If you haven’t read part 1 of this series,”Kindness”, it would be a good idea to peruse the opening storyline before starting this segment. You’ll find it, scrolling down this page to the post labelled, “The Kindness of Strangers.”
HOW SACRIFICE REAP REWARDS – But what are they? [Part 2 of 12]
Mark’s sitting in a plastic waiting room chair. As he waits for his call to connect, his left ear has a phone pressed against it. His right ear is targeted for tongue attacks from a Boston Terrier licking machine with no OFF switch. LICK, LICK…KISS, KISS. Yep, Bijou bonded; and it happened on Mark’s lap, in a veterinarian’s office, at a time when he should be at work.
He hears the pick up, followed by a,“Yeah?”
“Hey Len, it’s me. Do me a favor. Tell Mr. Collins I got seriously tied up with a sick dog and I–”
“Too late,” comes through his cell.
“Jesus, Mark! Why’d ya have ta call me? Now I’m the one that’s gotta tell ya.”
“Tell me what?” LICK-KISS.
“Pete didn’t come in either, and the run is a week behind. And when YOU didn’t show, Mr. Collins–”
“Fired me?” LICK-LICK-LICK.
“Pete too. Mr. Collins, he’s runnin’ the line himself now. And I gotta–”
“But this is only the second time.” LICK-LICK. Love, love.
“Yeah but Pete screwed up major. And Collin’s exploded. Was harsh, man. Gotta go.” CLICK. End of call.
Mark stares into the room, his cheeks glistening with dog drool. How could this happen? He got that job just four months ago! How’s this gonna look on his résumé?
Mark flips his cell closed, exhaling a long, depressed sigh. LICK-LICK. Love, love, love.
Val the retriever prances into the room, almost smiling now. He’s followed by the red haired lady on the other end of his leash, who is smiling. Her pet looks happier, she looks happier, and Bijou’s definitely happier. Doggie leaps from Mark’s lap into her master’s arms. Motherly affection pours over the pooch. “Oh Bijou! Bijou!” Kisses to dog, kisses come back – LICK-LICK. Love, love, all around.
Bridget steps closer to Mark. “Thank you so much for staying with Bijou.” LICK-LICK. “She hates waiting in the car.”
“’Kay,” Mark mumbles, still flattened from his call.
With dog in arms, dog in tow, Bridget drops into the closest urine-safe chair. “You know, I never got your name.”
“I’m Bridget. You can’t imagine what you did for me and Val.”
Mark nods, looking down at Valentino. “He seems better.”
“Yeah. The doctor wrote him up for a bland diet, did some blood work, took X-rays. They think it’s gastro enteritis.”
“I thought it was pancreatitis. Thank God they ruled that out. When they get the tests back, we’ll know for sure.” Her hand drops to Val’s furry head. “You’re such a good boy! Yes you are! You’re my boy, my big boy!” She drops Bijou onto Mark’s lap and retrieves from her bag, a checkbook and pen. “Is that S-i-d-w-e-l-l?”
“You don’t have to pay me.”
“Please take it.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Yes you can.”
“Look…it was just…a thing I had to do. And…you know, what you had to do.”
Her eyes fix on his shy, boyish face, looking away from her now, as if he can’t take the gratitude. But it can’t be that, she thinks. That distraught look, it’s about something else. Maybe being late for work. Maybe he’s angry about that. Sure, that’s it. She got him in trouble and now he’s pissed. She has to fix it. “Mark, are you gonna catch it for being late?”
‘Umm…it kinda…already happened.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Let’s go to your boss right now. I’ll explain.”
“It wouldn’t work. It’s over.”
“They terminated you?”
“Seems that way.”
“That’s not fair! This was an emergency! I’ll explain about Val!”
“It wouldn’t help,” Mark exhales, with a far away look in his eyes. “My boss and me, we didn’t get along. And he hates dogs.”
He looks so forlorn, she thinks, with that face of a cherub staring out the doors into a world with no place to go. She has to make up for this, show him that the world is not all bad. “I’m taking you to breakfast,” she announces. “No, is not an option.”
You know what Europeans love when they land in the U.S.? American breakfasts, which is too much to eat, except for Germans…and Mark Sidwell. He’s sitting opposite Bridget in a booth for four. And because it’s now 10:30 and between shifts, the coffee shop is pretty much theirs and quiet for conversation.
“So how are you going to get by?” she asks, raising a dainty piece of French toast to her pink glossed lips.
“I got somethin’ saved.” Bacon finds our lad’s mouth, followed by eggs, hash browns, a muffin bite with a swallow of milk. She watched him top off.
“Do you have a degree?” she asks.
“I was wondering if you’ll have a hard time finding another job.”
“Don’t know. Most companies want an MS.”
“What would that be for you?”
“You’re working on that?”
“Not now. Maybe later.”
“Is it a money thing?”
“No. I started grad school. And then things happened.” He reaches for more syrup, pours it liberally onto his butter-drenched pancakes. She stops the questions. Truncated answers shows he’s uncomfortable about talking. About everything? She doesn’t know. But certainly about himself. So she let’s the discourse die and revisits her breakfast.
Twelve seconds lapse. With an empty plate now, Mark reboots their dialogue. “Ya don’t haffta go back to work?” he asks her.
“It’s my day off,” she answers, sipping coffee. “I covered last weekend.”
“So what d’ya do?”
“I work in surgery.”
