The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 19

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

And the perils of writing on the fly often leads to back revisions to aid moving forward, and this is one of those occasions.  A few revisions were required.

 

Short of jumping over the side, there was no way we were getting away.  And judging from the expression on Rico’s face, now very plain to see halfway along the pier, he was not happy to see us.

Boggs stepped off the deck and joined me on the pier, just as Rico made it to where we were standing, just as it started in a gentle up and down motion with the water, churned up by a passing speed boat, but it was fear rather than the pier’s motions making me feel sick.

The sound of another boat caused me to glance in the opposite direction, out towards the sandbar, where I could see another large boat coming in our direction very quickly, and by the shape of it, quite possibly a police launch or the coast guard. 

Rico had seen it too.  “What have you done?”

“I called the police,” I said, trying to act braver than I felt.  Even with the police on their way, Rico could still do something we’d all regret.

“Why?”

Movement by the fishing store caught my eye, and I saw it was two of the men who’d left the boat with Rico earlier, retreating.  They’d seen the situation and were retreating.  A police car with its siren blaring and lights flashing just stopped at the entrance to the pier and two officers were getting out, guns in hand.

Those men would getaway.  Rico had seen them too and looked relieved.  Odd for a man about to find himself in a lot of trouble.

Boggs blurted out, “There’s a dead body in the cabin.”

Rico shook his head.  “That’s not possible.  I’ve been gone for an hour and it isn’t possible he put himself there.”

He looked around to see the officers coming from the land side of the pier.  There was no escape for him, or for us, but this could still end up a sticky situation for us if Rico decided to shoot his way out.  Boggs said he owned a gun, and if it was not on him, it might be in the boat.

Rico climbed on board and then moved to the hatch.  He lifted the hatch cover and folded it back to show an opening into the cabin.  It hadn’t been locked; it just looked like it was.  Just as the officers made it to the boat, he stepped in, then down into the cabin.

A minute later, when he came up  Rico looked visibly shaken like he’d seen a ghost.

The police launch had arrived just off the stern, kicking up the water and causing the boat and pier to rock violently, two men at either end ready to secure their boat to ours.  The land-based officers also arrived, somewhat out of breath, to join Boggs and I on the pier.

I recognised the officer who appeared to be in charge, a man called Johnson, the police chief’s deputy.  He was known to shoot first and ask questions later.  What worried me the most, he had his gun drawn and ready to shoot.

He looked at me, Rico, Boggs, then back to me.  “What’s this all about?”

“There’s a body in the cabin,” Boggs said before I could say a word, still sounding very frightened, but whether it was the body in the cabin, Rico’s fury at his meddling or the fact the police were involved was hard to say.

He switched his glare to Rico.  “That true?”

Rico nodded.  “I don’t know where it came from, but it wasn’t there an hour ago.”  A last look back at the cabin, he stepped off the boat onto the pier.

The seaman aboard the police launch slipped a rope over the bollard at the rear of our boat and then jumped on board to secure it.  Another seaman did the same at the bow.  Two more jumped on board, one covering Rico and the other going into the cabin.

When he came back up on deck he was talking into his cell phone.

I think Rico had a lot of explaining to do.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to write a war story – Episode 8

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while travelling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.

 

A voice with a German accent, a male, middle-aged.  A scientist?  He sounded very frightened.

“Apparently I’m on the wrong side.”

“Englander?”  The voice sounded very close, perhaps the cell next to mine.

“Yes.  Seems the men upstairs are not, even though they look like my fellow soldiers, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered they were German.  Did you come here looking for a better life away from the Reich?”

“I heard rumours of such a place in Italy where if you had certain information, they, the British and Americans would help you escape.  I thought it was another SS ruse, but a friend told me he believed it was true, and we came together.”

“Is he still here?”

“No.  He was granted safe passage with another group who left a week ago, or so I was told.”

“And why are you still here?”

“Waiting to be sent in the next group.”

I arrived a week ago, probably just after the last group had been dispatched, more than likely to their deaths, or back to the Reich.  No more had been processed since I’d arrived.  No one had come or gone.

