Archive for literature

Ideas On How To Review Stuff, Part 2

Posted in art, beer, books with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2014 by cueball

Here is Part 1.  I didn’t know it was going to be a part 1 until I started writing this morning.  Sometimes I think I really should come up with a plan for what I write.

“Whose there?”

This is a great way to start a story about a young man finding himself.  (It’s from this little play by this guy here.)

That has always been the hardest part of writing fiction for me.  How do you start?  What are the first evocative words to pique the interest of the reader and get them to read on to the next sentence?

You are staring at a blank page with all these ideas running around in your mind and now you have to put something down and get it started.

When I’m reading a short story or a novel, I am fascinated first by the opening then everything else the author tries to do.  When I’m reading something, especially something new, I read it on two levels.  The first is just to enjoy it.  I’m reading and letting myself become part of the world the author created.

On the second level, I’m analyzing and deconstructing the different parts of the story as I encounter them.  I’ll encounter a new character or parse the details introduced because these details are there for a reason and I am trying to understand the reason and figure out what the author is trying to make me feel or see.

I can still enjoy what I’m reading on the first level, but I am completely engaged by the second level.  My enjoyment on that first level has no bearing on my intellectual assessment on that second level.

I actual enjoy almost everything I read, as long as it conforms to the internal logic it has set up and written truthfully.  I have the ability to allow myself to believe completely in the world that I am reading about.   Then, I try to step back and outside that world and look at whether the work does what it thinks it is doing.  I’ve found I do this with every creative art I enjoy.

In any creative endeavor, the creator has an idea of what he/she is attempting.  They have a plan and an idea and they try to make it really.  That is a truly brave thing, taking a part of who and what you are and placing it out in the world for everyone to judge.  I think it is incumbent on those who presume to review those creative endeavors to take it as seriously as the people who create.

Craft beer is a creative endeavor for the brewer.  I have been reading a lot of beer reviews recently, and I find much of what are labeled reviews are severely lacking in treating beer seriously.  That does not mean you can’t have fun and be interesting, but you have to believe that craft beer is an endeavor worthy of your time and intellect.  Someone took the time to come up with this recipe, brew this beer, ferment this beer, package this beer, and sell it.  The least someone can do is come up with a little more than, “This beer sucks” as a review.  A simplistic review does not help you as a drinker of beer nor does it help the brewer to figure out what they did right or wrong.  At the end of the day, do you like is all that really matters, but you should really try to think about why or why you do not like it.

I am discovering that reviewing is an important part of the creative process when done right.  Good criticism helps everyone raise their level.  When that happens we all benefit by getting better product.  For this to happen, the reviewer has to give considered criticism and the creator has to be willing to take criticism.

I promise there are beer reviews coming.


Ode To The Brass Rail

Posted in life with tags , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2013 by cueball

“A good smelly saloon, my favorite place in the world.” – Paden, Silverado

What is it about writers and bars?  There seems to be an inordinate amount of writers writing about bars in literature.  Not just things happening in a bar in a piece of fiction, but writers just writing about being in bars, going to bars, ordering drinks in bars.

It is more than just the “street cred” of being in a bar and getting drunk and getting in fights.  When Hemingway and other particularly American male writers of the 20th century wrote about bars it was like they were writing about the last bastion of manliness.  Bars were the last bit of unpolite society that sat just on the fringes of a changing world where women expected to be allowed to participate fully and openly.

To writers like Hemingway and Raymond Chandler bars were the original Las Vegas.  What happened there stayed there.  They could get drunk, get into fights, talk loud and say very little.  For these writers, the bar was the last place on earth outside of hunting and fishing where they could be fully men in what the meant in a 19th century way.

This was across the board for male American writers white or black.  They all held a reverence for the bar where the women were either the owners, prostitutes, or hardened to almost manliness through suffering, drink, and time.

After saying that, it wasn’t just about men staking their final claim on manliness, there is something beautiful about a bar:

“I like bars just after they open in the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar — that’s wonderful.” – Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye.

I love a good bar.  A good bar has just the right amount of darkness.  Music plays just loud enough to add a counterpoint to whatever is happening at the moment.  In a good bar people aren’t there to start any crap.  It is a happy place or a place a person can come to find solace.  In a good bar you can be as alone as you want to be.  A good bar isn’t like a coffee shop with its hipster folk music playing to loud and forced coolness with its pastels, stainless steel, and big bright windows so people on the street can see how cool you are.  Bars are dark.  They have oak, brass, and brick.  Bars don’t have to try to be cool.  They are or they aren’t and if they aren’t your probably not there anyway.

