Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Week Forty: November 29th - December 5th

   Profits for Prophets

     Billows of wind hitting your face force you to open your eyes, and see the countryside quickly melting by. You crane your head to the side slightly, and match up the sound of metal on metal with the spinning steel circles next to you and realize you're on a train. Frightened, you try to move your body, but are restrained to the side of the car. Blinking does you no good, for this isn't a dream.
     Minutes pass by with the landscape, and find yourself crossing a bridge over a large body of water. A loud whistle pierces your thoughts, and with a large percussion, everything turns black and white. Time stops, and a small monument on the side rail of the bridge reads “1864: In memory of Clairvoyance, North Carolina. Oculi Caeci Clausa”. Staring at the water beneath you, the charred skeletons of long since burned houses reflect from the lake's silvery surface, but no building are to be seen on land. 
     You scream as your body is ripped from the restraints and you plunge down into still-sitting water. You feel the surface ripple - as if alive – when you come into contact with it, and then everything fades to black. When you come to, you're laying in the street of a dusty little town, full of bright wooden buildings. A banjo twang in the distance sets off a stereotype that makes you name this place south. Two well dressed, yet grimy boys walk in front of you and step into a general store, boldly walking away from a storm of laughter. 
     The eldest boy wore a black derby hat, and a wrinkled, button up white shirt under a tattered black vest. Baggy black pants held up by a length of rope marked them as either hand-me-downs, or stolen property. The youngest brother was much more a sight though. Wearing snugly fitting pants, he had no pockets to be seen on them. Even more peculiar, was the tight, sleeveless shirt, and chalkboard hanging from around his neck. The eldest's eyes spoke of grim determination, and courage, whereas the younger held a ludicrous grin, and distant eyes; almost as if staring off as something unseen, and finding it to be particularly amusing. 
     An elderly man in his best Sunday suit walks by you and says “little fools claim there's a war a comin'”. Spittle leaps from his lips as he roars towards the children. “They said for a pound of sweets and toys, they would tell us where to run. Can you imagine it? Children thinking such ridiculous things. What little cons!” the man says, before turning around to go back to his daily routine. You look towards the general store, and struggle between gnawing curiosity of the boys, and impending fear of where you are. Standing up, you walk to a railroad, and follow it, not knowing where you're going or why.