“How did you specifically get here?”

“The Resistance.  We had a name to contact in the town not far from here.  He then arranged for us to be brought here.”

Not the resistance that may have originally been involved, but a collaborator.  I’d been having problems communicating with the resistance cells in this area, and now I think I knew why.  They’d been informed on by one of their own.  Because of the problems, we’d decided not to use the normal channels to get, and because they didn’t know I was coming it was the reason why there ‘d been the last minute botched attempt on my life in transit.

The problem was far worse than any of us had imagined.

And there was a lot less hope for a rescue by the local resistance.

“How many others are here?”

“Three.  There have been no new arrivals for several days.  And I think there are a few prisoners who are being tortured by the sound of it.”

And if Jackerby gets his way, I might be added to the list of suspects to be questioned.  I’m sure it wouldn’t be long before they realised I had usable information, especially about the resistance cells.  It certainly gave credence as to why Jackerby hadn’t been so rough with me.

It looked like it wasn’t going to be long before being asked a few sticky questions.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to write a war story – Episode 5

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.
But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.

I knelt down to Jack’s level and whispered in his ear, “Time to go mate. Things are about to get a little sticky here, and one of us should get away.”

I’m not sure he understood what I was saying.

I pointed towards the trees that ran along the wall. “Go, now.”He walked slowing in the pointed direction, then turned to look at me.

“Go.”

Another hesitation, he headed towards, and then disappeared into the trees.

Behind me I could hear the sound of boots on the rock floor of the tunnel. The men had broken through and cut off my escape. I didn’t believe for a minute that Jackerby was there to help me.

Well, out of the frying pan, I thought.

I walked through the gap between the trees, getting a scrape on the side of my face from a prickly branch, then burst into the open. Jackerby had taken about twenty steps down from where he had called to me, and hearing the trees, turned and took a few steps back towards me.

Seconds later the two men from the tunnel came through the same gap, and took up positions so I couldn’t escape. Guns not drawn but ready in case they were needed.

“Where’s the dog?” Jackerby asked.

“Rats desert a sinking ship, why should dogs be any different. Guess he knew I was for the high jump.”

“Didn’t have to be that way.”

I don’t remember getting an offer to betray my country and decline. Significantly, he had made no more mention of his offer to help. But, I had to ask, “Which side are you on?”

“The right side, of course.”

It was hard to tell what version of the truth that was. He had one of those faces I associated with a professional poker player.

A nod of his head, and we headed back towards the castle. Jackerby walked beside me, the two guards about three yards behind. Running wasn’t an option, I’d get two bullets in the back before I got ten yards. There was little cover to hide in, so that was out as well.

I wondered what fate awaited me back at the castle.

© Charles Heath 2019

Writing about writing a book – Day 33

So, it seems there’s going to be a few problems at work.  People are dying and no one really knows why.

Perhaps it has something to do with the computer systems and the network.  In the time this novel is set, networking personal computers was in its infancy and a veritable rabbit hole to go down.

We need to throw in a bit more background and involve others, but to what extent should these other people have influence over the storyline?

This is why there are puzzling aspects of Richardson’s death, and why is Aitchison so interested?

Says Aitchison…

“I knew the man better than most.  But even if he was going through a bad patch, and he was a little down, he would not have killed himself, not the way it was presented in his office.  The gun was in the wrong hand, his left hand.  He was ambidextrous to a certain point, left-handed in some cases, right-handed in others.  I knew for a fact he could only shoot with his right hand.  Same as golf.  But most people here would have seen him use only his left hand.”

I let his words sink in for a moment.  How could he possibly know what hand Richardson used for what purpose?  Perhaps golf because it was open to Company employees of any level, but shooting?

It came out of my mouth before I could stop it.  “How …”

“..do I know about his shooting hand?  I ran into him once at the range.  I used to shoot a few skeets back in the day.  Eyesight has gone to pot these days, so it’s been a while.”  The last part was related more for his own benefit.

Good enough answer.  I didn’t know Aitchison was a shooter.  The office grapevine wasn’t as extensively knowledgeable as it purported to be.

“Then is it possible someone here killed him?”