Maybe I’m wrong or just over-romanticizing bars, but I do know this:  No one has ever written a song this good about Starbucks.  The bar is a beautiful place.


Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by cueball

We all belong to a tribe or actually more than one.  We are all born into a family.  Then as we grow, we develop interests outside the scope of the family.  We fall in love with sports either playing or watching; we develop a love for music; we become enraptured by some characters in some book; etc.  Personally, here are the tribes I can name off the top of my head that I belong to in no particular order:  family, soccer fan (of the American variety), reader, writer, music lover, UNC Chapel Hill graduate, Tar Heel sports fan, sports analytics nerd, science fiction geek, beer geek, and television lover.  That’s just today.

These tribes represent one two headed thing for us.  We use these tribes to define who we are to ourselves and as signifiers to others in order to organize our immediate world.

In our modern world the great philosophical problem is probably that of our atomization and the if not the dissolution of the old organizing principals (family, church, nationality, and to an extent race), we search for ways to define ourselves so that we know who we are and others can easily learn who we are.  We began living in nomadic tribes, moved to city-states, then to nation states, and now we live in a global world.

First, as travel became easier and now as communication is has been simplified we live in an increasingly global world with tenuous boundaries.  It is easy to define yourself and standout when the only people you see on a daily/weekly basis are the ones you see when you go to work, church, or the grocery store.  How does one define himself in a global sea?

Once you have defined yourself and joined your tribes you can now organize your life around those tribes.  Who do you follow on Twitter?  What favorites do you have saved in your web browser?  They probably follow along with your self-defined tribes.  With so much to choose from and so much information available, it is almost a necessity to figure out the things that matter the most to you and construct your social life around them.  We would drown in a sea of information.

A great deal of human history has been wrapped up in people trying to define themselves and make sense of the world around them.  Twitter allows you follow only those you want to.  There is a reason you can create lists in most Twitter apps.  You can look up anything you want on the internet, but your web browser lets you create favorites lists with folders to separate all of your links.  DirecTV lets you create channel lists so you only see the channels you want to at any given time.  Those things create ease of use, but they also help us define ourselves by our choices.

I guess as a writer, I’m thinking how much does a character choose his path and affect the narrative and how much do I push him into that path with my narrative choices.  How much control of the story does a writer cede to his characters?  In giving them too much leeway do you risk making your work as messy as real life?  Is that a desirable outcome?


Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by cueball

Narrative.  Humans not only love narratives we need them to create order in a disorganized and illogical world.  We have an innate curiosity to find out what happened and more importantly why it happened.  There must always be a reason and resolution.  Our minds cannot accept that sometimes life is fickle and random.

These narratives are easy to discern when trying to explain an airplane falling out of the sky or a super-storm devastating a large coastal city.  There are scientific and concrete steps that can determine what happened in those situations.

Things get more complicated and great deal murkier when dealing with humans.  If life itself is random and fickle, we humans are illogical and unstable.  No matter what shows like Criminal Minds may have us believe, there are rarely direct lines from A to B when discussing why humans do the things they do.  On that show each week the team gets a case about a serial killer.  They methodically go through the evidence and the mounting number of bodies and figure out the unknown subject’s logic and pattern until they find him and arrest him within the 44 minutes of actual running time the show is allotted.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), actual human beings do not always operate in a patterned and logical manner.  Occasionally, we do something against our own self-interest.  Occasionally, we break our own patterns.  Occasionally, we do and say things that are just plain bat-shit crazy for no particular reason.

This is one reason I find writing so interesting.  It is the challenge of attempting to place a narrative and a structure upon the stories of what I hope are real human beings who occasionally do things that make little sense.

How do you tell a story about illogical humans who don’t listen to their own hearts or heads to make some of their biggest decision and have it all make sense to a reader?  A reader who wants the narrative.  A reader who wants the story to go from A to B to C rather entertainingly and in a brisk manner.  A reader who wants all of it to make some kind of sense so that they can see the logic and sense of their own world and life.