     Pushing open the door of the general store, a small bell rigged to the frame let out a weak chime as they step into the building. Julius holds the door open as his younger brother Freddy walks in. Pulling out a small coin, Julius grabs Freddy by the shoulder, and looks him in the eye. “Fingers, I'm going to go buy us a gumball and talk to the owner. I want you to stand right here, and don't even think about touching anything!”. 
     When Freddy finally nodded his head in agreement, Julius reached into his bag and pulled out a headband. On top, were fake cat ears, and reaching out, he placed them on top of Freddy's head. “Alright Fingers, I gave you your ears, and told you not to touch anything. I'm serious this time, if you steal one more thing, I'm going to wallop you good.” Attention already gone from the current conversation, Freddy shook his head up and down as he stared at the fake cat ears on top of his head, and waved his hands in a shooing manner towards Julius.
     Laughing to himself once his back was turned, Julius walked to the front of the store, where an old man in a white shirt and black apron stood behind a counter. “What can I do for you boys?” the elderly man asked in a voice that spoke of strength despite all the years resting on his shoulders. Rolling the coin on the backs of his fingers, Julius snapped into character, and set the bait. “I've got a proposition for you my good sir. I have reports that General Sherman is on his way to this very town with a whole platoon of Union soldiers, and for a pound of your finest sweets, and craftiest toys, I will tell you the only way to escape”. Eyes wide in disbelieve, the owner swallowed several time before responding to Julius.
     “That's absolutely ridiculous” the man responds. “My name is Edwin Isaiah Black, and I've ran this store since my father built it in 1803. Never in all my years have I heard such a peculiar thing from a child's mouth. How old are you anyway?” Edwin asked Julius. “Why, I'm thirteen and three quarters I am, sir, and my brother over there happens to be six. I know it must be a lot to swallow, but we are but merely humble prophets, here to speak the truth, and help ourselves where we may.” Julius responded, most charismatically. “Where are your parents?” Edwin asks. Julius breaks character and allows a small flame to show in his eyes.
     Edwin saw the spark, but was surprised at how quickly the young boy composed himself again. “Our parents are a days trip away from here. We walked here on our own accord to help out the villagers, but it seems this town is full of people who don't want it. You however, look to be a wise man, and for only half a pound of the discussed items, I will tell you the information I know.” Julius says, with an air of confidence. “You know the law around these part don't allow orphans to run around on their own, don't you?” Edwin says softly. Years of dealing with the public allow him to pick apart the impressive show the boy was putting on, yet even he was surprised when the boys small hands threw a small display of soap from the counter. 
     “Don't you dare call us that again old man!” Julius shouted up to Edwin. Slapping his coin on the table, he pointed to a small bowl of red gumballs, and said “give us two of those green gumballs, and we'll be on our way”. Puzzled over the boys explosive personality change and overall character, he scratched his head and muttered half thought out words while looking at the bowl. “Son, I don't know who you are, and even though you need to be taught a lesson, I'll sell you the gumballs, but were you talking about the red ones here?”. Face turning as red as the gumballs, it was all Julius could do to stare at the bowl incredulously, and then at the old man accusingly. 
     Crawling up on top of the counter, turning, and squatting down, the younger brother lets out a few light taps as he scribbles on his chalkboard, and turns it to reveal “He's colorblind” printed in dusty white words upon the board. Julius turns and starts to yell at Freddy, but he is already gone from any conversation, chewing on the corner of the board, and silently laughing to himself. Eyebrows climbing to the peak of his forehead, Edwin turns and stares Julius directly in the eyes. “I don't know what you boys are up to, but I want you out of this store, you hear?”. Scowling at the bowl of gumballs, and then the man, Julius snatches his coin from the table, and grabs Freddy by the arm as they storm out of the building.
     When they step outside, Julius looks over at Freddy, and sees him looking away, and fearfully eying the older brother. “Fingers?” the older brother asks. “What are you hiding from me?”. Holding up his hands and looking at both of them intently, and then lifting up the sign to look under it, he looks back up, and with a shrug, smiles and starts to quickly walk away, but is caught by Julius. Holding out his hand, Julius looks at Freddy and says “Fingers, I know you have a problem with stealing things, but you're going to get us in trouble if I don't return everything you take, now put what you stole in my hand!”. Freddy stares at the open palm for a second, and a face-splitting grin starts to grow.
     Opening his mouth, Freddy spits two gumballs and a small coin into Julius' hand. Looking down at his saliva covered hand, he looks up at Freddy's grin, and roughly smacks him upside the head, and turns to wipe his hands off. When he turns around, Freddy is crouched down on his tippy-toes, and is squinting his eyes at Julius' hand and then face, back and forth; the hand holding the gumballs. Shaking his head irritably, Julius throws one to his younger brother and says “Just this once, and only because that old man was so rude to us”. Julius picks up Freddy, and together they walk on down the road.
     Walking over to the telegraph, Edwin sends a message to the sheriff about the boys, and stands in front of his store and watches the boys walk down the road. After a few minutes, a cop car shows up, and a chase starts. The youngest silently screams as he flings his hands out to his brother, but the eldest brother stops for only a second before disappearing inside the large crowd in the street at this time. “Wouldn't even stop for his brother, how shameful” Edwin mutters to himself. He heads back inside, and finishes his day like normal. Julius would never end up knowing how Edwin died that night, but perhaps he wouldn't have cared either way.