“Like the woman he was supposedly having an affair or her jealous husband?”  He laughed, and it wasn’t a particularly nice one.  “The mystery woman he was spending time with was his daughter.  He asked me to get her a job, but not to let on that he knew her.  Didn’t want her to think he was meddling in her affairs, and that anyone else would see it as favors from the executive to certain employees.”

Aitchison’s voice shook, and he poured another drink to try and steady his nerves.  He was agitated, I could see that.  And he had evidence that the police would need to help solve this crime.  Yet, by the way, he was talking; I don’t think he believed any of what he had just told me would be deemed as relevant.

And I was yet to see a reason why this would affect him so.

“Have you told the police this?

“Yes, but the detective they sent this morning wasn’t interested.”

Perhaps he was writing more into it than there was.  I didn’t know what to say and tried to look noncommittal.  Then he looked at me with a piercing stare, like the thought had just occurred to him.  “You two clashed, heatedly at times.  Did you do this?

Perhaps not quite the question I was expecting from him or anyone.

I was innocent, but I had one of those faces when someone puts a question to you rather abruptly, that reddened, either with embarrassment or guilt.  I had very little control over it.

But to be accused of murder?

I had an alibi; I was home alone in bed trying to sleep.  OK.  It was shaky but the truth.

“No.  Why would I?”

If I was going to kill anyone in this place, it would be Benton, or even Kowalski, another thorn in my side.  Richardson was not on the list, and never would be.  He was just old and pedantic, set in his ways.  He clashed with everyone at one time or another.  In my case, he was just cranky because I replaced his pen and paper accounting with a new application on that computer he refused to use.

He nodded to himself.  “I thought not, but I had to ask.”

He stood and went over to the window and looked out.  Taking time, I guessed, to collect his thoughts.  He remained there with his back to me for a few minutes.  It didn’t seem to be a long time.

Then he said, quietly, “It appears there’s something else going on, something that none of us in the Executive know anything about.”

I was not sure I liked the sound of that or the fact he was telling me.  This was not something I should be privy to.  But that still didn’t stop me from asking, “Like what for instance?”

“The existence of another network.”

“What do you mean?”  Another network?  There was only one.  I had seen it installed, and went through the teething process of getting it up and running, as every bit as hard as bringing a new baby into the world.

I would know if there was another network.  Wouldn’t I?

“Apparently there is supposedly another network of computers running in this office.  I have only the word of a policeman by the name of Chief Inspector Gator, a computer expert, and a consultant from Interpol.  How the hell did this information get to Interpol, of all people?”

I couldn’t tell him.  This was news to me.

“What evidence have they got that this ‘other network’ exists?”

“Intercepted telephone calls reporting a connection error to a network system by the name of Starburst.  There was a log entry on Richardson’s computer referring to it, about the time of a power failure last night.  The computer expert is down in the server room now looking for this other network.”

He swiveled around and looked down at me with a thunderous expression.  “You didn’t set anything up for Halligan, did you?”

“No.”

I was surprised he asked.  We had a discussion some months ago about the fact most of the AGM’s came directly to me to sort out their computer issues.  Halligan was the worst of all of them, using his position to browbeat me into doing work that could only be described as off-book.  Whilst strictly speaking, as AGM – Information Technology, Halligan was quite within his purview to make such requests; it was the security aspects that had to be signed off on before executing such requests.  It added a new level of pain to the approvals process and had made Halligan an enemy of both Aitchison and myself, even though I had nothing to do with it.

The problem was, like all members of the Executive, Halligan was his own worst enemy.  Each of their areas of responsibility was like fiefdoms, and none of them like the others to encroach on their territory.  Halligan’s was the only area that had a shared responsibility with security.  Soon after the new arrangements were put in place, and the fact I had been left off the list of people to be informed, Halligan had asked me to do some work, and not aware of any change in procedure, did it.

Then, playing the usual game of one-upmanship, Halligan told the Executive of the new initiative and left a smoldering Aitchison in his wake.  In the end, all it did was cause me trouble, a severe reprimand, and no apology for being left off the distribution list informing of the new arrangements.

