Friday Novel Excerpt

I'm having some serious trouble describing the setting in one section of the excerpt I'm posting today. If anyone reads this and has trouble understanding what the parking lot looks like, let me know, and if you can picture it but have suggestions for better phrasing, please let me know.

Caveat: National Novel Writing Month requires 50K words in 30 days, so the writing is done very quickly and I don't read it over more than once. It may kind of suck, but hopefully there is a germ of something interesting in there that I can develop.

"So what's shakin', bacon?" Tina asked. It was a phrase Peter had used sometimes, in his goofy yet charming way.

James looked at her again, and she was shocked as tears welled up in his eyes.

He covered his face with his hands and put his head down, and Tina wasn't sure what to do.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" she asked. "Oh, honey, did I say something wrong?" She opened the glove box and pulled out a few tissues.

"Oh, Tina, I'm sorry," he said, "I was thinking about Peter today, and that's partly why I'm so out of it. I miss him so much."

Tina felt herself getting choked up.

"I know," she said, sitting back in her seat, handing James a tissue and taking one for herself - she started to wipe away her tears and then she remembered that she was wearing makeup, so she dabbed at the corners of her eyes.

"I guess," James said, "I guess that as we get closer to the wedding, I'm just missing him more and more. He should be here." His voice shook and he said "he should be my best man."

"I miss him, too" Tina said. "But I kind of feel like he's always with me, and at least part of that is because you're with me." She took his hand and he turned towards her. "Sometimes I feel like he brought us together."

She thought back to the funeral. She tried to stay at the wake, but she kept losing it. Her brother, her buddy, her protector, her role model, gone. Gone forever, in the blink of an eye. Because of the accident, there was a closed casket, and she kept looking over at the coffin, disbelieving that the smooth wooden box could possibly contain Peter. He was uncontainable, she thought, too big for that small box. She couldn't speak to anyone, she couldn't look at anyone, she felt like she couldn't breathe. The room was filled with relatives, all talking in hushed tones, a contrast to the funerals of her grandmothers, who lived to be very old women - there, the wake was truly a celebration of the lives of the deceased. It was different, Tina thought, when the person wasn't supposed to die for a long time yet.

She stepped out of the room, and felt herself starting to sob loudly again as she walked outside to get a breath of air.

It was a beautiful evening, which made Tina angry. The world should stop spinning, she thought. It should be hailing or raining or snowing, there should be hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes, because everyone should have to suffer. No one should be enjoying a nice walk after dinner today, she thought. Peter was dead. She looked over the parking lot. It was a large lot, absolutely filled with cars, with more cars lining the street, a testament to how loved Peter was. In the lot, the rows were divided by guardrails, so cars would drive into a space and have a guardrail facing them, and the row of cars opposite would have the same, so the guardrails were back to back, and the funeral home owners, in an effort, Tina supposed, to distract the clientele from the ugly metal of the guardrails, had planted flowers in the space where each guardrail backed in the other. It makes sense, she thought. That's what they do to the bodies in this place. They take the body, and try to mak e it look alive, to distract people from the fact that their loved one is dead.

She began sobbing again, and she felt a hand on her shoulder, and she didn't even bother to look at who it was, she just threw herself into the chest that belonged to the arm, and sobbed. How could she still have tears, she thought. She felt the arms tighten around here, and then she felt that the person holding her was sobbing, too, and they stood there together, holding each other up, sobbing because Peter was dead.

When she stopped sobbing (for the moment), she suddenly felt embarassed by her display.

"I'm sorry," she said, and she looked up into James' face. Tina knew James well, of course, Peter had brought him over for dinner a hundred times, and when she went to visit him at his apartment, James was usually there. They had played a few hands of poker over verboten alcoholic beverages long before she turned 21.

She didn't think for a moment what she must look like - days of alternating between sobbing and catatonic disbelief had left her looking more than a little disheveled and unkempt. And she didn't really notice that James looked just as bad, his eyes were swollen and red from crying.

"Jim," she started to say, and he leaned down and kissed her, and then she put her arms around him and he draped his head over his shoulder and they just held onto each other, trying to will Peter back to existance.

"I was kind of hoping he'd come back just to tell me to keep my hands off his sister," James choked out. His voice was distorted and strange, and Tina knew that it was his grief - it was coming out however hard he tried to hold it back. She knew because she was sounding the same today. "I'm sorry if I was forward."

Tina looked up at James and kissed him back. This was so strange, she thought. She never thought of James as anything other than Peter's best friend - he had always seemed asexual, really. But now she felt like she wanted to be with him, to have him hold her and kiss her and make her feel something other than what she was feeling, because she was in hell.

Feedback is appreciated.

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