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A Work of Fiction: Mortality Chapter 1

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As a kid I enjoyed serial stories in magazines. Works of fiction published one chapter at time. I read them and couldn't wait for the next installment. The next chapter.

The number one thing that all good fiction writers say is common about writing is that writing should be about something that you know about. I know about communications, photography, history, RVing, and I know about myself and my family. I have also read that you should write about something that you love. I love all the above. (Yes, I can be a bit self-absorbed, at times.)

So with those directions in mind I have written the first chapter of a novella or novelette. A novella is defined as a written, fictional prose narrative longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. The novella has a word count of between 17,500 words and 40,000 words. A novelette has between 7,500 words and 17,499 words.

So it remains to be seen what this will be. I don’t know where this work will take me, or us, because you the reader will be on this journey with me. I will try to make it enjoyable for us both, but I will need something from you. Your input is necessary. So please comment. If you don’t I will not know if my work is going to make you want to travel further on.



MORTALITY: Chapter One

"It's a funny old world, a man's lucky if he gets out of it alive."

-- W.C. Fields

If the sun is shining through my motor coach bedroom skylight, wherever the location or whatever the time zone that happens to be at the time, I have the ability to always wake at exactly 7 a.m. If there is no sunlight shining into my bedroom, then I wake at exactly 7:30. I know because I always verify the time on my glowing blue-green cheap Timex watch. My wife used to tell me the time by pressing a button on her alarm clock and it would shine a red light with the time on the ceiling. But that doesn't happen now because that side of the bed is empty and cold.

It is now morning and, like most mornings, I can hear my son Jonah moving around in the living area of our motor coach. He has already folded up the air mattress bed back into the couch. I can hear him pouring fresh water into the dog's bowl as he talks to Alexander, my elderly Cockapoo. That is a terrible name for a breed of dog. I prefer Spoodle as a better moniker.

Alexander sleeps on the fold-out bed with Jonah. The dog doesn't seem to like the foot of my bed anymore, now that he realizes he has his choice of humans to curl up next to. Of course, my recent bout of restless leg syndrome, which causes him to fly off the bed in the middle of the night, may have influenced his decision to change his sleeping arrangements.

"Dad, are you moving around in there? I taste waffles already"

"Yes, I am getting up,". I answer as I crawl out of bed and slip on a pair of Tommy Jeans that has been neatly hanging on the back of one of the bedroom chairs all night. I pull on a long-sleeve green T-shirt that says "Outer Banks" on the front, slip my feet into some worn-out Topsiders and then hit the head.

As I said, this morning is like so many mornings. We keep to certain rituals, with some variations. If there is coffee available in the office of the campground we are staying at, we grab our own mugs -- I can't stand Styrofoam cups -- and we walk over to procure some. If there isn't any coffee we make our own. If there is breakfast available, we make every effort to be there. This morning, like the last five mornings since we arrived here in the Smithfield North Carolina KOA, we are going to make our own waffles. The office has easy-to-use waffle makers, waffle ingredients of course, and real Mrs. Butter-Worth's syrup to go with them. None of that fake Mrs. Butter-Worth's will do.

Jonah, who just finished feeding Alex his morning breakfast of the same little brown nuggets of nutrition he gets every morning, hands me my jacket.

"Dad," he says as he glances down at my feet. "There is still snow on the ground; you need to put some socks on."

"I won't loose any toes to frostbite, let's go."

I almost fall on my skinny butt as my tread-less Topsiders hit the ice at the bottom of the two outside steps. It is cold so I zip my jacket up to my chin.

Jonah closes the door, makes sure it is locked, and we slip and slide our way over to the office.

We don't talk much as we carefully walk toward the waiting waffles. We mostly watch each other breathe the crisp air in and out, human steam curling around our heads.

"Did you sleep well?" one of us may ask the other one.

"Fine. How about you?"

"I had one of those nasty leg cramps last night again."

"You need to drink more water. That should help."

Like most mornings that is about as exciting as it gets.

We walk through the office door, me first, and the bell attached to the top announces our arrival.

