In Chapter II of Summer of a Doormouse the main character, Jack, talks about and shares a short piece of a story that he had been writing called ‘The Simple Secret,’, which he says was inspired by Pete Townshend‘s unfinished “Lifehouse” project. The Simple Secret is an actual story that I began writing when I was in high school, never finished, and attempted to blend into Summer of a Doormouse a few years later. I thought I would share the rest of what I had written for that story. I don’t think its as good as Summer of a Doormouse, but I am rather fond of parts of it. Not bad for a teenager.
The Simple Secret
“The future’s been seen
As men try to realize
The simple secret of a note in a song”
– Pete Townshend, 1971
8 December 3920
Jim felt the bullets slice through his back, as he and Aurora fell through the rapidly closing hatchway. Tumbling to the deck, Aurora caught a glimpse of his wounds. The fur began to stand up on her back. She had only met this man a few months ago, but in that time he’d saved her life several times. She didn’t want him to die because of her.
Lying flat on his back Jim’s eyes began to glass over. Aurora cradled his head in her arms. Her tail unconsciously brushed his arm. She tried to feign indifference, but it didn’t seem to help the situation. Jim stared into space for what seemed like eons, finally he spoke.
“Is this the end?” Aurora tried to reassure him, but she sat mute as he began to cough up blood along with pieces of his lung. “Is this it?” He croaked, “Is it finally over?” Jim could taste the salty fluid in his mouth and knew he was going to die, but that wasn’t what was worrying him. “Please. . .” He tried to speak as his stomach emptied its contents into Aurora’s furry lap. She didn’t seem bothered by this or the dry heaves that followed. She was crying too hard to be bothered by anything so trivial. “Please,” his voice sounded as if he’d been chewing on broken glass, “why do you have to make it so damn hard? I’ve almost found. . .it. . .Please. . .” Jim’s gray eyes began to fill with tears as his body spasmed. The muscles in his neck tensed suddenly raising his head up several inches into the air. Another spasm came and his body fell limp, his head dropping into the pool of blood and vomit in Aurora’s lap.
These is a revised version of the first Alternate prologue for my unfinished Summer of a Doormouse project. It was written around 4 years later in October 2008. It is, if I’m not mistaken, the last major work I did on this project.
Summer of a Doormouse
Through the dirty mud smudged bus window I watch as New Jersey blends into Pennsylvania, traveling to a meeting where a complete stranger will decide my future. I am alone, without a home. Not that I am homeless by any means. I live in a dorm room at Columbia University in Manhattan, while the majority of my belongings reside with my fiance in Pennsylvania in the apartment we share when I’m not at school. But neither of these feels much like “home” anymore, if indeed they ever did. Strangely, the Columbia dorm room feels more like a home than my fiance’s apartment these days, and not merely because I spend the majority of my time there. I hesitate to let the thought crack my conscious mind, but I feel her life slipping away from mine, as though we were still “together” out of habit as much as anything else. How telling is it that I am returning to Shillington briefly for a bankruptcy hearing and she could find no time to see me while I’m here.
This prose fragment is an alternate beginning to Summer of a Doormouse. This version of the story never got passed this point. A few years later I rewrote this prologue pretty extensively, but didn’t get any further.
Summer of a Doormouse
The years peel back like an onion as memories float by outside the dirty Greyhound window. So long ago it seems a dream, or a story told to me long ago about someone else. Maybe it didn’t happen at all. Could it all just be a story I’ve told myself so often, trying to get the details right, that it seems real to me now?
The bus travels through the Lincoln Tunnel toward New Jersey as I write, the vibration of the bus on the road making it difficult to write legibly, which is always a challenge when my brain talks faster than my hand can write.
To be sure its a story I’ve attempted to tell many time over the past few decades, always with little success. I even tried piggy backing, marrying it to another unfinished story by another author. It was a good story built around a grand dream. But it wasn’t my dream; it wasn’t my story. Its hard enough in life to try and live out your own dreams without trying to tackle someone else’s as well.
I’m traveling home now for a brief meeting with my lawyer. I don’t recall any lawyers from my dreams, but sometimes in real life you must meet with lawyers. Despite what you may have heard, life is not a dream.
Summer of a Doormouse
Back to Chapter I
I’m gettin funny dreams again and again
I know what it means, but…
– Pete Townshend, 1965
I’ve been listening to Pete’s new concept album, Psychoderelict, almost constantly since I got it yesterday afternoon. The main character, a burned out rock star named Ray High, spends much of the album revisiting an old unfinished project of his called “Gridlife”, which is represented by bits and pieces of Pete’s old unfinished Lifehouse project. It’s gotten me to thinking about that story I was working on when I was in college. Mostly crap if memory serves (and it usually doesn’t) and largely ripped of from what I’d pieced together as Pete’s original story line for Lifehouse. Somehow I’d actually thought that I could give those ideas and visions form when their creator couldn’t. Ah, the egotism of a youthful artist… But still, maybe I should fish out those old manuscripts and have a look for old times sake. Maybe they weren’t as bad as I remember. After all, Ang always liked them. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately. Especially since the dreams have returned.