It was still a raw nerve and he had touched it.

© Charles Heath 2015-2021

Writing about writing a book – Day 30

I’m having fun with chapter one.

Can you reach a point where you are never satisfied with what you’ve written?

What more can I say?

Looking at the mess constituting my room and my life, slob may have been an appropriate description.  I considered myself old, overweight though not necessarily fat, hair graying at the edges, and few wrinkles around the eyes, there were no real pluses in my description.

Some said I had a kindly face, but perhaps I had the look of a paternalistic grandfather.  There were several men in the office who were the same age and had grandchildren.  And some who had children at a time when they should be planning for retirement, not parenthood.

World-weary and perpetually tired, I’d passed the mid-life crisis, wondering what it was that affected other men my age.  Twenty-odd years later, I was still wondering.

I used to think I’d missed a lot in half a lifetime.

Now, I didn’t know what to think.

Did I deserve pity?  No.

Did I deserve sympathy?  No!

The only person who could get me out of the rut was myself.  For years I’d traded on Ellen’s good nature.  She deserved better, left me, and was now happier in the arms of a man who I wanted to believe treated her far better than I.  She had told me so herself, and judging by her manner, it had to be true.  Only recently had she got her smile back, the one that lit her face up, one that infectiously spread happiness to anyone near her.

There were reasons why I became the person I was now.  Some might say they were valid.  In the cold, hard light of dawn, I could see it was time I stopped using my past as a crutch and got on with the business of living.

Perhaps today would be the first day of the rest of my life.

I took the bus rather than drove.  At that hour of the morning, the traffic would be bad, and there would be no parking spaces left.  And I was using public transport more and more, have become accustomed to the convenience.  Time to read the paper, or a good book, or just dream about a different life.

This morning I thought about Ellen.  I hadn’t for a while, but that might have been fueled by the arrival of the divorce papers she wanted me to sign.  I’d had my time to be angry, and disappointed, she’d said, and she was right.  It was time to move on.

And she had stuck by me through thick and thin, coming back from overseas service a basket case after nine months in a POW camp, after a war that was more horrible than anyone could imagine.  Two mental breakdowns, periods of indolence and lassitude, leaving her to bring up the girls on her own.  I had not been a great father, and much less a husband.

I remembered that argument word for word.

I could see the looks of pain in the girl’s faces.

I remembered the hug, the kiss on the cheek, the tears.  It had not been out of hate, but a necessity.  For her and the children.  Until I found some lasting peace, they were better off at arm’s length.  Away from the arguing, the silences, the absences.

And disappointment.

After she left I tried to get my life in order.  Drugs, professional help, alcohol, meditation, then work.

Over ten years ago, it took a year, perhaps a little more before sanity returned.

She did not.

By then I knew she had found someone else, a mystery man, whom neither she would tell me who, and the girls honestly didn’t know.  She’d promised that much, any new man in her life would not get to meet the girls.  And she would tell me, and then when she was ready.

Then, suddenly, the children were no longer children but young adults and out in the world on their own, and I had become more a banker than a father, an observer rather than a participant, and it was as if we were more like ships passing in the night.  And overnight, the ships had sailed to the other side of the world.

My own fault, of course, and a bit late now to change history.  I could see Ellen’s influence over them, her prejudices and dislikes, and their contempt, like their mother, for me, simmering beneath the surface, but in fairness to them, I really hadn’t been much of a help as a parent should be.

And now I was getting my life back in order, perhaps I could try and make it up to them, and that first meeting, with them and Ellen, nearly a month ago, had been a step in the right direction.  They’d agreed to see me again, without her, during the holidays, which had now arrived.  All I had to do was make the call, and get on a plane.

This mess I was heading into, it would not take long.  I pulled out my phone and after searching for a travel agent near where I worked, I made an appointment to see about going overseas.

She had spoken to me about the divorce papers several days ago, alternately pleading with, and then abusing, me.  There had been some very strong language in the conversation, words I’d thought her incapable of using, but I confess, finally, I didn’t really know her all that well anymore.