One of the striking things I began to notice when I started writing was in many reviews of books, television, and movies was the complaint about a character doing something surprising and “uncharacteristic” to that character.  They do not want their characters straying outside of boxes even though and maybe even because people do that every day.  People want their fictional characters to behave “more human” then their actual human counterparts.  There is a gulf in the difference between fictional characters and real characters that is larger than the Pacific Ocean, and it is due to how much we know about our fictional characters and how little we know about the people we work with every day.

I have morbid thing I do after a tragedy in which someone kills a lot of people.  I watch to see how many different people say some version of, “He didn’t seem like the type of go who would…”

We need our characters to follow a narrative script because we don’t want to face how little we know of the people we see every day and how little control we have over our immediate world.  Does it shock us, sadden us, or just embarrass us that the deepest and longest conversations we have with this person we see at work for at least 40 hours a week is about our local sports team?  Why does it then shock us that this person is a serial killer with 20 bodies buried in his basement?  We don’t know anything about him except that he prefers man-to-man defense to zone and we have no control over what he may do next much less any control of what anyone else around us may do.

I don’t know what I’m getting at here.  I just find our need for narrative interesting.  Maybe I’m just amazed at the lengths we humans will go to in order to make the world around us seem a little more logical and less random even with the preponderance of evidence suggesting the world is a little more random and less logical.

First Draft Theatre – Dead Mouse

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , on October 21, 2013 by cueball

When he saw the dead body, Leo almost dropped the pizza.  He had just walked in from work after stopping at the pizza place next to his job.  He shook his head and looked around for something to get it up with so he could dump it in the woods behind the house.  He thought the mice were supposed to eat the poison and walk back to their nest and then die.  They weren’t supposed to die in the house much less in the middle of the floor.  The gray little furry body lay spread eagle against the cream colored floor with the pastel blue and pink flowers.

He looked for something strong enough to carry the little critter in all the cardboard boxes and paper he had sitting in the corner.  He finally decided to go downstairs and just get a shovel.  He didn’t have a lot of time to waste worrying about this dead mouse.

He was down and back up pretty quickly.  His neighbor seemed curious as to why he was taking a shovel into his house.  She watched as she walked her dog but didn’t say anything.  She was still out there when he came back down with the mouse and walked to the woods.  He took the shovel back to the basement and she still said nothing even as he waved on his way back into the house.

He looked around at the kitchen floor.  He did not see any signs of the dead mouse, but he decided he still needed to clean the floor to be safe.  Still in a hurry to get out to Sheila’s place he vacuumed and then sprayed the floor with a cleaner/disinfectant.

Once all that was finally done, he grabbed a couple of slices of pizza before putting the rest in the fridge and chomped through one piece on the way back out to his car.  Hopefully Sheila and Jack were still at her new place.  Actually it was their place, he just hated admitting it.

He pulled into a little convenience store parking lot a couple blocks away and backed into the space so he could see the house.  Sheila’s care was in front of the house.  They must have taken Jack’s car and went somewhere.  He rushed inside the convenience store and paid for a soda and some gum.  He would wait.

Sheila left him a year and a half ago and the divorce has been final for about 6 months.  He was still paying the asshole lawyer for losing.  Leo didn’t know what winning would have been, but he knew it wasn’t this.  She started dating Jack just after the divorce was final.

They had all gone to high school together here in Emerson.  She dated Jack before she dated Leo.  He always thought she was having an affair while they were married, and when she started dating Jack, he knew it.  She denied it and his crappy lawyer could not prove it, but Leo knew it was true.

The street lights started to flicker to life.  Leo could see the clerk glancing out at him every few minutes wondering what Leo was doing in his car.  Then Jack’s car came around the corner.  Leo recognized it immediately from an old apartment complex parking sticker on the back left corner of the back windshield.  He watched them park and go into the house.  When they were inside, Leo started his car and drove over to the little ranch house.

He parked on the street in front and walked across the yard to the front door.  He knocked and waited.  He could hear steps coming towards the door.  The steps stopped and he guessed whoever it was looked out the peep hole to see who was there.  A few more seconds passed and heard another set of footsteps going towards the back of the house.  Then the door opened.  “Leo.  What can I do for you tonight?”

“You could stop fucking my wife.”

“She ain’t your wife.  She left you a while ago.  You need to move on, man.”

“How long you been fucking here?  Two years?  Three years?”  Then yelling into the house, “How long you been sucking his dick?  Since high school?”

