Tuesday, September 25, 2007

3000 Miles from Graceland, Part 6

Jenny met Rod at the door when he finally pulled in to the driveway well after dark. Her red-rimmed eyes made it obvious she'd been crying.

"Rod!" she shouted, throwing her arms around his neck, "I was so worried."

"About what?" he asked, returning the hug. He sighed quietly, relieved that she hadn't come out the door in a screaming fit.

"You." She said, pulling back. "I just saw the traffic reports and heard that it's a nightmare out there on the expressways. I was worried that you got in one of those horrible accidents, since I haven't heard from you in a while."

"Yeah, it's pretty bad." He shrugged. "I got through okay. Where's, uh," he paused to look around the entryway, "Where's Kev-head?"

Her tight hug immediately loosened. "What did you say?"

"I asked where Kevin is."

She let him go and stepped back, an angry, incredulous look plastered across her face. "Kevin disappeared. Don't you remember?"

"Oh," recognition flashed across his eyes, "Right." He tried to recover. "I, uh, figured that since you were sitting around watching the news, that meant you found him."

"No," she shook her head. "I've been looking for him for the past three hours. I just came back to the house to check to see if he'd come home when I saw the pile-ups on the news."

"Oh," Rod winced, "Well maybe we should call the police."

"I already did. They're a bit busy, so I've had to take matters in to my own hands."

"And I take it you didn't find him."

Her right hand swung around in a roundhouse move with an open-palmed slap that connected hard with his left cheek. She moved so fast that he didn't even have a chance to react. His head snapped around and he momentarily lost his balance. He stumbled back a few steps, but kept on his feet.

"What was that for?" he shouted, raising his left hand to massage the stinging cheek.

"It's for being an inconsiderate ass, what do you think?" She raised her left hand to strike him again.

He grabbed her wrist and held it tight. "Okay, Jenny, okay. I'm sorry."
"For what?"

"For being an inconsiderate ass, apparently."

She sighed heavily and yanked her arm out of his grasp. "You just don't get it, do you?"

"Get what?"

"Our son is missing. I've been looking for him and worried sick about you getting home safe. I've been all by myself trying to keep from completely losing it and only barely holding on. Everything is falling apart out there. And you just come waltzing home like nothing happened. Not only that, you don't even remember that anything happened."

"Okay, fine," he said, turning away from her, "I get it." He started walking down the driveway."

"Where are you going?"

"To look for Kevin," he said over his shoulder. "Anywhere but here," he mumbled to himself.

Jenny shook her head and walked back in to the house. The news was still on and Kevin's shirt was still draped across the arm of the couch. She absentmindely picked it up and started walking towards the TV to shut it off. Halfway across the room she stopped short, hardly able to believe what she was seeing or hearing.

"I repeat," said the disheveled anchor, "Preliminary reports indicate that millions, if not billions of people worldwide have disappeared." "Including..." he shook his head sadly and looked down at his desk, apparently ready to burst in to tears. A close shot of a woman filled the screen. She was on her knees in the middle of a street, eyes closed tight and mouth drawn back in an expression of sheer agony. In her uplifted hands she cradled an empty infant's jumper. The anchor composed himself and looked back at the camera. Silent tears streamed down his cheeks. "Including, as far as we can tell, every single child on the face of the Earth."

He slumped forward on to the desk and began sobbing in to the sleeve of his suit coat. A barely audible, "Oh, Bethany...David...why?" came through the TV's speakers.

A woman appeared on the screen. "We're, uh, we're..." she hesitated, barely managing to stay composed herself, "We're going to go back to coverage of the situation on the roads. If we get any additional information, you'll be the first to know." She reached out and put her arm around the anchor's shoulders as the studio feed faded out.

The sheet enormity of the situation suddenly hit Jenny. Unable to hold herself together any longer, she collapsed to the floor and began sobbing in to her missing son's shirt.


Alan said...

Just to offer some constructive criticism, I'd omit the following paragraph:

"He slumped forward on to the desk and began sobbing in to the sleeve of his suit coat. A barely audible, "Oh, Bethany...David...why?" came through the TV's speakers."

The paragraph before this one makes it clear that he's lost children and is distraught but trying to soldier through and do his job. Having him actually break down on camera doesn't add anything and detracts a little from the emotional tension, IMO.

The rest of it is awesome as per usual for this site.

Jesurgislac said...

I agree. It's actually more effective if the anchorperson doesn't break up on camera.

Jesurgislac said...

Not that it's not good! Sorry. I usually do the rule of saying one nice thing FIRST. But really, the paragraph depicting the anchorperson soldiering on despite his tears was awesome - that's why I winced a bit at the paragraph following.

Geds said...


I was going for the "personal connection" angle in that one. Apparently it didn't work quite the way I thought it would.

Then again, one of the most indelible memories of 9/11 I have is Peter Jennings sitting in the anchor seat for the entire day. As time went on he got more and more frazzled and closer to breaking down, but he just kept going.

So at this point I'll probably cut that paragraph. The question is, then, does the following paragraph were the woman (his producer, for the record) cuts in and sends the feed away still work?

Geds said...

Oh, and I just re-read the paragraph before the news report. It seemed awfully disjointed, so I smoothed it out...

Ursula L said...

I find the on-camera collapse useful.

The sight of an anchor being seen suppressing emotion to continue working is something that one expects with normal disasters. Kennedy's shooting, 9/11, the flooding of New Orleans, etc.

This disaster is of a scope and scale magnitudes beyond anything anyone has ever seen. So it makes sense that the normal disaster-reactions break down in the face of it, and those used to acting controlled in the face of disaster fail.

It is tempting to follow the pattern we know of reaction to disaster from real life, in the face of L&J's characters curious non-reactions. But this is beyond any real life disaster, and the shock of seeing the expected disaster related self-control fail emphasizes it.

Anonymous said...

I want to like this story, but I'm having a hard time empathizing with the characters. Jenny was the more empathetic of the two until this Part, in which she smacks her husband around.

Is this meant to be a sign of how profoundly she's affected by events, or has she been abusing him for years? He seems to take it as a regular thing.

Or perhaps it was on purpose, and we're going to find out that she used to hit her son as well?

Geds said...

I don't know. Seems to me as though someone who's as much of an uncaring jerk as Rod deserves a good slap every now and then. I mean, his kid just disappeared and he can't be bothered to remember it.

Also, he's a stand-in for the half dimensional, stock characters in Left Behind and they all deserve a good smack, so it's kind of cathartic...

Femalethoth (Mal from xkcdsucks) said...

I love, love, LOVE the name Rod Logman.