books everywhere, hurling anything within his reach to every single corner of his apartment. Even his typewriter and the photographs of his wife and baby, for he no longer cared. Finally, he knelt by the empty crib and again started to cry. For hours he knelt there, until he looked up and saw the object that would save him, hold him there that very night. His typewriter. He crawled towards it beneath the lambent glow of the lights in his apartment, like a child crawling desperately for the only toy in an empty room. He picked up the typewriter and placed it before him. He then picked up the letter Celia had left him, the only paper within his reach, and fed it into the typewriter. He closed his eyes for a moment before he opened them again. And he started to write. He wrote about how he was just a little kid from the army who knew nothing but relaying sewage pipes to how his life truly began here in Paris. He wrote about how he had everything, and how he lost it all. He could not remember sleeping, or eating. The words simply poured out of him. A stream that he could not control, nor question where they came from. The words became form, the form became whole, and after two weeks, it was finished.
Chapter 5 (The Story As Told By Clay Hammond- Part IV)
After that, he slept. He slept and he dreamt. When he woke, he cleaned the apartment and went to find his wife. She looked like a child to him, sitting in the room she grew up in. She begged him to go back to Paris without her. And so he did, leaving the story he had wrote behind for his wife’s perusal, the story that would bring her back, the story that would set her free. The story that would change everything. Reading the story was like being in it. She was right there. She tasted the wine, heard the baby’s laughter, and felt the soft kiss. She felt the words that had poured out of the man of her life the night he lost everything. She felt the words of the young writer, her very own husband.
Three weeks later, she finally came home. He was so grateful to have a home. He just wanted to hold her, see her laugh again. She said she wanted to start life over. She said it like it would be the easiest thing to do in the world. They were having dinner the day she came home.
“Ainsi vous avez lu mon histoire?” asked the young writer.
“Oh, chéri, c'est beau, ” Celia replied, taking his hand. “I love you.”
“I love you more.” He smiled as he said this, kissing her hands. “Can I have it?”
“Oh, it’s in the valise,” she nodded over to her baggages by the bed.
The young writer ran to the baggages, hoping to hold his words again. One baggage after another he opened, but none of them contained the papers that held his precious words, his story. He looked up at Celia, waiting for an explanation, hoping against hope that somehow she had left it at home, that she had not lost it.
“I-I don’t understand…I had…I had it with me on the train…”
“I had it with me on the train!” A lump rose in her throat as the realization that she had forgotten it dawned on her.
“But it was in a different case?” The young writer prompted, trying to keep his voice calm. “Etes-vous sûr? Avez-vous l'oubliez, laissé à la maison? No?”
Somehow, writing that story had saved him. How could she not understand?
The lump in her throat expanded to a rock as she felt that he had cared more about those stupid words than he had cared for her and their child. As fresh tears welled up in her eyes, she said something that stopped the young man in his tracks as he was walking out the door to look for his previous words. “Avez-vous déjà soigné du tout?”
The young man stormed before his wife and said, “You know what? You are not the only one who lost her!”
And before she knew what she was doing, she slapped him.
Chapter 6 (The Story As Told By Clay Hammond- Part V)
He ran. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him. He felt his muscles tore. But he continued to run. Celia watched as he ran to the platform, checking every single baggage that was there, shaking the arms of train conductors, describing the briefcase that contained the invaluable pages of his story. But it was already gone.
For times they tried to patch things up together, but they could not erase the past, no matter how hard they wanted to. For the first time, the young man began to long for home. And soon, the longing grew so strong that he left. He never went back to Paris, never saw Celia again. But after he lost those pages, he was never able to set down one word, or to write again. Maybe he was afraid to go in that deep again. Anyway, he stopped trying.
And after some time, he found a little town up north and settled there, where he found peace.
Chapter 7 (How Rory Jensen lost his king and gained something more)
Rory Jensen, who had clung onto the old writer’s every single word like a lifeline, stared as the old writer across him took a sip of his coffee. Being unable to suppress the urge to wait any longer, he asked. “What happened then?”
Smiling, the old writer continued on, “He did see Celia one more time. He was on his way to work in New Jersey. He was in the train, just sitting there and, you know, thinking of her, when he looked out the window and there she was, standing on the platform, waiting. For whom he did not know, but he did not have to wait very long for an answer. He was about to call out her name when he saw a man approached her with a toddler in his arms. A toddler with eyes of the same delicate shade of blue as his mother’s. She had found a new family. Not long after, their eyes met. He looked at the beautiful woman on the platform who had once been his wife, and was now another man’s wife. And she looked at him with a pair of sad eyes, the pair of eyes that contained all the joy and grief she had ever shared with him. Soon, the train started and rolled away from the platform, as he raised his hand for one final wave, which she returned with a sad smile. The train turned a corner, and that was the last he had ever seen of her. All those years, he thought about her everyday, about how he broke her, and what he did to her. And all of a sudden, there she was. She seemed happy to him, and if he was to say that that realization did not cause him any pain, he would be lying, but in some way it helped him to turn a corner, to pick up again without looking back all the time.”
With this, the old writer bent over the table and placed his queen beside Rory Jensen’s king. “Mate.”
Rory Jensen had lost the game.
Upon this, the old writer leaned back against his chair and addressed the young writer across him. “We all make choices in life son. And the hardest part in that, is to live with it. And there ain’t nobody who can help you with that. The tragedy of the young writer was that he loved his words more than he loved the woman who inspired him to write them.” With this, the old writer Clay Hammond stood up and walked away, leaving Rory Jensen with something he did not have before meeting the old writer. The young writer sat in his chair, unaware of the time or the world passing around him. Finally, the sun had set, and Rory Jensen slowly rose to find his way home.
On that very night, Rory Jensen was lying on his bed with his beautiful fiancée, Dora, thinking. He could not sleep. He thought about the story the old writer had told him, about the words. He wondered if Clay Hammond had ever seen Celia again. If the reason why Clay Hammond sat for hours outside that café every single day was to see if Celia would ever show up again. Rory Jensen was not a fool, he knew that Clay Hammond had all but told him that the kid in the story was Clay Hammond himself. Rory Jensen could swear that he saw a trickle of tear sliding down the old writer’s wrinkled face as he stood up. Clay Hammond had chosen his words to the woman he loved, and he had to live with it. As the young writer turned his head to look at the beautiful lady lying beside him, he made his choice. As he planted a gentle kiss on the forehead of the most important person in his life, he smiled and thanked the old writer in his heart for giving him a chance to choose.
He laughed. And I laughed. But our laughter weren't the only thing we were shaking with.
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Last edited by LeWriter; 05-31-2013 at 05:59 PM..