Since then I had been calling her to arrange a meeting.  She had not yet replied.  With some distance to go before I reached the office, I tried calling her again.  I was almost glad when she didn’t answer.

I never realized just how hard it was to revise and re-write, and how much time it takes.

Perhaps that’s why first novels take so long to write!

© Charles Heath 2016-2021

Writing about writing a book – Day 30

I’m having fun with chapter one.

Can you reach a point where you are never satisfied with what you’ve written?

What more can I say?

Looking at the mess constituting my room and my life, slob may have been an appropriate description.  I considered myself old, overweight though not necessarily fat, hair graying at the edges, and few wrinkles around the eyes, there were no real pluses in my description.

Some said I had a kindly face, but perhaps I had the look of a paternalistic grandfather.  There were several men in the office who were the same age and had grandchildren.  And some who had children at a time when they should be planning for retirement, not parenthood.

World-weary and perpetually tired, I’d passed the mid-life crisis, wondering what it was that affected other men my age.  Twenty-odd years later, I was still wondering.

I used to think I’d missed a lot in half a lifetime.

Now, I didn’t know what to think.

Did I deserve pity?  No.

Did I deserve sympathy?  No!

The only person who could get me out of the rut was myself.  For years I’d traded on Ellen’s good nature.  She deserved better, left me, and was now happier in the arms of a man who I wanted to believe treated her far better than I.  She had told me so herself, and judging by her manner, it had to be true.  Only recently had she got her smile back, the one that lit her face up, one that infectiously spread happiness to anyone near her.

There were reasons why I became the person I was now.  Some might say they were valid.  In the cold, hard light of dawn, I could see it was time I stopped using my past as a crutch and got on with the business of living.

Perhaps today would be the first day of the rest of my life.

I took the bus rather than drove.  At that hour of the morning, the traffic would be bad, and there would be no parking spaces left.  And I was using public transport more and more, have become accustomed to the convenience.  Time to read the paper, or a good book, or just dream about a different life.

This morning I thought about Ellen.  I hadn’t for a while, but that might have been fueled by the arrival of the divorce papers she wanted me to sign.  I’d had my time to be angry, and disappointed, she’d said, and she was right.  It was time to move on.

And she had stuck by me through thick and thin, coming back from overseas service a basket case after nine months in a POW camp, after a war that was more horrible than anyone could imagine.  Two mental breakdowns, periods of indolence and lassitude, leaving her to bring up the girls on her own.  I had not been a great father, and much less a husband.

I remembered that argument word for word.

I could see the looks of pain in the girl’s faces.

I remembered the hug, the kiss on the cheek, the tears.  It had not been out of hate, but a necessity.  For her and the children.  Until I found some lasting peace, they were better off at arm’s length.  Away from the arguing, the silences, the absences.

And disappointment.

After she left I tried to get my life in order.  Drugs, professional help, alcohol, meditation, then work.

Over ten years ago, it took a year, perhaps a little more before sanity returned.

She did not.

By then I knew she had found someone else, a mystery man, whom neither she would tell me who, and the girls honestly didn’t know.  She’d promised that much, any new man in her life would not get to meet the girls.  And she would tell me, and then when she was ready.

Then, suddenly, the children were no longer children but young adults and out in the world on their own, and I had become more a banker than a father, an observer rather than a participant, and it was as if we were more like ships passing in the night.  And overnight, the ships had sailed to the other side of the world.

My own fault, of course, and a bit late now to change history.  I could see Ellen’s influence over them, her prejudices and dislikes, and their contempt, like their mother, for me, simmering beneath the surface, but in fairness to them, I really hadn’t been much of a help as a parent should be.

And now I was getting my life back in order, perhaps I could try and make it up to them, and that first meeting, with them and Ellen, nearly a month ago, had been a step in the right direction.  They’d agreed to see me again, without her, during the holidays, which had now arrived.  All I had to do was make the call, and get on a plane.

This mess I was heading into, it would not take long.  I pulled out my phone and after searching for a travel agent near where I worked, I made an appointment to see about going overseas.