     Darkness sleeps over the city, and Julius finds it easy to walk through town unnoticed. While scrawling a message on the front door of the general store, he spots a wagon at the other edge of town, and runs to it, hoping it is the sheriffs vehicle. In the dim moonlight, the writing can not be identified. Dust is kicked up from the shoes of Julius as he charges toward the dimming light of the wagons lantern, until he is close enough to creep along behind it. It isn't long before he finds the police station.
     Inside, the sheriff, and a younger man also in uniform are talking to Freddy, as he kicks his legs back and forth on top of a desk. The younger man has his head down on his desk, and the sheriff is holding his in his right hand, massaging his temples as if developing a headache. “For the last time son, where are your parents?” the sheriff asks. Biting his lip, and staring at the ceiling, Freddy looks to be lost in thought, and then a mischievous grin envelopes his face. Tapping on the chalkboard, after five or so minutes, he turns it over, and it reads “you tell me” with a cat playing with a ball of yarn drawn in the corner. The sheriff throws up his hands in anger, and a groan escapes from under the arms of the deputy at the desk.
     Throwing on his coat, the sheriff mutters something about going out for some fresh air, and the deputy lazily waves his hand in acknowledgment. Fifteen minutes pass, and the soft snore of the deputy can be heard. Julius steps over to an open window, and decides now is the best time to break out his brother. Letting out a whistle in mimic of the Black-capped Chickadee, the brothers favorite bird. Turning around from his seat, Freddy smiles, and gets up to talk to Julius, but sits back down as Julius points his finger through the window. “Freddy!” he whispers. “Quietly grab the keys from his belt, and let's get out of here!” Julius says. And with that, disappears from the window. 
     Freddy waits a moment for Julius to return, and when he doesn't, quietly hops down from his desk, and tip toes over to the sleeping deputy, and locates the keys. The deputy loudly snores, and doesn't move a muscle as Freddy's deft fingers skillfully pluck the keys from the man's belt. Walking over the the door, Freddy starts to tap on his chalkboard as he waits for Julius to appear. 
     Julius finally shows up at the front of the building, and motions for Freddy to hurry up. “What are we going to do, brother?” is written on Freddy's chalkboard, and a small amount of fear shows on his young face. “I broke into that general store, and stole as much as I could, so we should be set until the next city.” Julius replies anxiously. Raising his eyebrows, Julius mutters that his stealing was different from Freddy's own, and luckily before an argument broke out between facial expressions and well articulated words, Freddy snapped out of it. Putting the keys in the lock, and giving them a heavy turn, the clank of the metal falling inside echoes in the room, and the deputy softly rolls open his eyes and sees the boys. 
     “Hey you two!” the deputy shouts, “Get back here!”. Quickly rushing out, Julius grabs the keys, and slams the door shut again, locking it in place. The deputy begins to shout for help, but Julius dangles the keys in front of him, and defiantly laughs as Freddy smiles at the deputy. Gunshots are heard, and both parties stop their shouting to peer at the city, now a burning candle in the countryside.

     “General! We've found confederate soldiers in a general store four streets down.” a nameless soldier shouts to his commanding officer, General Sherman. “Excellent work soldier, has the man responsible for these leaked any more information on the whereabouts of the fractured confederate army we fought last night?” General Sherman replies. “Well sir, that is the issue. We found an old man, the owner, and he swears we're making a big mistake, and... there is something else strange about this too.” the soldier says with his head down. 

     “Well spit it out, boy! What happened?” 
     “It appears as if someone ransacked the place before we got there. Perhaps in a panic more soldiers escaped?”
     “Very possible, is the old man confined for questioning?”
     “Of course sir, but he is very hostile. Follow me and you'll see for yourself.”

     Arriving at the scene, a fierce eyed elderly man writhes on the ground with his hands tied behind his back screaming at the union soldiers around him. “This town's going to burn” is scrawled in hasty handwriting on the broken remnants of a front door. “I don't know what you people are doing, but I want to talk to whoever is in charge. For God's sake, let me go! My name is Edwin Isaiah Black and I've done nothing wrong!” he shouts. Stepping next to his face, General Sherman crouches down, despite the warning from the nearby soldiers, and looks the man in the eye. “Hello Edwin Isaiah Black. My name is General William Tecumseh Sherman, and I'd like to have a talk with you.”

     After calming down, Edwin finally spoke to the general, and despite his best efforts, he could never talk him out of the evidence found at his place. It turns out he was a southern sympathizer, and a broken floorboard in the back of the store revealed a large cellar full of confederate uniforms and weapons. Five wounded soldiers were found in a guest bedroom, and a quick scan of the city turned up 432 other soldiers in hiding. General Sherman was so furious, he set fire to the entire town, and hundreds died in either waves of flame, or showers of lead bullet casing. 
     Although the boys were only lying about the army in order to con items from villagers, it seemed for once their prophecies were true. The city decided that they could safely house wounded soldiers from a nearby battle, but never expected General Sherman to storm directly into their own city. One of the worst massacres of civilians the Civil War saw, and Julius and Freddy were lucky enough to never learn of their unfortunate coincidence, and what followed that horrible night. They would lead happy, albeit poor, lives, and never think about that night again. Some say "as is life" I suppose.