“Look, if all you are going to do is sit and yell dumb shit, go home.  Go find a girl friend or hooker or go jerk off, but quit coming around here.  I know you been following us the last couple of months.  You need to stop that shit.”

“I ain’t done nothing to you.  We just keep popping up in the same places is all.  If you weren’t fucking my wife, we would probably never see each other.”

Sheila appeared in the kitchen behind Jack.  “We are not married, Leo.  Would you just move on from it?  I don’t love you like I did when we go married.”

“Go back in the kitchen, Sheila, Leo’s leaving.”

“What do you mean you don’t love me like you did?”  Leo stepped forward into the room and towards Jack.

“I didn’t say you could come in.”  Jack blocks Leo and pushes him slightly.

“Get your fucking hands off me.  I’m talking to my wife.”  Leo is trying to push past Jack and they start pushing each other until they are finally grabbing and wrestling each other in the door way.  They fall into the hedges to the right of the door as Sheila runs back into the kitchen and gets the telephone and calls the police.

There were not too many dramatic punches thrown by either man.  It was mostly just panting and grabbing and rolling around in the hedges and in the grass.  Finally, Jack managed to roll over and get on top of Leo and punched a couple of times before getting off of him and going back inside the house.  The sounds of sirens approached and an Emerson police cruiser pulled up to the house.

Leo was still lying in the yard.  Jack’s punches had not really hurt him.  He just wanted to lay there in the cool air with the grass on his back.

He could hear the officer ordering him over on his back.  It was like a coach calling out instructions on the other side of the field.  He complied.  He could hear Jack telling the officer what happened and Sheila giving her version of what happened.  Leo watched it like a movie going in slow motion with the sound not working.

“Mr. Harris?  Mr. Harris?”  Leo had dozed off or drifted into a day dream when the officer started speaking to him.  “Mr. Harris can you hear me.”

“Yeah, yeah.  I just drifted off for a second.”

“Mr. Harris, your ex-wife and her boyfriend are saying they won’t press charges if you agree to stop following him and quit watching the house.  If you agree to that, I’ll put you back in your car and follow you home to make sure you get there safe.  But, if you do start harassing them again they are going to press charges and you will go to jail.  Do you understand me, sir?

“Yeah.  Yeah.”

“I am going to uncuff you and walk you over to your car.  Then I’m going to follow you to your house.  Are we clear?”

“Yeah.”  Leo rubbed his wrists as he walked back to his car.  The world had a gauzy look around its edges.  It made it feel like the drive back to his house was a dream.  As he got out of the car and walked to his door, he could hear the officer talking to him and nodding in agreement to whatever he was saying.

He walked into his house and closed the door.  He heard the police cruiser pull out of the driveway and leave.  He was alone in a dark house.  He turned on the lights and looked around the house.  It was just as it was when she left.  Just with more stuff strewn around.  Magazines and mail lay on the coffee table.  Empty beer and liquor bottles sat on the bar and the dining table.  A faint sheen of dust covered it all.

He grabbed a box from the corner and started putting all the mail, magazines, receipts, etc. in the box.  When that was filled he grabbed another and put all the bottles in this one.  When that was filled he took them all out to his car and loaded them in the trunk.  He came back into the house and sat on his couch and finally started thinking about tomorrow.

First Draft Theater – Moment of Grace

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by cueball

“Everybody has moments of grace.”  His mama told him that once.  He was ten or maybe twelve.  Dwayne could not remember why she felt the need to tell him that.  Maybe it was one Sunday or something and he had one of those questions little kids ask when they start to comprehend the world is a bigger scarier place then they thought.  Regardless, his five years as a cop taught him that little bit of mother wisdom was probably false.  Not everyone had moments of grace.  Most will do well if they have more moments of honesty then deceit.

Tonight was no different.  It was Saturday night, his shift was barely four hours old and he already saw three people try to get in cars and drive when they could barely stand.  All he was doing was sitting across the highway from one of the bars in town.  He pulled over one and called in the other two so Kenny and Connie could get their collars for the night.

Now, another one was coming out of the bar weaving across the parking lot trying real hard not to look drunk.  If had been able to get his keys in his door to unlock it with one hand he might have gotten away with it.  The young woman, young being a loose term Dwayne used to be respectful, who followed him out was in almost as bad a shape as the guy fighting his keys.