She had spoken to me about the divorce papers several days ago, alternately pleading with, and then abusing, me.  There had been some very strong language in the conversation, words I’d thought her incapable of using, but I confess, finally, I didn’t really know her all that well anymore.

Since then I had been calling her to arrange a meeting.  She had not yet replied.  With some distance to go before I reached the office, I tried calling her again.  I was almost glad when she didn’t answer.

I never realized just how hard it was to revise and re-write, and how much time it takes.

Perhaps that’s why first novels take so long to write!

© Charles Heath 2016-2021

Writing about writing a book – Day 29

It is hard sometimes to keep the lid on what might be called justification of your position in a company where there are many naysayers, and little support from those who are supposed to be working together towards a single conclusion.

Not work against you, or to have their own agenda, not only in furthering their career on the back of your mistakes but take the credit for all your hard work.

Every company has them.

I’ve worked in a few where this has happened, but the deciding factor of whether they’re successful or not is when they have to stand on their own two feet when the source of their reputed good work suddenly is unavailable, and the shit hits the proverbial fan.

What is it called?  Art imitates life.

Benton is the proverbial leader who takes credit, but when it comes to the crunch, can’t pull the rabbit out of the hat.

I guess in writing this little piece, I was subconsciously getting back at someone from a real, but now distant, past.

Perhaps there might be a little more about one of the places I worked cropping up from time to time.

It’s not so much writing about what you know, but writing about what happened, and what you might have wanted to happen.  Invariably it never did, because these credit takers are a cunning lot, and sometimes lay the foundations for getting out from under when there is a disaster.

Unfortunately, I’ve been there too.

It’s called cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Be that as it may, I let this little vent run and see where it goes.

It was my responsibility since I’d recommended it and then won the support of management over his objections, and following that it had become a point of continual contention, a petty war neither of us was going to win.

I tried to keep the joy out of my voice.  He’d also vetoed my recommendation for a full-time network engineer as my alternative, making my job become single point sensitive.  There was no one to replace me if anything went wrong.

“Sounds like you’re having fun.”  I had to work hard to keep the amusement out of my tone.

“Fun nothing.”  His tone was reaching that exasperation point.  “There is no one else.”

“Why did you approve my holiday if I can’t have one?” I’d stretch his patience just a little more.

“You promised me the network was stable.”

“It is, and has been for the last six months.  I’ve said so in my last six-monthly reports.  You have been reading them, haven’t you?”

Silence.  It said all I needed to know.

I had a choice sentence to deliver, but an ignominious thought popped into my head.  He could probably use this against me, and would if I gave him the opportunity.  Perhaps I should shelve my differences with him for this morning.

Aside from that, there was a shooting, and we didn’t get one of those every day.  Not that it would probably amount to very much.  During the previous week, the office grapevine had been working overtime on the rumor Richardson was having a relationship with one of the ladies in the Accounts department.  It was just the sort of scandal the data entry staff thrived on.

A shooting and a network failure.  I didn’t know which was worse.  Perhaps if it was Benton they’d shot, there might be some justice…

I decided not to argue with him.  “Give me an hour.”

“Half.  Aitchison wants to see you.”

Werner Aitchison was head of Internal Security and a man who took his job seriously.  Enough, that is, to annoy my staff, and me.  He was ex-military intelligence, so ‘they’ said, but he appeared to me like a man out of his depth in this new age of communications.  Computers had proliferated in our company over the last few years, and the technology to go with them spiraling out of control.

We dealt in billions via financial transactions processed on computers, computers which, we were told often enough, was insecure, and easily taken control of outside their environment.  Aitchison was paranoid, and rightly so, but he had a strange way of going about his business.  He and I had butted heads on many occasions, and we may have had our disagreements, but we were good friends and colleagues outside work.

Just in case Benton was accusing me, I said, as sincerely as I could, “I didn’t do it.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.  He has requested a meeting with you at 10 am.  You will be there.”

“I said I would come in to look at the problem.  I didn’t say I was staying.”

“Let me know when you get in.”  That was it.  No ifs.  No buts.  Just a simple, ‘Let me know…’

I seriously considered ignoring him, but somewhere within me, there was that odd sense of loyalty.  Not to Benton, not to the Company, but to someone else, the man who had given me the job in the first place, who had given me every opportunity.