     Days later, you find yourself terribly hungry, and starting to grow cold with the onset of autumn. A whistle behind you announces a train, and you don't even look back anymore; you are much too tired to care. Motion catches your eye as the train begins to pass, and you see the two boys inside one of the cars atop a mound of sweets, toys, and other items. The smaller boy is drawing on the walls of the car with large, blocky colored pieces of chalk, and the older brother is sitting on top as if on a throne, reading a copy of “Les Misérables”. 
     Running to catch up with the boys, you throw your arms onto the train, and start to hoist yourself into the car. Turning your head up, you open your mouth to tell the boys you are sorry the town laughed at them, when suddenly the bottom of a boot meets you between the eyes, and sends you tumbling down the hill the railroad was on. Landing next to a small creek, you rub your face and start to rise, but slip on loose rock, and fall into the water. A deafening whistle covers up the noise the splash should have made, and a loud percussion drowns out your attempt at screaming. The sky turns gray, and a black sun stares down on you menacingly. Like the aperture of a camera, the sky spirals shut, and it's just blackness again.

     “Honey, are you alright?” a sweet voice whispers to a sleeping man. “What? Of course I am Emily, but where am I?” the man responds. Laughing to herself, Emily puts a hand on the side of his face and coos “with the most beautiful woman in the world, on our way to your mothers house for vacation, why do you ask dear?” she replies. Despite the eighty degree weather, he shivers and rubs his arms with his hands. “Nothing, I just had a most peculiar dream is all.” he says. Looking out the window, he sees that same bridge, and looks to the waters. Waves now gently disturb the surface, and fishermen span its length. “How peculiar” he says.
     Looking at his wife, the man kisses her on the cheek and says “You know, my dream reminded me of a story I heard once as a child.” he says. 

     “An accomplished clockmaker in London lived to be 110. He outlived his children, and even some of his grand children, and on his deathbed, he was asked by the local paper if he had any regrets. Looking around his room, he stared at some of the finest made clocks the city had ever seen, and said “despite several lifetimes of good fortune, love, memories, and a passion for clockmaking that has kept me going for so many years, it seems I have ran out of time.” 

Laughing to himself at the silly little story, Emily puts on a serious look, and asks him if he's alright. Smiling, he wraps his arms around her and says “Yes dear, and when I get home, we're going to make some changes. My life could end at any minute, and I plan to make use of every second in between.



Week Thirty Nine: November 22nd - November 28th

3 times in a row. I am no writing right now to work on this weeks submission. I don't think anyone even reads these anymore, but oh well, I'll have a new story soon I hope.

To be fair, My Gregory Faust story was much longer than any of my other stories, so I was sort of burnt out on writing (excluding Falling Sand which didn't have the grammatical and syntax work Gregory Faust was given).

Week Thirty Eight: November 15th - November 21st

Another no show. Friends were home on break, and I'm working on plans for moving out, so I was just too distracted to work.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Week Thirty Seven: November 8th - November 14th

It was my 21st birthday this week, so I was too hungover to do any substantial writing. I did, however, come up with a new idea for a short story. So I will either have that or an edit of "Tales Told by Lost Shadows" up this week :]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Week Thirty Six: November 1st - November 7th

The Astounding Death of Gregory Faust.

When I mention classic Hollywood, what is the first image to pop into your head? Rugged men in suits, and fragile women in dresses, majestically floating through heavy hazes of cigarette smoke? In these early days of the American film industry, celebrities acted different than their predecessors today. Some say they had more morals, and others that they were just more talented. I've always thought the truth to simply be that mystery shadowed their every step. They seemed less people, and more so something unexplainable. Of all these stars, a man named Gregory Faust shined the brightest.

     Gregory Faust was Hollywood personified. He came from old money, had a seemingly endless supply of talent, and had such a charisma that people who would never meet him in person still felt a sort of bond to him. He was also dashingly handsome, and devilishly sly. I apologize for paraphrasing such a cliché, but women wanted him, and men wanted to be him. Even at the top of the world, Gregory was still looking up, however like another popular cliché, all good things must come to an end. Or perhaps what comes up, must come down. Whatever your preference to outdated saying, Gregory fell hard, and when he hit rock bottom, all of tinsel town winced for a brief second before going back to their lives, as required of their status.
     We could sit around all day, and listen to the rise and fall of Gregory Faust, and all of the splendor that came with it, but as the title suggests, I'm here to tell you of something much more poetic – his death. Even to this day, nobody can justly describe what happened, but the most respected, important, cherished, and even loved man in the entire world went out in a way that was infinitely more beautiful than the amazing life he had already lived. Here is the story of the Astounding death of Gregory Faust.

