August 03, 2009

Irretrievably Broken, Irma Fritz

©2009, Irma Fritz
My guest author this week is Irma Fritz, author of Irretrievably Broken. Irma's characters are a delight. I hope you enjoy this excerpt of her first novel.
Note: Irma and I will both be at Adventures in Literature, August 8th & 9th, in the Auburn Avenue Theater, 10 Auburn Avenue all day (9-5). Come see us! (A part of Auburn Good Ol' Days)
AT THE CUMMER: How Nora Met Max

(On a cross-country road-road trip from Seattle to Washington, D.C., the matriarch of the Adler Family, Ruth; her daughter Nora, her granddaughter Bettina, and Bettina’s godmother Mary stop off at Aunt Ada’s in Jacksonville, FL. This scene takes place while they walk in the Italian Garden at the Cummer Museum.)

Excerpt From Irretrievably Broken, a novel by Irma Fritz

At the museum, Bettina was fidgety and impatient. She didn’t much care for the porcelain or the paintings. Her interest perked up when they looked at Japanese woodprints. She wanted to talk about Lucky, but Ruth made her be quiet, and the girl sulked until they were finally outdoors again.
Walking in the Italian Garden, Bettina said dreamily, “That Lucky is a lucky girl.”
“Who’s lucky?” asked Ada.
“You missed a good one.” Ruth opened the umbrella the driver had given them against the sun, and Ada got under its circle of shade. “Mrs. Nobel’s son met his fiancĂ©e in Japan.”
“I’m so sorry I missed it,” Ada craned her neck at the taller Ruth. “I always like a romantic story, don’t you?”
“You would have loved this one,” Ruth laughed. “The prodigal son meets Jezebel.”
“You hit that nail square on the head,” Mary covered her head with an elegant wide-brimmed hat in the same blue hue as her sundress. “You know he’ll be living off of her soon enough.”
“I wonder what job skills she has?” Nora wondered.
“Girls in Japan can make money selling their thongs,” said Bettina, stopping to tie a shoelace.
Ruth glared at her. “You are not talking about those skimpy underpants?”
“Do they sell them before or after they wear them?” Mary wondered.
“Duh. Men buy them in vending machines.”
“Please? Let’s not make up such awful stories,” Nora admonished.
“Mel told me,” Bettina protested. “Her friend knows. He’s an exchange student from Japan.”
“And to think she came highly recommended by Pastor Lars,” muttered Nora.
“It was wonderful how they met,” Bettina sighed.
“He certainly thought so,” agreed Mary, quick to change the subject to remove the furrow of furor from Nora’s forehead.
“You see,” Ruth explained to Ada, “he was convinced that their meeting was providential.”
“Then it’s not for us to say it wasn’t,” Ada, who looked like a bumblebee in a yellow striped dress, suggested. “I love to hear how couples get together. I wonder how Goldie will do with her new beau?”
“How did you and John meet?” Ruth inquired.
“It was very romantic, I’m sure.” Ada stopped to rest on a bench next to a pond. “Just now I don’t recall exactly how it went.” She fanned her face with the museum program, and then asked Nora, “How did you meet Maximilian?”
“The usual way, I guess.” Nora dipped her fingers in the pond and brought the moisture back to her temples.
“Hardly,” her mother objected.
“I met him at a dance,” protested Nora.
“You make it sound like it was the Seafair Ball.”
Nora shrugged.
“I remember now,” Ada‘s long-term memory kicked in. “He saw you in a dream and . . .”
“. . . when we met he recognized me.”
“I’m intrigued,” Mary joined the conversation. “You better tell all, girl.”
“Yes Tante,” Bettina pleaded, “tell all, girl.”
Nora regarded the expectant faces. “If you really want to know.”
“Well,” gasped Ruth, “this has been a long time coming. I better sit down for this,” and she took out her hankie and dusted off a spot on the bench next to Ada.
From another part of the garden came the clink of laughter like wind chimes, then a girl’s voice, clear as the cloudless day, singing a ballad.
“This is going to be so romantic,” Ada flapped her hands in anticipation of Nora’s romantic account of true love.
“Actually, when I met Max he was drunk.“
“I can believe that,” Ruth retorted, but a weary look from her daughter caused her to smooth her mint-green linen dress under her behind, sit on the bench, and be still.
“When my train reached Lost Mine it was dark,” Nora began. “The stationmaster threw all the luggage on the platform, turned off the lights in the station house, locked the door, jumped in his car, and drove off. There were three surveyors, a Native family of six, and I. A man in a pick-up came to get the surveyors. They loaded their tripods and boxes, hopped on the back of the truck and were gone. The family took their bundles and walked off into the night. There were no houses, no people, just the dark, locked station. This was the end of the line, and the empty train was going nowhere until the day after tomorrow when it would head south again. I stared at the place where the rails ended, and I felt very much alone.”
“Oh Nora,” her mother lamented, “how could you get yourself into such a fix. Whatever did you do?”
“The only thing I could do. I put my pack on my back and walked as fast as I could to catch up with the people in front of me.”
“The Indians?”

“Hello?” Nora shouted into the night, “hello?” When one of the men turned, she called out for him to tell her which way the town was.
He pointed up ahead, the way they were going. There were no lights, no sounds, just the dark road, and Nora followed them doggedly, afraid to lose her way in the night before she reached the town. The gravel road turned and wound its way uphill. Her backpack cut into her shoulders and she put her thumbs under the straps, set her feet firmly so as not to slip and fall. The Natives didn’t turn back, didn’t offer to help. They walked silently, steadily. They crested the hill, then disappeared into whatever lay beyond. She followed, huffing, forcing herself to catch up. When she reached the top of the hill, she saw them below, six comforting, shapeless lumps in the night. She ran, slid, caught herself, closed the distance between them, then lost them again to another turn in the road.
For a while, Nora stumbled on blindly, and then stopped. She’d spent her reserve, knew there was no push left in her. Defeated, she released her pack, set it down to rub her aching shoulders, and massage her neck where the bedroll had chafed her. Now she was truly alone.
From what she could tell in the dark, the road was narrow and had been carved through thick brush and the dense pine forest with trees no taller than she was. Nora listened for the bone-chilling howl of the wolf, for the sound of a bear hefting his bulk through the undergrowth. She opened her pack, groped for the rifle she’d taken apart and hidden in her clothes. Would she be able to assemble it in the dark? Even if she could, Klaus’s .22 caliber was meant for birds and small game. Surely, it would be no defense against a seven-hundred-pound black bear.
Then, suddenly, a light appeared in the night. Nora gazed up at the moonless horizon where a celestial artist painted the sky. Although she’d never seen it before, she knew it was the aurora borealis, and she took it as a personal salutation, her own greeting card written across the heavens. She laughed aloud, clapped her hands, and danced in a circle until she felt dizzy. She had arrived at her destination and her arrival had been noted. No longer afraid, she shouldered her backpack and walked along the road singing.
Quote du jour: “It’s always day 1.” Jeff Bezos 7-22-09
I have a new Amazon Author's Page!