I was doing it for him and would tell him.

When I found out who it was!

© Charles Heath 2016-2021

Writing about writing a book – Day 29

It is hard sometimes to keep the lid on what might be called justification of your position in a company where there are many naysayers, and little support from those who are supposed to be working together towards a single conclusion.

Not work against you, or to have their own agenda, not only in furthering their career on the back of your mistakes but take the credit for all your hard work.

Every company has them.

I’ve worked in a few where this has happened, but the deciding factor of whether they’re successful or not is when they have to stand on their own two feet when the source of their reputed good work suddenly is unavailable, and the shit hits the proverbial fan.

What is it called?  Art imitates life.

Benton is the proverbial leader who takes credit, but when it comes to the crunch, can’t pull the rabbit out of the hat.

I guess in writing this little piece, I was subconsciously getting back at someone from a real, but now distant, past.

Perhaps there might be a little more about one of the places I worked cropping up from time to time.

It’s not so much writing about what you know, but writing about what happened, and what you might have wanted to happen.  Invariably it never did, because these credit takers are a cunning lot, and sometimes lay the foundations for getting out from under when there is a disaster.

Unfortunately, I’ve been there too.

It’s called cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Be that as it may, I let this little vent run and see where it goes.

It was my responsibility since I’d recommended it and then won the support of management over his objections, and following that it had become a point of continual contention, a petty war neither of us was going to win.

I tried to keep the joy out of my voice.  He’d also vetoed my recommendation for a full-time network engineer as my alternative, making my job become single point sensitive.  There was no one to replace me if anything went wrong.

“Sounds like you’re having fun.”  I had to work hard to keep the amusement out of my tone.

“Fun nothing.”  His tone was reaching that exasperation point.  “There is no one else.”

“Why did you approve my holiday if I can’t have one?” I’d stretch his patience just a little more.

“You promised me the network was stable.”

“It is, and has been for the last six months.  I’ve said so in my last six-monthly reports.  You have been reading them, haven’t you?”

Silence.  It said all I needed to know.

I had a choice sentence to deliver, but an ignominious thought popped into my head.  He could probably use this against me, and would if I gave him the opportunity.  Perhaps I should shelve my differences with him for this morning.

Aside from that, there was a shooting, and we didn’t get one of those every day.  Not that it would probably amount to very much.  During the previous week, the office grapevine had been working overtime on the rumor Richardson was having a relationship with one of the ladies in the Accounts department.  It was just the sort of scandal the data entry staff thrived on.

A shooting and a network failure.  I didn’t know which was worse.  Perhaps if it was Benton they’d shot, there might be some justice…

I decided not to argue with him.  “Give me an hour.”

“Half.  Aitchison wants to see you.”

Werner Aitchison was head of Internal Security and a man who took his job seriously.  Enough, that is, to annoy my staff, and me.  He was ex-military intelligence, so ‘they’ said, but he appeared to me like a man out of his depth in this new age of communications.  Computers had proliferated in our company over the last few years, and the technology to go with them spiraling out of control.

We dealt in billions via financial transactions processed on computers, computers which, we were told often enough, was insecure, and easily taken control of outside their environment.  Aitchison was paranoid, and rightly so, but he had a strange way of going about his business.  He and I had butted heads on many occasions, and we may have had our disagreements, but we were good friends and colleagues outside work.

Just in case Benton was accusing me, I said, as sincerely as I could, “I didn’t do it.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.  He has requested a meeting with you at 10 am.  You will be there.”

“I said I would come in to look at the problem.  I didn’t say I was staying.”

“Let me know when you get in.”  That was it.  No ifs.  No buts.  Just a simple, ‘Let me know…’

I seriously considered ignoring him, but somewhere within me, there was that odd sense of loyalty.  Not to Benton, not to the Company, but to someone else, the man who had given me the job in the first place, who had given me every opportunity.

I was doing it for him and would tell him.

When I found out who it was!