     “Willem! Damnit Willem, where are you!” a man roars into the darkness of a moonlit room.

     A pool of light from a candle seeps into the room from the space under a closed door.

     “Coming sir” a strained, but eloquent voice responds.

     The door opens, and the introduction of the candle's flame blinds the laying man for a second. A tall man, with his back straight, and a wearied face collecting wrinkles, shuffles in and sets the candle on a small table next to the mans large canopy bed.

     “What can I help you with Mr. Faust?” Willem softly speaks.

     “I had another damn nightmare again! This time, I was young again, walking down the streets, and the masses are showering me with admiration, but all I do is stare straight ahead, never gracing them with a response. Until I walk by a mirror, and in the reflection is a defeated old man; the old, wrinkled, pathetic face that I now carry with me. When I look back, the streets are cold and empty. I walk around calling out for help, but nobody responds. I walk back to that mirror, and I see nothing. Even my reflection won't show itself to me. I lay there on the ground, alone and beaten, and the world folds and collapses on me Willem”.

     Grabbing the butler by the lapels of his jacket, he pulls himself up to see him eye to eye, and shouts “Tell me I matter Willem! For God sake, tell me I am still as much Gregory Faust as I ever was Willem!”

     With that, his hands let go of the jacket, and he fell back to the bed. Tucking him in, the weary old butler allows a quiet sigh.

     “We do not age like wine my old friend.” Willem softly speaks as he looks out the nearest window. Blowing out the candle, he gets up and starts to head back to his room. These nightly visits have been a recurring habit for the past ten years. In a matter of moments, he is safely laying in his own bed even without the help of candlelight, and falls into dreams of when he himself was the young assistant of the worlds biggest star. Dreams of all of the love interests his career had laid in his hands, and of all the regrets that he piled over the years.

     Over the years, Gregory's life had turned into a single recurring schedule. Up by 9:00 AM, and back down by 10:00 PM, filled with the same habits of eating, reading, smoking, and reminiscing about the old days scattered in between. However, the next morning would prove to be something entirely new. The morning light would boldly enter the room from under the blinds to rest on a clock that read 6:14 AM. Sitting upright with a stunned look on his face, almost as if having an epiphany, he climbs out of his bed, and makes his way downstaires.
     Rubbing his eyes, Willem looks over at his clock, and reads 6:16 AM. Chuckling to himself, he rolls back over, and closes his eyes, knowing he still has three hours before Gregory awakes, but is awoken by the distant noise of a car sputtering. 56 years could never erase the noise of Mr. Faust's 1923 custom Desmond Model 7, a car that had about as much status as the man who bought it did. It was rightfully named Norma. Rushing downstairs, he masterfully cuts through the mansion, to arrive at a garage, and opens it while breathing heavily. “About time you woke up Willem. Make us some breakfast, and get ready to take me to town, I've got an audition” a voice says from under the hood of the vehicle.
     Wringing his hands together fitfully, Willem raises his hand to speak, but lets it fall several times before finally clearing his throat to continue, but is immediately cut off by Gregory.

     “No Willem, I will not be talked out of it, and no this isn't me finally going mad. I have decided to get back out in the acting business. The world doesn't remember me, but they will my friend. I'm Gregory Faust god damnit! I'll grab the world by the throat, and won't let go until you wrench my dying hand from it”. “So be a good man, and get ready to leave, time is of the essence!” Gregory says as he slams the hood down. “Ahh, good as new. I'll be in the cab waiting for you, hurry now.”

     Gloves, scarf, and goggles all equipped, Willem fires up the engine, and closes his eyes for one second. A flood of memories of driving around town as a young buck washes over him, and surprisingly puts a bit of energy into his old bones.

     “This was a great idea sir” Willem shouts over his shoulder.
     “This is nothing Willem, wait until we're back on top” Gregory says with a smirk on his face.

They continue driving along, until Gregory sits forward, and points to a certain street.

     “Turn right here Willem, onto Sunset Boulevard. That's where the studio for my audition is at” Gregory exclaims, child-like anxiety creeping from his voice.

     Arriving at the studio, Willem turns and stops Gregory by the sleeve of his jacket.

