Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Novel Experiment, Part III

This is the last novel excerpt I will be posting for a while. I beg your indulgence as I drag these unfinished novels out of moth balls and into the light of day.
Eventually, I have to pick one of these to be the first on my list to finish. So, once again...send on your comments! Thanks!

Genevieve had the advantage of advanced age, or the disadvantage, depending on your point of view. A common woman, she lived simply and considered her life happy and content and somewhat unremarkable. Early in the evening on the day I moved into the house next door, she welcomed me to the neighborhood and invited me over for tea. Exhausted from hauling load after load from the rental truck, I gratefully accepted. Glancing around in amazement, I followed her through the ‘stacks’ to her kitchen. "Oh no, another loony old woman who can’t part with her trash." I thought as I took mental stock of the sheer poundage of paper that had taken up residence.

She opened a cabinet to reveal boxes and boxes of tea. "What kind do you prefer?" she asked. "I’m a bit of a tea connoisseur, so I have many varieties; some are quite different than what you normally get at the grocery store."

I quickly scanned the shelves. "Ginger-Peach sounds particularly appealing at the moment, thank you."

Genevieve took a pair of large mugs from the cupboard and set the water to boil. "I know what you must be thinking. But don’t worry, I’m not offended,” she said and looked at me with wizened eyes. “Piles of newspapers and magazines are far cleaner and much less work than having a house full of cats. I don’t have to worry about flea infestation, and no smelly cans of cat food or stinky, overflowing litter boxes are required." She laughed, poured the steaming water into the mugs and carried them to the table. "Please sit down and enjoy your tea. I’ve been watching, and you haven’t stopped to rest all day. You must be close to collapsing."

"I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but I am getting tired. Thanks for noticing, and thank you for the tea. It’s a real treat." I took a sip of the aromatic blend. "It’s ironic that you have my favorite flavor of tea at hand…and such a lovely coincidence."

"The irony, my dear," she replied, "is there is no such thing as a coincidence."

"What do you mean?"

She sat silent for a moment as an all-knowing smile crept across her face. "I’m sure this is going to sound a bit odd, but I believe that everything that happens to you in life, happens for a reason. When you achieve, when you fail, who you meet, who you don’t, in good times or in bad, each thing happens to teach you a critical lesson either at that exact moment or in retrospect. But I think the most important thing I can tell you is to choose your words and actions with the utmost care. Everything you do, everything you say, has an effect on those around you and on the direction of the universe."

"That seems a bit mind boggling. Are you telling me that if I walk into Starbucks and order a steamer, I might change the direction of the universe?"

"Have you ever stood at the edge of a placid lake? So large, so still, it seems like a huge mirror, reflecting the image of the sky. But you choose to disturb the serenity of that scene by picking up a pebble and tossing it into the water. It’s just a tiny pebble and not of much importance when compared with the whole lake and, strictly speaking, it sinks immediately to the bottom. It’s not a very exciting end for the pebble. But the lake, the whole huge lake, is affected. The pebble creates only a small ripple, but the ripple moves outward getting ever larger as it goes. It affects everything in its path long after the pebble that caused it is lying inert at the bottom of the lake. We are all like that…pebbles in a huge universe. We don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but each little thing we do or say creates ripples that affect everyone they touch."

"But you can’t really mean I have to watch ‘every’ word I say."

"I suggest you think about every word before it leaves your lips, and about every action you take before you take it." She walked over to the counter and retrieved some gingersnaps to dunk in the tea.

"That seems like a horribly daunting task. Isn’t life hard enough?" I asked.

"It gets easier with time. I’ve been researching this for many years. You don’t really think I’m just another dottering old woman who collects newspapers, do you? Those stacks represent facts, and facts attest to things that have happened. Given sufficient information, you can correlate some small thing you did with an effect on someone or something down the road. Even if you think of yourself as living a quiet and mundane existence, you would be surprised how much effect you have had on the world, including an effect on people you’ve never met.”

Genevieve lifted the mug to her lips and took a slow swallow, one that seemed designed to allow her sufficient time to gather her thoughts before continuing.

“The other thing I should tell you is that you should watch for the savants that enter your life and heed what they try to teach you."

"I know many people I could describe as idiot-savants, but I have never heard of savant used as a singular term. What, exactly, is the difference?"

"Much in the way of guardian angels, savants appear in your life when you most need them. A savant is a sage, a teacher…someone who illuminates your life and your mind. He or she could be a seemingly unremarkable person who helps you to set or change the course of your life by performing one small act or imparting one bit of wisdom that makes an indelible, life-altering impression. I know these concepts must be foreign to you, but if you give them some thought, you may find that I’m right."

"Your theories certainly are intriguing," I said between bites of gingersnaps and sips of tea. "I will definitely give them some thought."

"It is quite simple to find the evidence if you just take the time to look. We all lead busy lives, especially a young person like you. But I bet if you think about it just a little bit, you will find the evidence of my theories in your own life. It can’t hurt to look, now can it?"

We exchanged more pleasantries, and I steered the conversation toward the neighborhood and the surrounding area. Then, with as much haste as I could muster while not appearing rude, I made my excuses…particularly having to put my bed together to avoid sleeping on the floor that night…and I took my leave of Genevieve.

I thought about everything we talked about as I finished assembling my bed frame. I was torn: was she a charming old lunatic or an eccentric genius? I had to admit that much of what she said struck a chord of truth. Then again, there were those mountains of old newspapers…On the other hand, she seemed to know that keeping them made her look like a head case. Her awareness was a good thing, and a point in her favor, as I debated the pros and cons of it all.

Finally, determined not to think about Genevieve and her theories any more, I dropped my weary body onto the freshly made bed and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.