© Charles Heath 2016-2021

I’ve got words on paper, but

They’re not exactly Nobel prize-winning prose.

Well, not yet.

I guess the point is that I have at least crystallised my thoughts on paper so that I can do something with them.  After all, anything is better than nothing, isn’t it?

Sometimes I wonder.  I look back on a lot of the stuff I wrote forty or fifty years ago and it looks bad.  The thing is, then, I thought it was great, and that I was destined to do great things with the written word.

Pity, all this time later, I’ve turned into a self-critical monster, where it seems nothing I write is any good.

So, does that mean we need to be less critical of our work?  After all, through the years, when I’ve shared novels and short stories with others, they have all universally said they’re quite good.

So…

Ut’s time to go back to the previous day’s work and rework it.  Yes, the idea that I wanted to write about is where I wanted the story to go, it’s just the execution.

The problem is, since then a few other ideas have been running around in the back of my head, and these could be added or used to further the current plotline.

The other problem is, it is one of the six stories that I’m writing by the seat of my pants, you know, the way some pilots like to fly a plane, without all that computer backup.  Similarly, this is the way I sometimes like to write.

It’s as much a surprise to me is it is to the reader.

There’s good arguments for having planned the story from start to finish, but with these, I like to write it and see where it takes me.  They’re episodic, so sometimes I get to write three of four episodes at a time, and these would most likely in a book become a chapter.

Last night I wrote two episodes, but it seems that it might need pointers back in previous episodes, because we all like to leave a trail of crumbs for the reader so when they get to the denouement, they remember, ah yes, back in chapter two such and such happened, but why am I only remembering it now?

Ok, enough convincing myself I’m a good writer, it’s time to get back to work…

Writing about writing a book – a novel twist

I have decided to write about the process for me to write a book, working on the book at the same time.  The character writing the book is fictional and bears no relation to me, well, mostly not.

You will join me on the rollercoaster.

It will be appearing a bit at a time over the coming months, with the first instalment below.

Day One

I woke to a day where the sun was shining through the crack in the curtains.  It was not so much the brightness, but the fact it was moving, the gentle breeze moving the curtains and creating a strobing effect.

It was the first day of the rest of my life.

I was about to start the next Pulitzer Prize for literature.  Or something like that.

For so many years now my life had been weighed down by the monotony of a job I hated, a life that was going nowhere, and the pursuit of that no existent fortune that I believed was the answer to all my problems.

Those prayers to the great God Money were never heeded.

So, contrary to the well-meaning advice everyone gave me, I ignored them all, sold off the albatross around my neck, a house with a gigantic mortgage attached, and moved into a small but comfortable garret in a picturesque part of town.

It was called a ‘renovators’ delight.  What did it matter the wallpaper was peeling the paint fading and the carpet had seen better days.

It was mine.

Whether or not in the coming days, weeks, or months, I was a ‘renovator’ would be interesting.

My wife, Anne, had often said I wouldn’t know which end of the hammer to use.

Oh, and did I tell you, I moved on from her, or probably it was the other way around.  I’d let her down one too many times, she said, and found someone else more ‘reliable’.

Good for her, my brother had always said she deserved someone better, and it surprised me the marriage lasted as long as it did.  I still loved her, I always would.

I sprung out of bed and opened the curtains.  Spread out in front of me was a blue sky, bright sunshine casting its glow over the park and gardens opposite.

On my darkest days, I used to sit on a bench and watch the ducks swimming in the pond.  I wanted a carefree life like they had, and that was my dream.

Now I was living the dream.

Or would be till the money ran out.

I had enough for a year.

The second bedroom was the writing room.  The walls were lined with shelves, books by my favourite authors, books on writing, all dog-eared and well-read.

The typewriter was sitting on the desk waiting for the first words to be written.

I had a computer, but I was not going to use it for the second draft.

I had a supply of writing pads.  Like the great authors, I was going to write the first draft by hand, revise, and then type it.

I was going to be old school.

 

I sat down, picked up a pen, and scratched my head.

I began writing, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

That was a far as I got.

Maybe this was going to be harder than I thought.

Perhaps after coffee and toast …

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019