From Frank’s Notebooks: April 2010

Frank's NotebookI was talking to Andrea recently when I mentioned that no one reads my fiction when I post it here. She seemed surprised by that. I’m not sure why. But it may not be so true anymore. Frankly Curious is now a destination for a fair number of people. For whatever reason, they think I should be checked in on. I do hope the NSA is checking on me, because a revolution (of despair) could break out at any moment.

Just as a lark, I went looking through some old notebooks for one of my Nixon puppet plays. But I got sidetracked in reading my thoughts from April 2010. My notebooks have always been a mess of lists, diary, random projects, whatever. Some of the descriptions of my life at that point are heartbreaking. I don’t remember feeling that sad. But mixed in are lots of fragments to my second novel “Treading Asphalt” — which is still fragments. But crammed in the middle of it is the beginning of a short story I had completely forgotten about. I rather like it. I wrote later, “I have no idea what the plot is about.” But it seems pretty clear to me now.

Here it is:

No one had ever explained what dyslexia was to Rene. Even now at 26, watching her PhD graduating class marching into the auditorium, her gut told her that it had something to do with falling down. She was also very clumsy as a child. But that was wrong. At some time she had confused dyslexia with vertigo and had only the vaguest notion that it had something to do with dangerous birds. This, of course, was due to three things: Alfred Hitchcock, growing up in Bodega Bay, and being more than a genius when it came to developing theoretical systems — even silly ones. All of this was on her mind as she took notes for the article she was writing for the school newspaper about the graduation ceremony.

She would be paid fifty dollars for the article. This alone made the ceremony worth missing, but it wasn’t the main reason she wasn’t marching with her colleagues in those stupid dresses — which they made the students pay to rent. The title of her dissertation was, “Four Investigations into Strong Force-Weak Force Interactions in Strong Magnetic Fields at Relativistic Speeds.” It was just four papers she had published that were impressive enough to get her several post-doc opportunities without seeking them out. And she had accepted Dr Ahmed’s offer at UT Austin. But she still hadn’t decided if she would show up. She really didn’t like physics — so soiled as it was by “reality.” She should have gone straight with her strengths — pure math — or her weaknesses — literature. Now she had this ridiculous degree. And it seemed no one would ever again let her do anything fun.

And then, almost without missing a beat, the journal goes back to “Treading Asphalt” — into Brian’s first person description of what is for me, the most creepy part of the book. I think poor Rene would be shocked. But they are joined in being lost souls. But I think I have a happier ending for Rene. For Brian, it will be as it always seems to be for my male characters — the way it is for all of us: a muddle.

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