Friday, January 22, 2010

The Education of Fred - Writer's Round Table assignment

More from our new friend Fred. This skips forward in the story a bit, and just a bit of expository material - nothing to really advance the plot, as I have not yet entirely figured out what that might be! However, it fulfils the assignment:

Write a passage of 500-1000 words in which aspects of the person the protagonist once was (beliefs, ideals, hopes and dreams, lifestyle choices...) come into conflict with who the protagonist is now.

The Education of Fred
Fred worked late, alone in the lab before heading out the door. He was in no hurry to get back to his apartment; in fact, he chided himself once again for not taking the time to find a new place. None of the familiar places seemed friendly anymore, none of the old acquaintances seemed to want anything to do with him. Perhaps that explained his new habit of working late into the night, whether or not he had something pressing to finish.
Despite arriving home well past midnight, the landlady's lights were still on. Fred actually drove past the house once, like a skulking stalker, to see if she was still up. When he saw she was he parked his car at the end of the street and walked up the back alley to enter the house by the back entrance.
It was an old house, in its heyday it may have even been called a mansion. Now it was simply Miss May's Apartment House, as proclaimed by a hand painted sign wired to the railing on the front porch. Some shoddy carpentry and plumbing work had divided the house into five different apartments, and Miss May, the great-granddaughter of the man who originally built his dream home with his own hands spent her few remaining years haunting the lives of her tenants.
It was for this reason that Fred snuck in through the back door, opening and closing it as slowly and carefully as possible before removing his shoes and starting to creep down the darkened stairwell. He was about halfway down when the overhead light suddenly turned on, and Miss May's tremulous old voice startled Fred into dropping his shoes and nearly falling down the remaining stairs.
"You should turn the light on when you go down the stairs Freddy." Miss May remarked. "You might fall and kill yurself, and then how would I 'splain that to the cops huh?" Fred bit his lip in an effort not to retort angrily. He turned and looked up at the old woman, his heart still hammering in his chest as he pondered the most polite thing to say. He finally settled for the tried and true: meek and obedient. It seemed the most likely plan to keep from getting trapped in a conversation.
"Yes ma'am. You are right. I will keep that in mind next time. Good night Miss May." Fred mumbled, then turned and started back down the stairs. However, Miss May was not giving up that easily.
"Well, since I'm still up, I might as well get you something to eat. Come on up and make yourself comfortable. I have some spaghetti left over..." Fred sighed deeply and interrupted her, a bit more brusquely than he intended.
"Ma'am, it's been a long day, and I already ate. I just need to get some sleep so I can get up early in the morning. Thanks anyway." Miss May's face registered shock, and then suspicion. Her eyes narrowed and she cocked her head to the side.
"Freddy Mace, are you smoking that cocaine? You been spendin' so much time over t' the big city, I been wonderin' how long it'd be afore you fell in wit' bad cumpny. I'll have none a' that in my house, y'hear?" She shook a crooked old finger at him, her fragile voice shaking with emotion.
"No Miss May, I am not using any drugs, and I have not fallen in with any bad company. I just have a research project that I must complete for my Master's thesis..." Fred trailed off as he saw Miss May's eyes glaze over. She had no idea what he was even talking about, to her it probably sounded even more suspicious than "smoking cocaine". He sighed heavily again, and started to turn away. Miss May's voice stopped him.
"What's happened to you Freddy? You used to be such a nice boy, the kind of kid I could sit and have a conversation with. Then, you start hanging out with that uppity lady from the college, you close your garage and put your friends out of a job, and now you're keeping all kinds of late hours and driving back and forth from the city all the time. If you ain't smoking cocaine, what is it? Somethin' just ain't right with you anymore. You ain't the Freddy Mace I remember."
Fred stared at her openmouthed, absorbing her words and finally understanding her recent agitation with him. He still felt like the same person he had been a year and a half ago, the uneducated, illiterate mechanic from a small town. But he was not. He was a brilliant scientist who had catapulted through a four year degree in six months, and was now performing research for one of the leading physicists in the world in preparation for writing his Master's thesis.
Fred had definitely changed, and he wondered that it had taken a temper tantrum by a petulant old maid to show him just how much.

© 2010 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

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