     “Sir, I don't mean to dampen your mood, but if things go awry, please don't take it personally” Willem says. Steeling his face, he looks Gregory directly in the eyes. “You have been my boss, and closest friend for 56 years, and if you feel it so to fire me for this, I understand. But sir, you are pushing 73 years old. You've had more in your life than a thousand men combined, and as much as I would give anything to have it back, wishes are a pallet of pastels that paint over your eyes and blind you to what is reality. What is reality, sir, is that maybe we're just too old for this, and we should enjoy the years we have left.” Willem keeps staring at him, and feels a tightening of his chest as Gregory starts to show his age again; the spark of youth is yet again gone.
     Jerking away his coat sleeve, Gregory puts on a small frown, and stares at Willem. “I'm Gregory Faust god damnit! Age is no bar to my ability.” With that, he put on a small smile, and in a much softer voice said “Don't worry so much old friend, you'll see”. As Gregory walked away, Willem sat in the drivers seat, and pulled out a cigarette. In spite of himself, he laughed about it too. “I guess i've been in this job too long to start doubting him now” he chuckled to himself. Taking a final drag, and flicking the cigarette out of the window, Willem locked up the car, and started to shuffle inside the studio, curiously enough feeling a little kick in his step.
     Backstage, Gregory stands in front of a mirror looking at himself. How many times he been standing like this backstage in his life? The numbers in his head were warped and running together, and he tossed the thought aside and focused himself. “What do you plan to do you old fool, just wing it like the old times?” he chuckled to himself. With his fingers, he traced the lines on his face slowly for a few minutes. “What am I doing here” he muttered to himself a couple of times before being cut off by a loud voice shouting “we're ready for you Mr. Faust!”.
     Walking out onto the stage, Gregory felt something in him growing incredibly anxious. A seasoned actor such as himself knew a trick or two about calming his butterflies, but this was something different. He felt what could only be described as feeling out of place, but that surely couldn't have been it. This was his world, he wrote the rules, and set impossible to break standards. He could see nothing but the pitch black of the studio, and the only thing that assured him people were out there were the soft scurrying of men and women busy at work.
     After a few seconds, a voice asked “are you ready, sir?” and bright lights flaring up around the stage followed his own affirmation. Holding his hands to shield the light, he peered out into the audience, and stared in horror at the faces. All of the young faces that looked right through him. His nightmare was here in the flesh; his world had forgotten him. He stood for a second, before calming himself, and lowering his hand. To this day, the members of the audience will only say that he looked like a man who had finally found the missing piece of a puzzle long since started.
     When he finally spoke, his trained voice started off softly, and quickly rising to reverberate through the studio.

     “These lights... They seem so cold and unfamilair to me now. I know this may sound strange, but there was a time in my life where I thought of them as close friends of mine. To be honest, I felt more warmth from those lights than I did for all but a few individuals.”

As he spoke, he stared ahead at no one in particular, and sadly started to pace on the stage.

     “What did I expect to happen today? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps I had hoped that some of that old synergy would be waiting for me with open arms like those of a long lost friend, but I guess it goes without saying that inanimate objects and superstitions are poor excuses for company”.

Softly laughing to himself, he stopped his pacing, and turned to the people.

     “I look around and see all of your young faces, and for the first time in my life, I think that I truly feel out of place; I can for the first time feel the age in me. You know, Tom Hopper sat in that directors chair almost 50 years ago at my very first audition. None of you probably remember it, but I decided I wanted to play the lead, Pietro, in the movie Breath of Air, and at the urging of some friends, I decided to show up.”

Staring at the ground, Gregory clasped his hands together, his knuckles showing white.

     “This was the very first movie for the man who would single handedly conquer all of show business, but do you know what that old Tom said to me that day? Something incredibly moving, or a melodramatic speech of epic proportions perhaps? Maybe some single, poetic line of acceptance? Tom lowered the lights after the audition, and after a few slack jawed moments of staring at me, he simply turned to me and said “I am impressed”. Of all the things I've forgotten in life, I can still remember this moment perfectly. At the time, something so small amazed me at the impact it had on me. I had just impressed a famous, classically trained director with my first audition. I took it optimistically, and it was fuel that added to the fire of my career. Looking back however, I realize that pessimistically, I would never feel what he felt that day, because I was only offered the best in life. I had never experienced sublime beauty.”

Wiping tears from his cheek, Gregory stared out into the darkness of the studio for a few moments before starting again.

