My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chapter 11

Saturday dawned, bright and colder than any day so far that year. I pulled the covers closer around me, trying to ignore the beeping of my alarm clock. Surely it wasn’t 7am yet. Surely not. But the beeping clock insisted otherwise, so I finally slapped it off and stumbled out of bed. Angie would be out in front of the door at 7:30, so I had about twenty minutes to get ready. Just enough time to take a shower and get dressed.

The tile floor was cold on my bare feet, but the hot water was soothing, warming and oddly enough, woke me up a little. I just stood in the spray for a few minutes, letting the heat spread from the top of my head, down my back, and trickle down my ankles, finally warming the tiles beneath my feet. I quickly scrubbed my hands through my hair, and soaped down, then one last rinse. I turned the water off, and quickly dried myself before the air in the shower cooled. I pulled the curtain aside and pulled on my clothes, watching the fogged up mirrors slowly clear as the air began to get chilly again. I pulled on a hooded sweatshirt over my polo shirt and jeans, and tugged on a pair of socks. I ran back to my room to put on my shoes, and checked my watch. 7:23. Good, just in time. I shoved my feet into my shoes and tied the laces, then sprinted down the hall, and out the front door.

The light was bright, but diffuse, still filtering through the morning haze. The air seemed to be almost solid, faintly pink, and pregnant with moisture. I could hear a few birds chirping, and a few cars passing by on the nearby street, but otherwise it was very quiet and still. My breath made faint clouds in the air, and I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my still-damp hair.

Two faint gleams of light dwn the road resolved themselves into headlights, then into a small blue car, which pulled up in front of the door, with a click of unlocking doors. “Hop on in Jason, thanks for being on time.” Angie was dressed in a warm white sweater, with a red skirt and a black cardigan. I noticed that her hair was held up under a netting of some sort.

“Like it? I just found it the other day, it’s my renaissance snood!” She laughed a little as she turned out of the campus and onto the main street. Looking both ways, she continued. “I’m experimenting with the old tradition of a woman keeping her hair covered, especially in religious settings.” Somehow, it seemed to suit her.

“I’m going to go a slightly different way to church this morning, because the place we’re going afterwards is on my usual route, and I don’t want you to see it until we can spend some time there.”

“Oh. Ok.”

I’d never attended a mid-week Mass at Our Lady before; if the attendance that week was any indication, most people under the age of sixty hadn’t, either. The service was much less intent that the regular Sunday service, with very little music, and only one priest. The Mass was said in honor of some bishop in Zanzibar, and the priest talked a little about him during the sermon. Apparently, he hadn’t been thought fit for service in such a rough mission field, but he went anyway, and became a great leader. The typical sort of story that one hears: you know, “with God all things are possible,” and so on. What they never think to mention in these stories is that these people are few and far between; most people live, as Thoreau says, lives of quiet desperation. And anyway, who wanted to go to Zanzibar? Just an excuse for not being able to cope with real life in your own country and culture; go over and try to change someone else’s culture and way of life.

Since there were so few people present for the service, we all sat in the choir’s usual place—the chancel, Angie called it. It was a little odd, sitting so close to the altar, with its golden lamp and crucifix. For the first time I noticed the large seal in the stone floor. It was a cross with beams of light emanating from it, multicolored stones set into the greenish stone of the floor. Somehow, that simple stone image was more moving and solemn than the crucifix or the ever-burning lamp.

After communion had been served, and the service finished, Angie took a moment to say hello to the other congregants present—she seemed to know them by name, though I wasn’t sure that I’d seen any of them at the regular Sunday services. She introduced me, and mentioned that I was usually at the later service on Sundays. I suddenly remembered that there was an early service at Our Lady; they must all go to that one.

Angie quickly said goodbye, and we went out to her car. The morning had grown a little warmer, and the misty quality of the air was mostly gone, burning off in the rising sun. We got back into the car, and headed down the street.

“So how far away is this place?”