Dwayne watched them get into the car, get it started and barely miss two parked cars as they pulled out of the parking lot.  They pulled onto the highway and pointed the late model Taurus towards the Days Inn about a mile down the highway.

He would have radioed up ahead to Kenny who was sitting between him and the Days Inn, but the moron was weaving too badly to let drive.  Dwayne pulled out onto the highway and hit the lights and siren.  There was a moment when it looked like he was going to rabbit on Dwayne, but Kenny hit his lights just up ahead and the Taurus pulled to the side of the road.

“Patrol 45 to Patrol 42, thank you for the assist.  This is a suspected driving while impaired.  Requesting assistance in a field sobriety test.  There is a male driver and one female passenger.  Over.”

“On my way Patrol 45.  Central, show Patrol 42 and Patrol 45 on a field sobriety test.”

Dwayne waited until Kenny pulled around to box the dark Taurus with Texas plates in between them before getting out and approaching the driver side.

The driver’s door opened and the driver poked his head out and squinted into the headlights of Dewayne’s cruiser.  “Hey, Dwayne, it’s me man.  Wassup?”

“Sir, please stay in your vehicle.”  Dwayne and Kenny both had their hands on their sidearms ready to pull and fire if the driver made the wrong move.

“Shit, Dewayne.  It’s me Scott.  Calm down, calm down, it’s cool.”

“Dammit, Scott.  Keep your hands where we can see them.  Kenny, meet my cousin Scott.  I got him.  You get the lady on the passenger side.”

“Wassup, man.  I ain’t seen you since grand mama’s funeral.  You was in the Army then.  You a cop now?”

“That was seven years ago, I was in the Navy, and yeah, I’m a cop and I’m going to ask you if you have been drinking tonight.”

“Shit, yeah I’ve been drinking.  I got back in town about a week ago.”

“I need you to take a field sobriety test.”

“What?  Man, how’s your mama doing?”

Scott smelled like he bathed in a keg of beer even from five feet away.  “She’s fine.  I need you to here and walk on this white line towards my cruiser.  When I say stop and turn, you are going to turn on your right heel and walk back towards me.”

“What?  Man, I was just out trying to burn off some steam tonight.  You know daddy got lung cancer.  He ain’t going to live out the month, probably.  I been at the…I been at the hospital the last week.  I just needed to drink a little and fuck a little.”

“I heard about your daddy.  I’m sorry for that.  I didn’t know it was that bad.  I haven’t talked to him since Aunt Cissy divorced him.  But I need you to take this test now.”

“What you going do if I don’t take it?  Arrest me?  You going to arrest me once I take it cause I’m drunk as shit.”

Dwayne looked over to Kenny who was standing next to the woman Scott was driving to the hotel.  Clichés become clichés because they are true.  She was a bottle blonde with dark roots.  Her face and body looked like a high school cheerleader with 25 years of bad marriage, kids, beer, and disappointment hanging over her like the smell of stale cigarette smoke.

Kenny was the senior officer on the scene and started to take some control of the situation.  “Dwayne, let’s just take these two the station.  He admitted he was drunk we can arrest him and book.  We’ll put him in the drunk tank until Monday morning.  I’ll get Connie to come drive this one home.  What is your name and where do you live ma’am?”

“Who you calling ma’am?  You would be luck to ever get to fuck this.”

Kenny shook his head and started speaking into his radio.  “Patrol 42 to Patrol 46, I need assistance with a female passenger.  We are just east of the Days Inn on 74.  Please respond.”

“Patrol 46 to Patrol 42, I am on my way.”

“Ma’am, Deputy Banks is coming towards us right now and she will take you home.  You are not under arrest at the moment.  I suggest you keep a civil tongue in your head to keep it that way.”

Connie pulled up just as Kenny was finishing his statement and passed the lady on so that she could get home to pass out.  Just as they were putting her in the car she turned and vomited just missing both the deputies.

Scott thought this was the funniest thing he had seen and started laughing hysterically.  Connie got a towel out of her trunk and helped the lady wipe off her face and the front of her clothes now stained with regurgitated beer and wings. After finally getting her in the car, they drove off with all the windows down.

“Deputy Anderson is going to arrest you since he isn’t related to you.  Your mama or somebody can come to the courthouse Monday morning and bail you out after the magistrate sets bail.  If it is a first time offense the bail won’t be much but you will probably have to surrender your license.”

