First Chapter Finalist/Romance: Vicarious Relations by Gene Eric Crider
August 29, 2016
Vicarious Relations by Gene Eric Crider is a Finalist in the Romance category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.
Award-Winning First Chapter
TRADITION DICTATES I START HERE – Chapter 1
Our known world ended when Victor’s heart shattered like a ceramic pot on May 19, 2007 in Marquette, Michigan. He stood in our kitchen weeping bitterly, the house phone hanging from his hand and his heart broken at his feet. His baby-blue honey pot was shattered into fragments and thick golden fluid oozed over shards, scenting the room with its fragrance. The bear on the front was now shattered, split between his head and his heart.
Victor’s mother, like the rest of his family, was dead.
His sweet mother had given him this pot as a young child, and he delighted to dip out the treat to spread on bread and drool into tea. He often traced with his finger the outline of the painted little bear dipping his paw into the sticky, golden honey. I couldn’t glue his pot back together this time. The remaining shards were much too fragmented. I glued it together once when it had just a little crack. Victor’s mother repaired it on one other occasion. But this time my husband gazed down at it weeping, knowing it could never be mended. Who could put him back together again?
We visited his mother earlier that cool evening in the cancer ward of Marquette General Hospital. Like a cracked vessel, her sweet essence was rapidly draining from her body. But Victor was desperate to somehow recapture and re-contain it in her stead. She had been admitted a week earlier, and the doctors were amazed she had held on this long. Still, she had enough breath in her to utter what would be her last words.
“Son, I can’t tell you what you’ve meant to my lonely life,” she said in a slow whisper. Tears streamed into her graying hair, both her tears and Victor’s, as we strained to hear her soft voice. “I love you so much. Please forgive me. You were lent to me and I could never let you go. I needed you to love me. Forgive me, son, and always love me. And please … please … ask Grace to forgive me. Grace knows that I love her, but I needed you. Find her box. Go back to her after I’m gone. Promise me?”
Victor did not understand and he didn’t want to hear anymore. He only wanted her to rest and get well. He tried to hide his pain with a smile. “Shhhh, Mama, don’t talk now. You’re not making any sense. There’s nothing to forgive. I love you, Mama. I promise I’ll always love you. And I promise I’ll never let you go. We’re going to beat this again, Mama. Tomorrow you’re going to feel better, just wait and see.” He kissed her pale wrinkled cheeks three times and stroked her thinning grey hair. “Get some rest, okay?”
But his mother was not content with his answer. Speaking as loud as she could as we turned to walk out, she said, “Promise me, Victor. Katrina, promise me you will tell Grace I’m sorry. Tell her I love her even more now than ever. Tell her ‘thank you.’”
For Victor as well as for me, I confirmed, “We promise, Mom. Sleep now and we will be back in the morning.”
We were about to walk out the door when we heard her cry out, “Victor, do you promise?
He turned and nodded. “Sure, Mama. I promise.”
She sighed deeply and smiled. She said softly, “Now I can rest in peace.” She then laid back in repose.
This last sentence disturbed Victor tremendously. We quietly left at 10:30. He had been there almost all week. He desperately needed a bath and a good night’s sleep. Victor said nothing as we drove home in the mist. He has always been pensive, but this night the only sound he made was his sniffing to hold back the tears. When we got to the house, I offered to make supper, but he said he just wanted to sit in his chair. He sat in the dark for over an hour while I graded papers at the kitchen table. Eventually, I came back in to try breaking him from his dark world.
“Darling, who’s Grace?”
“I don’t know.”
I redirected, “You remember, your mother said she loved Grace, but she loved you more. That sounds so strange, don’t you think? Are you sure you don’t remember your mother ever mentioning a woman named Grace?”
“No, I don’t. Mom must’ve been delirious.” He continued to stare out the window. Earlier it was sunny. Now it was dark, and the pane tinkled with the patter of rain.
“Why do you think she wanted you and Grace to forgive her?”
He sighed heavily, then replied in his next sigh, “I don’t know.”
I held his hand. “Hey, Mush-heart, please don’t get into one of your moods again. We both love your mother very much, but let’s get on with our own life tonight. How about eating some supper now?”
“No thanks, I’m not hungry.”
“Well, you need to keep your strength up. You’ve spent too much time at the hospital and not eating. I tried to act perky. “How about a cup of chamomile tea and a slice of whole wheat bread with honey? Your mother always cheered you up with bread and hot tea. Come on, have some with me.”
He sat un-answering a moment, then acquiesced, “Okay, I’ll have a cup.” He rose up heavily out of his chair and dragged himself into the kitchen.
“Great, I’ll put the water on. Could you get the honey, Honey?”
He lifted the blue ceramic honey pot off the shelf and held it in his left hand just as the phone rang. We both stood still in the middle of the kitchen. Again it rang. We looked at each other. It was midnight. Who could be calling so late? It insisted a third ring. Victor cautiously picked it up with his right hand.
“Hello … yes, I’m Victor.” His body became limp. His left hand twitched. I watched as in slow motion the honey pot slide from his fingers.
Vessels come in all sizes, shapes, and materials. But the two most important attributes of any vessel are its containability and its contents. If a vessel breaks, who will repair it and refill it?
Allow me to digress a moment here to introduce myself, Dear Reader. My full name then was Katrina Lorene Borges Halton. I generally go by Katrina, but my husband calls me Kat. He says I’m more mischievous and curious than a cat.
And Dear Reader, what is your name?
Are you absolutely sure?
What if someone told you that you’re really someone else? You have been living the wrong life. Not only is your name different from the one you think you own, but the whole basis of your life – your family, your family name, your neighborhood, even the very chromosomes you think you inherited – have been all wrong. How easily could you embrace a new identity? Would you be able to drop who you think you are to take on the persona of someone who you should really be? In any case, you would still hold on to the exact same characteristics you possess now, right? Or would you? How can you be certain?
All of us daydream about living someone else’s life from time to time because our own is so normal. Don’t say you never think like that. Your reading this book proves otherwise. We do it vicariously when we read a book, watch TV, or go to the movies. But what if what I described above really happened to you? What if the family you grew up with or the spouse you married turned out to be someone else entirely? Or what if the one who won your heart with great affections suddenly became a wimp or a cold-hearted villain? Or what if you were tired of your past life and saw a way to become like someone else whose life you want to have? How hard would you strive to become like that person? I am not talking about a fantasy here; I’m talking about real life. At what point do you stop living your self-absorbed life as who you think you are and start living the life you were intended to live?
This story is about my husband, perhaps more normal than you. His name, so he thought, was Victor Edward Halton. Perhaps you’ve heard about our story on TV or in the national news.