“Oh, not far, only about ten minutes away. Just down Kraemer to Bastanchury, then on the corner of State College.”

“Oh, so by UC Fullerton?”

“Yeah, it’s not far from there. Pretty much down the street from the Arboretum.”

A few minutes later, the car climbed to the top of a hill, and Angie turned into a small parking lot. We got out, and walked short distance, until Angie stopped. “Here we are.”

I looked around. It was a lovely view, I had to admit. Off to our right, the sun was rising, filling the surrounding valleys with light. The hills ahead of us seemed to be absorbing the light and radiating it out in green waves. Off to the left, you could just make out the Los Angeles skyline, towers a deep purple against the pink of the horizon line, windows glinting. And in the distance, you could actually see the mountains, tops white with the first snow of the season.

The wind rustled the hood of my sweatshirt, and tugged at the collar of Angie cardigan. Little wisps of hair had begun to poke through the netting of her snood, and were waving about in the breeze.

“Ok…this is beautiful, but…”

“Do you know what we’re looking at?”

“Um…well, depending on where you look…a recent housing development, hills, mountains, the city…”



“when you said ‘the City,’ you were close.”


“See there?” She pointed, not west into LA, but north, into the housing development and the hills.

“where, exactly?’

“That hill, there. See the houses, and how they catch the light? How clean, and bright, and solid they look?”

“Oh…” I looked. She was right, in the morning light, the housing development that was draped over the top of the hill did look pretty impressive. We were too far away to see the gas-guzzling SUV’s and soccer mom bumper stickers, and close enough to see the windows glowing gold in the early rays of the sun. They almost looked like the panes were made of gold instead of plexiglass.

“That’s the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Have you ever been driving along at thirty miles an hour, and accidentally threw your car into neutral? That’s approximately the effect that Angie’s simple declaration had on my mind. I’d known she was very simply minded, but…this? This was borderline psychosis, delusions of grandeur…

“I know you think I’m crazy right now, but stop feeling, and think about it. There has to be at least one believer in that community, right? So God is there with them, and that makes the whole place the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I couldn’t really disagree, she sort of did have a point. “But wouldn’t that make just bout every cit and country in the world the kingdom of Heaven?”

“Yes, of course. But most of the time we can’t see that. There’s a few places where you can really see it, without any of the illusions.”

“Oh.” I looked out across the valley again. In this light, the houses really were beautiful. “So have you ever driven up there?”

“No. No, I haven’t been able to make it there yet.”

“Oh. Just lack of time, or is it like, a gated community?”

“Oh, neither. I haven’t tried to get there yet. If I did, the illusions would become clearer than the reality. I’d get distracted by the ‘I Heart my Pekinese’ and ‘My child was Citizen of the Month’ bumper stickers, and the power mowers, and the ordinary people there.”

“So you don’t want to see what it’s really like?”

“I do see what it’s really like. I see that here. When I’m able to get close and still see the Kingdom of Heaven in the bumper stickers and the lawncare trucks, and the sprinkler systems, then I’ll go up there. But until I can see through the illusions, I’m staying down here.”

We stood there a moment more, Angie staring at the houses on the hills, and me looking away into the sunrise, thinking.

“I know what you’re thinking. Or, at least, what you will think at some point.”


“How in the world is this what makes life worth living? What does this matter in the grand scheme of things?” She sighed. “And again, I’ll ask you to have patience. Can you come with me on Saturdays for a few weeks? I’ll show you why I go on living, what gives it all meaning.”

I thought for a moment. I liked sleeping in on Saturdays. I liked the full brunch at the cafeteria on Saturday mornings. I liked spending the day walking, or reading, or just goofing off. But…then the cloud settled over me again. Was that what I was living for? Walks and waffles? That wouldn’t keep me alive more than a week, though if everything was pointless, I wouldn’t want it to.

“Ok. At any rate, I’ll go with you next week. Where are we going?”

“Further than this. We’ll be going into LA itself. But I’m not telling you any more than that.”

“Didn’t expect you to.”


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