“How the fuck am I supposed to get around without a fucking license.  You stuck up fucker.  Ya’ll always did look down on us.  You ain’t even got the balls enough to arrest me yourself.  Fuck you.”  He tried to punch Dwayne but only managed to fall onto the grass.  He stayed sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him.  Kenny moved towards them, but Dwayne motioned for him to hold off for a second.  “He beat the shit out of me for 10 years and I’m still sad he is going to die.”  Scott seemed past crying.  He just sat in the wet grass looking around like a dog wanting to take a nap and searching for the perfect spot of grass.  Finally he lay his body over and curled up with his knees to his chest.

“Scott, you gotta get up.  Deputy Anderson and I will take you in and you can sleep all night.  I’ll call your mama on the way to let her know what’s going to happen next.”   Scott was already snoring before Dwayne finished.  He and Kenny woke Scott up enough to get cuffs on him and put him in the back of Kenny’s cruiser.  As he Dwayne walked back to his car Kenny pulled off and headed towards the station.  Dwayne watched the tail lights of Kenny’s cruiser pull away and listened as he called in what was happening on the radio.

He remembered where the moment of grace came from now.  Harvey, Scott’s father, had given his best sermon that day.  He shook the rafters of that old church.  On the way home, his mother had marveled at how moving the sermon was and how it had filled the church with the Holy Spirit.  Just as they were pulling into their car port she said, “No matter how bad a man is, God grants everyone one moment of grace in their lives.”

She was right.  Everyone had at least one moment like that in them.  His question now was, what did it matter to the people around you if you only had one?

First Draft Theater – Hospital Rooms

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , on October 9, 2013 by cueball

All the hospital rooms began to bleed together in Lee’s mind.  They all the same aggressively beige color scheme with the pale blue, green, and pink accents.  The all smelled of medicine, bodily fluids, and disinfectant.  Donna lay to his right sleeping, occasionally muttering to herself.

How many times have I seen her sleep?

He kept his eyes on the vitals monitor on the other side of the bed.  Lee had little idea what much if any of the numbers and little squiggles meant.  It still comforted him somehow.  As long as the monitor was active it was not over yet.

Another in a line of nurses came in to check Donnas IV and monitors.  She hovered for a few minutes checking, adjusting, and tweaking only acknowledging Lee with a nod just before leaving the room.  He wanted her or her eyes to tell him something, be it good or bad.

It was the waiting, the certainty of the uncertain that wore on him. They all knew the end was coming.  The doctors couldn’t tell him when and the nurses wouldn’t even if they could.  All that was left was the waiting.  They watched it come towards them, but they didn’t know how fast it approached.

He needed to call her kids.  Lee needed to tell them how close the time was now.  Jaime and Carl both lived a couple of hours drive away and would be here as soon as possible.  Donna actually talked to them last week.  Lee watched and listened to the conversations from her side.  She avoided telling them exactly what the doctor had said the day before.

“What did you want me to tell them?  They already know enough to guess.  Believe me, when you call them, it won’t be a shock to either.”

Lee didn’t know how long he had been asleep, but the monitors were screeching and nurses and doctors were rushing in to the room.  He stood from his chair and was shuffled out to the hall.  He watched them work for a few minutes before wandering down the hall.  He drifted past the nurse’s station and found the stairwell.  He turned to look back and could see the urgency at Donna’s door had quieted.  He opened the stairwell door and stepped inside where the faint smell of stale cigarettes and compressed moist air greeted him.

The only direction he could go was down and he took every step deliberately keeping his cell phone in his left hand and his right hand on the railing.  He lost track of the floors.  He just stopped at one to get some fresher air.  He came out of the stairwell and looked around.  It was like a version of hell.  The floor looked exactly the same as the one he left.  He quickly went back into the stairwell and looked up and down to be sure he had come from somewhere.

He continued his decent until he reached the lobby floor.  He walked out into the small lobby of the hospital.  The lobby desk was unmanned and it was dark outside.  Lee realized he didn’t know what day it was. The window in Donna’s room looked out onto another building blocking the sun.  The front door was locked.  If you were in, you were in until the morning shift started.  He looked around and saw the little garden area off to the left of the lobby and the chapel on the right.  He headed left and found himself standing outside under mercury lamps.  He looked up and strained his eyes trying to see the stars through the glare.

His right hand ached.  He was still squeezing his cell phone.  He turned it on and found Jaime’s number.  He would call her first.