     “Coming onto this stage today, I now realize that I retired a long time ago. I assume most of you know who I am, but I am completely unaware as to who you all are. It pains me to say, but this is no longer my world. Now that you know a little more about me than you did this morning, would you be impressed if this was the last performance of Gregory Faust? Lord, for both me and you, I do so hope so. In my parting words, allow me to lament for one last moment.”

Standing up straight, Gregory showed a fierceness to his eyes, and took on a stance that suggested youth. He looked proud, strong, and wise up there on that stage that day, with nothing more than a bright light blinding him, and blurry faces watching him from the shadows.

     “I guess if your life's plan goes right even half of the time, you're much better off than most. Lord knows mine is in contention for the best, but I'm afraid to admit that growing old was never part of my plan.”

Turning around and starting to walk off stage, Gregory stops for a second, and lifts his head up.

     “I guess I'm human after all, eh?”

With that, he started to laugh as he retreated from the stage, and left the men and women of the studio with their thoughts. “I'm going home” he says to himself. “I've made a big enough fool of myself for one day”.

     Willem is surprised to feel tears fresh on his cheek. “Mr Faust, you fool. You poor, brave, brilliant fool”. As a few lights turned back on, he looked around at all of the faces in the small audience gathered around the stage. A few old faces matched up with old memories, and they too had tear strewn faces, staring straight ahead. Willem scrubbed his sleeve under his eyes to dry them, and laughed at the irony of the situation. Gregory Faust could walk onto a stage and tell you that he was disappointed that the world he once controlled no longer acknowledged him, and that he would never act again, and still put on the performance of a life time. Even just talking to himself, the man could still control a room with no effort.

     Willem would find his way outside the studio after exchanging a few words with the director, who coincidentally enough wanted Gregory for the part, and was disappointed when Willem declined for him. The drive home would hold no words, but both men held smiles dearly, and when they got home, Willem parked the car, and they walked inside the mansion together, like two young friends returning from a joy ride around the block. They put on an old movie of Gregory's, and fell asleep in the small theater he had built in the house. If they still didn't feel their age by this point, they certainly did in the morning.
     Gregory Faust would live for a few more years, and thankfully, they were happy ones. Old friendships were renewed, and even some of his remaining family got to spend valuable moments with him. Gregory was no longer that young hot shot who held the world in his palm, but a wise old man that clawed with tooth and nail to cherish every waking moment that life offered him.
     When Gregory died in his sleep one night, the mansion was alive with people. Willem walked around, shaking hands with those who had come to morn for the late Mr. Faust, but he himself, did not weep. Gregory was found in his bed on a bright spring morning, with his hands resting on his chest, and a large smile on his face. For the first time in over 60 years, Gregory had found peace, and found it just in time. The world that he thought had forgotten him, showed its true colors. From the TV to the Newspaper, the world said there goodbyes to the late, great, Mr. Faust – the finest actor the world had ever seen.
     Willem would return to the cemetery Gregory was buried at in a few weeks, and hold up an umbrella to stop some of the rain from hitting him. Standing in front of the large obelisk Gregory had purchased some years ago, Willem smiled, and spoke of how the world missed him, and how that he too had missed him. A coughing fit attacked him, and when he lowered his handkerchief, dark splotches of red clung to the clothe. Smiling in spite of the situation, Willem laid a lily at the foot of the monument, and turned to go.

     “See you soon old friend” he said over his shoulder. The coughing fits grew softer and softer before a car engine started, and the grind of tires on gravel disappeared into the distance.

     When I started to tell you the story of the life and death of Gregory Faust, I told you that his exit was infinitely more astounding than his entry, and I hope that you agree. However, I won't hold it against you if you don't, because no amount of words could ever convey what we felt in that audience that night, watching him grow from a bitter old man into a peaceful one. My name is Willem Black, and the doctors say I only have a few weeks left in me, but I wish it would hurry up. I miss my best friend, and I've grown tired of this world that has forgotten about me. As for you, we all stack up regrets until we shield ourselves with them, and can no longer see life for what it is – A journey, have fun.

     “I have lived a fulfilling life, and I admit that I am impressed”.
Read from the gravestone of a Willem Black. A small gravestone in the shadow of a large obelisk in an old cemetery on the south side of town.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Week Thirty Five: October 25th - October 31st

A no show this time guys. I have all but the ending for a new story though, so this week will have one :]