The KOA office is typical of most campground offices. A camp store in the front with vinyl sewer hoses and connectors, water hoses, soap, light bulbs, fuses, overpriced useful things that you buy in a hurry, well, when you need them in a hurry. Also for sale are not-so-useful things like wind chimes, ceramic thimbles, spinners, light thingies you hang around your neck, stupid things like wooden grandma back ends that you stick in the ground. Off to one side there is a rack of brochures of tourist traps and attractions. Some groceries on the self, a glass top freezer with Nutty Buddies and Eskimo Pies, maybe some pints of Ben and Jerry's. Every campground that Jonah and I have traveled to, it's the same stuff. The quantities and the quality may differ a bit, but the fact that it is always there is comforting in a way.

"Good morning, Mr. Christopher," said the young lady in the yellow golf shirt, behind the counter, looking at me. I didn't respond fast enough for my son.

"Good morning to you too, Sarah," answered Jonah.

Jonah learned her name in the first five minutes of the first day. After five days I still didn't know what it was. Maybe I should have looked at her name tag.

"Now I told you to call me Jonah," he continued, smiling that big smile of his.

Sarah glanced over at me. She tried again.

"Good morning to you, too, Mr. Christopher."

"His name is George."

I smiled at her and told her good morning. I guess I didn't smile big enough.

"Mr.Christopher, there is a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen and the waffle makers are nice and hot, too. Go help yourself and if you need anything just holler."

Jonah just laughed, grabbed me by the arm and led me to the kitchen.

"Come on George; let me make you some waffles."

If I let it, it could really make me mad when people think I'm not friendly.

After dispensing myself a cup of hazelnut coffee, my wife's favorite, I sat down to nurse it and my slightly bruised ego.

Jonah operated the waffle irons to his satisfaction and placed a paper plate with a one large plain waffle in front of me. He sat down with a plate of four waffles, with lots of butter and Mrs. Butter-Worth's dripping down the sides. He could still eat with the careless abandon of an athletic 18-year-old without it affecting his much older waistline. I also ate without much thought. Actually half the time I just didn't think about eating. I live on very few calories. I miss my wife's cooking. I miss sitting across from her when eating someone else's cooking. For over 50 years just having her there with me made everything taste better. Without her, there was not much taste at all.

While Jonah was eating and I was nibbling, Sarah came into the kitchen with another camper. She was showing him how to operate the waffle irons and pointed to the chilled carafes of juice, and milk next to the coffee dispensers. As the obviously new guest started to pour some waffle batter into the iron, she turned and sat at the table with Jonah and myself.

"So, are you two still planning on leaving today or can we help you to stay around a bit longer?" she asked.

I looked up at her.

"I think we will be pulling out today, kind of late tough. Is it okay for us to leave a bit after check out?"

"Sure, as you can tell we aren't that busy. What with the snow and all. Stay as late as you like. If you decide to stay any more days, just come by the office tomorrow."

"Thanks, Sarahâ", said Jonah. "We have enjoyed it here, especially the waffles." He gave her another one of his big smiles.

I saw her face light up and I knew he had done it. He had opened the door.

"Where are you two off to next?" She asked casually.

Jonah answered just as casually.

"We are not sure, maybe Florida, somewhere along the coast. Maybe I can talk George here into going back to Fort Wilderness, but I think he wants to go farther south, so he can warm up his ancient old bones a bit."

I understood Jonah's choice of words, and he knew it too.

"Mr. Christopher, are you going to let your brother call you ancient?"

"How old do you think he is? Make a good guess now,'' prompted my still smiling son.

"You don't look over what, forty-something...I guess forty five?"

This comment really tickled Jonah, which is what he wanted. This was a game he liked to play with me, and that guess just egged him on even more.

"Forty-five?" He grinned at me. "You are so close. How old do you think I am?" he asked.

Sarah looked him over for before answering "mmmm..I'd say about the same. No, maybe a few years older...so fifty-five?"

Jonah smiled at her. "Why, thank you, darling, but nope, I will be sixty-six on my next birthday."

Sarah looked very surprised. "Really?"

He looked over at me. "Isn't that right, little brother?"

I just gave him the same patient smile I always gave him. I was thankful that Jonah didn't tell Sarah that at the exact moment Robert E. Lee was surrendering his sword to General Grant, that I was coming, kicking and screaming as they say, into this world.

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Gramps, I am interested to see where you are going with this. I enjoy the writing and expect that you have some surprises up your sleeve for us readers.

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Gramps, I am interested to see where you are going with this. I enjoy the writing and expect that you have some surprises up your sleeve for us readers.

There will be some surprises, for all of us I think.

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