He nods, again closing the subject. He’s thinking. About the vibes, her pretty face, her long neck, like a ballerina, her gorgeous red hair. Yeah, she’s fine. And she’s even paying for breakfast. Very cool. This is kinda like a date with a real woman, who makes serious money and drives Lincoln Town Cars and wears real jewelry like that gold heavy bracelet and the little heart around her neck with the diamond on it. Or maybe it’s fake. Nah… Wouldn’t be fake. She’s not fake.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” she says, cracking the silence.
“What?” he asks, returning to the Hear and Now.
“You don’t talk much.”
“Girls must find you mysterious.”
“Oh c’mon,” she smiles. “You’re cute.”
“Yeah, right.” He shakes his head, staring at his plate. She’s asking questions again. Should he answer them? He hardly knows her. Yet, she seems okay.
“Am I embarrassing you?” she quietly asks.
“No, it’s not that. It’s just… When it comes to girls… I don’t, umm…”
“Are you gay?”
“Oh no! No way! Not that I have anything against gay dudes. But I, uh…”
“You’re a virgin?” she probes, holding that puckish grin.
“Well, not really. I mean, I think I did it once. But it was dark. Really dark, and I couldn’t see what was going on.”
“She didn’t know?”
“Yeah, uhh… I think she said something about it. Like it was good. But I was nervous and all…”
“You didn’t try again?”
He bobs his head, jostling his neural RAM. He just exposed a secret, one of many under lock and key. And now what? His eyes meets hers. She’s waiting for words. His. Wish there was more milk. He takes down the water. She’s still waiting, her gaze locked on target – his face, with a mouth on it, where words come out.
Okay. Might as well confess. She’s like a mom. And moms understand. “Wanted to… But she didn’t. So I guess I really didn’t do it…that well.”
He looks at his plate. It’s sort of a place to hide. Ah. Missed a smidgen of bacon. In it goes. More thoughts come to mind. Mark kicks back the ball. “You’re not married, are ya?”
“Never.” She pours more coffee. “Lived with a man for eight months, though. But he went back to his wife.”
Mark bobs. She didn’t have to tell him that. But she did. That’s kinda…nice feeling. That she’d trust him. His eyes return to her. “Did ya love him?”
“He broke my heart.”
“But like, he was married, right?”
“When I first met him he was separated. I scrubbed for him. He’s a surgeon. I still work with him. That’s hard.”
Again Mark bobs, as if he’s taking this all this in. But really, he’s clearing more time to check out her green eyes. Orange-red hair and green eyes – awesome. Maybe though, he should be listening more. Back to their talk. “You work with a surgeon?” he asks.
“I’m a nurse, in surgery. Remember?”
“Oh sure. Yeah. Didn’t sink in. You do brain surgery?”
“Brain surgery, vascular…bone…GYN, urology…and gun shots on the weekends.”
“It’s physically, so demanding. They run us ‘til we drop.”
Mark bobs, his signature response, which by now she knows, is all about processing data. Another question floats in his head. “No boyfriends?”
“Well, you’re still hot. I mean, not that you’re old–”
“I betcha you could get all the guys ya want.”
“I do. They’re all jerks.” She pauses, thinks for a moment. “Well, not all. You’re not. And some of the married ones aren’t.”
“You like married guys?”
“They like me.”
They walk out of the restaurant, into the parking lot. Their cars are parked side by side with dogs in hers and fast food trash in his. They reach his first. “Would you mind if I had your number?” she asks.
“Uhh.. yeah. I mean, no. Why?”
“Because I want to invite you to a party. And when I find out when and where it is, I’ll call you.” She digs into her purse, again retrieving her check book. She rips one out to write on its reverse side.
“818-555-7346. That’s my cell,” he informs her. “It’s all I have.”
“I think it’s this weekend,” she responds, jotting down the number. “I’ll pick you up and we’ll go in one car.”
Mark bobs, thinking. Whereupon he asks, “Can I bring my roommate?”
“It’s a private thing. Sorry. By invitation. Couples only.”
He again nods, trying to figure out what that means. He can’t.
Minutes later Mark’s driving home. He stops for a light, waits, reaches to turn on the radio and notices a folded paper on his passenger seat. He picks it up and brings it close to his eyes. It’s a check made out to Mark Sidwell for one hundred and fifty dollars. She also wrote, ‘For tire services. Thank you.’
To be continued…09/23/2010
This segment illustrates how back story exposition is worked into character development while advancing the plot. Pure exposition is boring. It has to be integrated into a scene with tension. Scene #1 is a plot point – Mark gets fired. This changes everything and sets him up for spending more time with Bridget. It also sets up the question, just how is Mark going to take his dismissal? Will he be angry? Will he blame Bridget? Will we see a side of his personality we don’t respect? Scene #2 answers these questions. Mark is upset but assigns no blame. Nor does he feel sorry for himself. (I wish I were Mark.) This scene also gives Bridget the opportunity to express a kind and generous act – she takes Mark out for breakfast – which sets up the expository scene in the coffee shop.
So scene #3 delivers some of Mark and Bridget’s history. But more importantly, it defined their characters and shows how they trust each other by revealing personal information about themselves. A mutual attraction is being established. The scene also sets up the mystery, why did Mark drop out of grad school? (Remember: unresolved questions drive a story forward.)
The last scene, open ended, sets up a possible date to come and Bridget’s monetary gift for changing the tire. The object of the first two segments, is to establish a love interest between two kind and generous people, each carrying the trepidation of failing in romance.
So what do you think? Is this going to be a romantic love story between Mark and Bridget? Or is Mark really gay? Will Roque ever get laid? Will Bridget turn out to be a man?