So, Cari... *twiddles fingers* What's up? And, um, why aren't we reading new and exciting things on your blog?
Ah. Yeah. I could blame life, but mostly I blame myself. I haven't finished the next part of Pandora and I don't have any new information on story acceptances or cover art or anything, but several of you seemed to enjoy the snippet of Different Spheres I posted last time, so how about I give you some more? (Thanks for the comments, ladies) I haven't heard one way or the other about this story yet, but if I keep on posting it here I'll invalidate its publishing mojo, so perhaps that will spur me into getting my tail in gear.
This snippet is a direct continuation of the previous one, which might be a little confusing if you didn't read the other. Just sayin'.
Shortly afterwards Warren came back, his footstep soft but still audible on the hardwood floors. “Not your style, huh?”
“Here, let me finish it off and we’ll go.” Warren gently took the mug and a moment later Gil could hear it being drained. How long did it take to develop a natural equivalent to asbestos in one’s digestive tract? It had to be the work of a lifetime.
The mug was set down on a small table, and then Warren’s hands were on Gil’s arm again and he was leading him out the front door. They walked slowly down the steps and over to the garage, which Warren keyed open. He had a big garage, and half of it was filled with a 1984 Nissan truck that, for some reason, still drew mechanical breath. The other half Gil had never seen before, and it looked like his perfect record wasn’t going to be broken today. The metal smell was stronger in here, rawer, if that made any sense in the context of something like metal. It reminded Gil of the scent of lightning.
Warren opened the passenger door. “Can you make it in all right?”
“I’m sure I can.” Let’s see, there was the frame, he could see the closest edge of that, which meant the seat was…yes, right where it should be. Gil got a grip on the doorframe and pulled himself carefully into the car, wincing as he felt the weakness in his lower legs. That was a recurring problem, but one he could have totally done without today. He settled with a sigh into the seat, closed his eyes and laid his head back against the torn plastic cushion.
Suddenly a strong arm was looping around his waist. Gil’s eyes flashed open immediately and he turned to look at—look towards, at least—Warren. “What…”
“Oh.” How disappointingly sensible of him. The door shut and Gil endured the silence for a moment before Warren got in on the other side. The truck started with a rumbling purr. In a few seconds they were down the driveway and headed toward the main road. Their houses were part of a small, wooded subdivision in the northern part of Boulder, but the hospital was still only a ten minute drive. Gil searched for a way to pass the time without silence, which Warren seemed to have a thing for but which Gil himself never liked getting too intimate with.
“I appreciate the ride. Usually if it isn’t so bad I drive myself, but today I certainly qualify as a hazard on the road.”
“Who takes you if it is bad?”
“My sister, who before you ask is off celebrating her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in high style on the seven seas, and is unsummonable for another week.”
“You don’t want to give her a heads up?”
“Absolutely not, Peter would never forgive me. Her husband,” Gil added. “I think this is the first time they’ve been on a trip that wasn’t either work-related or included their children in the whole of their marriage. They deserve their peace of mind.”
“She’ll probably be ticked when she gets back.”
“Have you met her?” Gil asked brightly. “It sounds like you know her. And I can handle ticked from my sister better than I can handle ruining her vacation. Noble cause and all that.” He stared at his hands again, spreading his fingers wide. Too many to count, and he couldn’t really count them when they were all blurry anyway.
“She live close?”
“She’s a Boulder native, just like me. She and Peter have a house a little ways up Four Mile Canyon. Mine’s the ancestral homestead.”
“Folks are gone, huh?”
“For the past twelve years,” Gil sighed. He was tired of talking about himself, and wanted to take advantage of having Warren at his mercy while he could. “Whereas you’ve only been in the neighborhood for six months. Where were you before that?”
“I feel you’ve traded up, but that’s just me. What did you do in South Dakota?”
“Good lord.” Mentally Gil slotted Warren’s body in with the paraphernalia of a firefighter. Nearly six feet tall, wiry strength in his deceptively slim build, just put a fireman’s helmet on over that short salt-and-pepper hair and an axe in those hard, capable hands and you had—yes—instant mental pornography the likes of which Gil hadn’t looked at in far too long. A firefighter. Heaven preserve him. “Are you doing that here too?”
“Retired now. I volunteer for the local department, though. You?”
“Oh, I doubt I’d be much use volunteering with a fire department.”
“I meant what do you do,” Warren replied patiently.
Gil knew he was blushing, and he hoped Warren was keeping his eyes on the road. “Oh, right. I’m a professor of Writing and Poetics at Naropa University.”
“You Buddhist?” Gil registered actual surprise in Warren’s normally taciturn voice.
“No, fortunately you don’t have to be much of anything spiritually to work there, which is good as I’m an avowed agnostic who delights in taking the name of the Lord and all his environs in vain. I moonlight as a graduate thesis advisor with a few other universities.” Such as Harvard, Princeton…places he used to work at instead of moonlight for. Places that reluctantly gave you the shaft when it was clear that you couldn’t handle the requisite course load any longer.
“That you’re a writer. You love words.”
Gil hadn’t thought that he had Warren had exchanged enough words up to this point in their relationship for Warren to know that he loved them, but he wasn’t surprised the man was insightful. “I don’t write words so much as assault them these days in the name of improving the writers of tomorrow, but I do enjoy my work.”
This was nice, this back and forth. Gil had another question all ready to go, but then the car stopped. “We’re here,” Warren said. He got out and came around to help Gil down. The brief rush of adrenaline that had pumped him up this morning had evaporated, and Gil felt out on his feet. He closed his eyes, but the world didn’t stop spinning.
“You need a wheelchair?” Warren asked quietly.
“I’d like to say no, but at this point I’m afraid the answer is yes,” Gil replied. Without letting him go, Warren somehow signaled to someone that help was needed and a few minutes later a nurse was there with a chair. Gil sank into it and sighed. Fear licked at the edges of his mind, but he staunchly pushed it back. Breakdowns were for home only, where he could be both alone and ready to comfort himself with literature. Although if he didn’t get his vision back, he was going to have to buy a hell of a lot of audio books.